path: root/Documentation/spinlocks.txt
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authorLinus Torvalds <>2005-04-16 15:20:36 -0700
committerLinus Torvalds <>2005-04-16 15:20:36 -0700
commit1da177e4c3f41524e886b7f1b8a0c1fc7321cac2 (patch)
tree0bba044c4ce775e45a88a51686b5d9f90697ea9d /Documentation/spinlocks.txt
Initial git repository build. I'm not bothering with the full history, even though we have it. We can create a separate "historical" git archive of that later if we want to, and in the meantime it's about 3.2GB when imported into git - space that would just make the early git days unnecessarily complicated, when we don't have a lot of good infrastructure for it. Let it rip!
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+UPDATE March 21 2005 Amit Gud <>
+Macros SPIN_LOCK_UNLOCKED and RW_LOCK_UNLOCKED are deprecated and will be
+removed soon. So for any new code dynamic initialization should be used:
+ spinlock_t xxx_lock;
+ rwlock_t xxx_rw_lock;
+ static int __init xxx_init(void)
+ {
+ spin_lock_init(&xxx_lock);
+ rw_lock_init(&xxx_rw_lock);
+ ...
+ }
+ module_init(xxx_init);
+Reasons for deprecation
+ - it hurts automatic lock validators
+ - it becomes intrusive for the realtime preemption patches
+Following discussion is still valid, however, with the dynamic initialization
+of spinlocks instead of static.
+On Fri, 2 Jan 1998, Doug Ledford wrote:
+> I'm working on making the aic7xxx driver more SMP friendly (as well as
+> importing the latest FreeBSD sequencer code to have 7895 support) and wanted
+> to get some info from you. The goal here is to make the various routines
+> SMP safe as well as UP safe during interrupts and other manipulating
+> routines. So far, I've added a spin_lock variable to things like my queue
+> structs. Now, from what I recall, there are some spin lock functions I can
+> use to lock these spin locks from other use as opposed to a (nasty)
+> save_flags(); cli(); stuff; restore_flags(); construct. Where do I find
+> these routines and go about making use of them? Do they only lock on a
+> per-processor basis or can they also lock say an interrupt routine from
+> mucking with a queue if the queue routine was manipulating it when the
+> interrupt occurred, or should I still use a cli(); based construct on that
+> one?
+See <asm/spinlock.h>. The basic version is:
+ spinlock_t xxx_lock = SPIN_LOCK_UNLOCKED;
+ unsigned long flags;
+ spin_lock_irqsave(&xxx_lock, flags);
+ ... critical section here ..
+ spin_unlock_irqrestore(&xxx_lock, flags);
+and the above is always safe. It will disable interrupts _locally_, but the
+spinlock itself will guarantee the global lock, so it will guarantee that
+there is only one thread-of-control within the region(s) protected by that
+Note that it works well even under UP - the above sequence under UP
+essentially is just the same as doing a
+ unsigned long flags;
+ save_flags(flags); cli();
+ ... critical section ...
+ restore_flags(flags);
+so the code does _not_ need to worry about UP vs SMP issues: the spinlocks
+work correctly under both (and spinlocks are actually more efficient on
+architectures that allow doing the "save_flags + cli" in one go because I
+don't export that interface normally).
+NOTE NOTE NOTE! The reason the spinlock is so much faster than a global
+interrupt lock under SMP is exactly because it disables interrupts only on
+the local CPU. The spin-lock is safe only when you _also_ use the lock
+itself to do locking across CPU's, which implies that EVERYTHING that
+touches a shared variable has to agree about the spinlock they want to
+The above is usually pretty simple (you usually need and want only one
+spinlock for most things - using more than one spinlock can make things a
+lot more complex and even slower and is usually worth it only for
+sequences that you _know_ need to be split up: avoid it at all cost if you
+aren't sure). HOWEVER, it _does_ mean that if you have some code that does
+ cli();
+ .. critical section ..
+ sti();
+and another sequence that does
+ spin_lock_irqsave(flags);
+ .. critical section ..
+ spin_unlock_irqrestore(flags);
+then they are NOT mutually exclusive, and the critical regions can happen
+at the same time on two different CPU's. That's fine per se, but the
+critical regions had better be critical for different things (ie they
+can't stomp on each other).
+The above is a problem mainly if you end up mixing code - for example the
+routines in ll_rw_block() tend to use cli/sti to protect the atomicity of
+their actions, and if a driver uses spinlocks instead then you should
+think about issues like the above..
