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What is Inter Process Communication

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What is Inter Process Communication?

In general, Inter Process Communication is a type of mechanism usually provided by the operating system (or OS). The main aim or goal of this mechanism is to provide communications in between several processes. In short, the intercommunication allows a process letting another process know that some event has occurred.

Let us now look at the general definition of inter-process communication, which will explain the same thing that we have discussed above.


“Inter-process communication is used for exchanging useful information between numerous threads in one or more processes (or programs).”

To understand inter process communication, you can consider the following given diagram that illustrates the importance of inter-process communication:

What is Inter Process Communication

Role of Synchronization in Inter Process Communication

It is one of the essential parts of inter process communication. Typically, this is provided by interprocess communication control mechanisms, but sometimes it can also be controlled by communication processes.

These are the following methods that used to provide the synchronization:

  1. Mutual Exclusion
  2. Semaphore
  3. Barrier
  4. Spinlock

Mutual Exclusion:-

It is generally required that only one process thread can enter the critical section at a time. This also helps in synchronization and creates a stable state to avoid the race condition.


Semaphore is a type of variable that usually controls the access to the shared resources by several processes. Semaphore is further divided into two types which are as follows:

  1. Binary Semaphore
  2. Counting Semaphore


A barrier typically not allows an individual process to proceed unless all the processes does not reach it. It is used by many parallel languages, and collective routines impose barriers.


Spinlock is a type of lock as its name implies. The processes are trying to acquire the spinlock waits or stays in a loop while checking that the lock is available or not. It is known as busy waiting because even though the process active, the process does not perform any functional operation (or task).

Approaches to Interprocess Communication

We will now discuss some different approaches to inter-process communication which are as follows:

What is Inter Process Communication

These are a few different approaches for Inter- Process Communication:

  1. Pipes
  2. Shared Memory
  3. Message Queue
  4. Direct Communication
  5. Indirect communication
  6. Message Passing
  7. FIFO

To understand them in more detail, we will discuss each of them individually.


The pipe is a type of data channel that is unidirectional in nature. It means that the data in this type of data channel can be moved in only a single direction at a time. Still, one can use two-channel of this type, so that he can able to send and receive data in two processes. Typically, it uses the standard methods for input and output. These pipes are used in all types of POSIX systems and in different versions of window operating systems as well.

Shared Memory:-

It can be referred to as a type of memory that can be used or accessed by multiple processes simultaneously. It is primarily used so that the processes can communicate with each other. Therefore the shared memory is used by almost all POSIX and Windows operating systems as well.

Message Queue:-

In general, several different messages are allowed to read and write the data to the message queue. In the message queue, the messages are stored or stay in the queue unless their recipients retrieve them. In short, we can also say that the message queue is very helpful in inter-process communication and used by all operating systems.

To understand the concept of Message queue and Shared memory in more detail, let’s take a look at its diagram given below:

What is Inter Process Communication

Message Passing:-

It is a type of mechanism that allows processes to synchronize and communicate with each other. However, by using the message passing, the processes can communicate with each other without restoring the hared variables.

Usually, the inter-process communication mechanism provides two operations that are as follows:

  • send (message)
  • received (message)

Note: The size of the message can be fixed or variable.

Direct Communication:-

In this type of communication process, usually, a link is created or established between two communicating processes. However, in every pair of communicating processes, only one link can exist.

Indirect Communication

Indirect communication can only exist or be established when processes share a common mailbox, and each pair of these processes shares multiple communication links. These shared links can be unidirectional or bi-directional.


It is a type of general communication between two unrelated processes. It can also be considered as full-duplex, which means that one process can communicate with another process and vice versa.

Some other different approaches

  • Socket:-

It acts as a type of endpoint for receiving or sending the data in a network. It is correct for data sent between processes on the same computer or data sent between different computers on the same network. Hence, it used by several types of operating systems.

  • File:-

A file is a type of data record or a document stored on the disk and can be acquired on demand by the file server. Another most important thing is that several processes can access that file as required or needed.

  • Signal:-

As its name implies, they are a type of signal used in inter process communication in a minimal way. Typically, they are the massages of systems that are sent by one process to another. Therefore, they are not used for sending data but for remote commands between multiple processes.

Usually, they are not used to send the data but to remote commands in between several processes.

Why we need interprocess communication?

There are numerous reasons to use inter-process communication for sharing the data. Here are some of the most important reasons that are given below:

  • It helps to speedup modularity
  • Computational
  • Privilege separation
  • Convenience
  • Helps operating system to communicate with each other and synchronize their actions as well.

Note: IPC cannot be considered a solution to all problems but what is important is that it does its job very well.

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