Deadlock Prevention, Avoidance, Detection and Recovery in Operating Systems

You have already seen what deadlock is and the necessary conditions for a deadlock to happen. We can try to prevent or avoid deadlock, and if that doesn’t work out, we should detect deadlock and try to recover from deadlock.


Deadlock Prevention

Deadlock prevention algorithms ensure that at least one of the necessary conditions (Mutual exclusion, hold and wait, no preemption and circular wait) does not hold true. However most prevention algorithms have poor resource utilization, and hence result in reduced throughputs.

Mutual Exclusion

Not always possible to prevent deadlock by preventing mutual exclusion (making all resources shareable) as certain resources are cannot be shared safely.

Hold and Wait

We will see two approaches, but both have their disadvantages.

A resource can get all required resources before it start execution. This will avoid deadlock, but will result in reduced throughputs as resources are held by processes even when they are not needed. They could have been used by other processes during this time.

Second approach is to request for a resource only when it is not holing any other resource. This may result in a starvation as all required resources might not be available freely always.

No preemption

We will see two approaches here. If a process request for a resource which is held by another waiting resource, then the resource may be preempted from the other waiting resource. In the second approach, if a process request for a resource which are not readily available, all other resources that it holds are preempted.  

The challenge here is that the resources can be preempted only if we can save the current state can be saved and processes could be restarted later from the saved state.

Circular wait

To avoid circular wait, resources may be ordered and we can ensure that each process can request resources only in an increasing order of these numbers. The algorithm may itself increase complexity and may also lead to poor resource utilization.


Deadlock avoidance

As you saw already, most prevention algorithms have poor resource utilization, and hence result in reduced throughputs. Instead, we can try to avoid deadlocks by making use prior knowledge about the usage of resources by processes including resources available, resources allocated, future requests and future releases by processes. Most deadlock avoidance algorithms need every process to tell in advance the maximum number of resources of each type that it may need. Based on all these info we may decide if a process should wait for a resource or not, and thus avoid chances for circular wait.

If a system is already in a safe state, we can try to stay away from an unsafe state and avoid deadlock. Deadlocks cannot be avoided in an unsafe state. A system can be considered to be in safe state if it is not in a state of deadlock and can allocate resources upto the maximum available. A safe sequence of processes and allocation of resources ensures a safe state. Deadlock avoidance algorithms try not to allocate resources to a process if it will make the system in an unsafe state. Since resource allocation is not done right away in some cases, deadlock avoidance algorithms also suffer from low resource utilization problem.

A resource allocation graph is generally used to avoid deadlocks. If there are no cycles in the resource allocation graph, then there are no deadlocks. If there are cycles, there may be a deadlock. If there is only one instance of every resource, then a cycle implies a deadlock. Vertices of the resource allocation graph are resources and processes. The resource allocation graph has request edges and assignment edges. An edge from a process to resource is a request edge and an edge from a resource to process is an allocation edge. A calm edge denotes that a request may be made in future and is represented as a dashed line. Based on calm edges we can see if there is a chance for a cycle and then grant requests if the system will again be in a safe state.

Consider the image with calm edges as below:

If R2 is allocated to p2 and if P1 request for R2, there will be a deadlock.

The resource allocation graph is not much useful if there are multiple instances for a resource. In such a case, we can use Banker’s algorithm. In this algorithm, every process must tell upfront the maximum resource of each type it need, subject to the maximum available instances for each type. Allocation of resources is made only, if the allocation ensures a safe state; else the processes need to wait. The Banker’s algorithm can be divided into two parts: Safety algorithm if a system is in a safe state or not. The resource request algorithm make an assumption of allocation and see if the system will be in a safe state. If the new state is unsafe, the resources are not allocated and the data structures are restored to their previous state; in this case the processes must wait for the resource. You can refer to any operating system text books for details of these algorithms.  


Deadlock Detection

If deadlock prevention and avoidance are not done properly, as deadlock may occur and only things left to do is to detect the recover from the deadlock.

If all resource types has only single instance, then we can use a graph called wait-for-graph, which is a variant of resource allocation graph. Here, vertices represent processes and a directed edge from P1 to P2 indicate that P1 is waiting for a resource held by P2. Like in the case of  resource allocation graph, a cycle in a wait-for-graph indicate a deadlock. So the system can maintain a wait-for-graph and check for cycles periodically to detect any deadlocks.

The wait-for-graph is not much useful if there are multiple instances for a resource, as a cycle may not imply a deadlock. In such a case, we can use an algorithm similar to Banker’s algorithm to detect deadlock. We can see if further allocations can be made on not based on current allocations. You can refer to any operating system text books for details of these algorithms.


Deadlock Recovery

Once a deadlock is detected, you will have to break the deadlock. It can be done through different ways, including, aborting one or more processes to break the circular wait condition causing the deadlock and preempting resources from one or more processes which are deadlocked.

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