+This is really the only really hard part about spinlocks: once you start
+using spinlocks they tend to expand to areas you might not have noticed
+before, because you have to make sure the spinlocks correctly protect the
+shared data structures _everywhere_ they are used. The spinlocks are most
+easily added to places that are completely independent of other code (ie
+internal driver data structures that nobody else ever touches, for
+Lesson 2: reader-writer spinlocks.
+If your data accesses have a very natural pattern where you usually tend
+to mostly read from the shared variables, the reader-writer locks
+(rw_lock) versions of the spinlocks are often nicer. They allow multiple
+readers to be in the same critical region at once, but if somebody wants
+to change the variables it has to get an exclusive write lock. The
+routines look the same as above:
+ rwlock_t xxx_lock = RW_LOCK_UNLOCKED;
+ unsigned long flags;
+ read_lock_irqsave(&xxx_lock, flags);
+ .. critical section that only reads the info ...
+ read_unlock_irqrestore(&xxx_lock, flags);
+ write_lock_irqsave(&xxx_lock, flags);
+ .. read and write exclusive access to the info ...
+ write_unlock_irqrestore(&xxx_lock, flags);
+The above kind of lock is useful for complex data structures like linked
+lists etc, especially when you know that most of the work is to just
+traverse the list searching for entries without changing the list itself,
+for example. Then you can use the read lock for that kind of list
+traversal, which allows many concurrent readers. Anything that _changes_
+the list will have to get the write lock.
+Note: you cannot "upgrade" a read-lock to a write-lock, so if you at _any_
+time need to do any changes (even if you don't do it every time), you have
+to get the write-lock at the very beginning. I could fairly easily add a
+primitive to create a "upgradeable" read-lock, but it hasn't been an issue
+yet. Tell me if you'd want one.
+Lesson 3: spinlocks revisited.
+The single spin-lock primitives above are by no means the only ones. They
+are the most safe ones, and the ones that work under all circumstances,
+but partly _because_ they are safe they are also fairly slow. They are
+much faster than a generic global cli/sti pair, but slower than they'd
+need to be, because they do have to disable interrupts (which is just a
+single instruction on a x86, but it's an expensive one - and on other
+architectures it can be worse).
+If you have a case where you have to protect a data structure across
+several CPU's and you want to use spinlocks you can potentially use
+cheaper versions of the spinlocks. IFF you know that the spinlocks are
+never used in interrupt handlers, you can use the non-irq versions:
+ spin_lock(&lock);
+ ...
+ spin_unlock(&lock);
+(and the equivalent read-write versions too, of course). The spinlock will
+guarantee the same kind of exclusive access, and it will be much faster.
+This is useful if you know that the data in question is only ever
+manipulated from a "process context", ie no interrupts involved.
+The reasons you mustn't use these versions if you have interrupts that
+play with the spinlock is that you can get deadlocks:
+ spin_lock(&lock);
+ ...
+ <- interrupt comes in:
+ spin_lock(&lock);
+where an interrupt tries to lock an already locked variable. This is ok if
+the other interrupt happens on another CPU, but it is _not_ ok if the
+interrupt happens on the same CPU that already holds the lock, because the
+lock will obviously never be released (because the interrupt is waiting
+for the lock, and the lock-holder is interrupted by the interrupt and will
+not continue until the interrupt has been processed).
+(This is also the reason why the irq-versions of the spinlocks only need
+to disable the _local_ interrupts - it's ok to use spinlocks in interrupts
+on other CPU's, because an interrupt on another CPU doesn't interrupt the
+CPU that holds the lock, so the lock-holder can continue and eventually
+releases the lock).
+Note that you can be clever with read-write locks and interrupts. For
+example, if you know that the interrupt only ever gets a read-lock, then
+you can use a non-irq version of read locks everywhere - because they
+don't block on each other (and thus there is no dead-lock wrt interrupts.
+But when you do the write-lock, you have to use the irq-safe version.
+For an example of being clever with rw-locks, see the "waitqueue_lock"
+handling in kernel/sched.c - nothing ever _changes_ a wait-queue from
+within an interrupt, they only read the queue in order to know whom to
+wake up. So read-locks are safe (which is good: they are very common
+indeed), while write-locks need to protect themselves against interrupts.
+ Linus