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Chapter: Operating Systems : File Systems

File System Structure

All disk I/O is performed in units of one block (physical record) size which will exactly match the length of the desired logical record.



ü All disk I/O is performed in units of one block (physical record) size which will exactly match the length of the desired logical record.


ü Logical records may even vary in length. Packing a number of logical records into physical blocks is a common solution to this problem.


ü For example, the UNIX operating system defines all files to be simply a tream of bytes. Each byte is individually addressable by its offset from the beginning (or end) of the file. In this case, the logical records are 1 byte. The file system automatically packs and unpacks bytes into physical disk blocks say, 512 bytes per block as necessary.

The logical record size, physical block size, and packing technique determine how many logical records are in each physical block. The packing can be done either by the user’s application program or by the operating system.

1.     Access Methods


1. Sequential Access


   The simplest access method is sequential access. Information in the file is processed in order, one record after the other. This mode of access is by far the most common; for example, editors and compilers usually access files in this fashion.


v The bulk of the operations on a file is reads and writes. A read operation reads the next portion of the file and automatically advances a file pointer, which tracks the I/O location. Similarly, a write appends to the end of the file and advances to the end of the newly written material (the new end of file). Such a file can be reset to the beginning and, on some systems, a program may be able to skip forward or back ward n records, for some integer n-perhaps only for n=1. Sequential access is based on a tape model of a file, and works as well on sequential-access devices as it does on random – access ones.


2. Direct Access



v Another method is direct access (or relative access). A file is made up of fixed length logical records that allow programs to read and write records rapidly in no particular order. The direct- access methods is based on a disk model of a file, since disks allow random access to any file block.


v For direct access, the file  is viewed as a  numbered sequence  of blocks or records. A


direct-access file allows arbitrary blocks to be read or written. Thus, we may read block 14, then read block 53, and then write block7. There are no restrictions on the order of reading or writing for a direct-access file.


Direct access files are of great use for immediate access to large amounts of information. Database is often of this type. When a query concerning a particular subject arrives, we compute which block contains the answer, and then read that block directly to provide the desired information.

 As a simple example, on an air line reservation system, we might store all the (for information about a particular flight example, flight 713) in the block identified by the flight number.


v Thus, the number of available seats for flight 713 is stored in block 713 of the reservation file. To store information about a larger set, such as people, we might


compute a hash function on the people’s names, or search a small in- memory index to determine a block to read and search.


3 Other Access methods


Other access methods can be built on top of a direct access method these methods generally involve the construction of an index for the file. The index like an index in the back of a book contains pointers to the various blocks in find a record in the file. We first search the index, and then use the pointer to access the file directly and the find the desired record.



v With large files, the index file itself may become too large to be kept in memory. One solution is to create an index for the index file. The primary index file would contain pointers to secondary index tiles, which would point to the actual data items.


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