Discuss I/O Software in Operating System?

I/O software is often organized in the following layers −

  • User Level Libraries − This gives the user programme a straightforward interface for performing input and output. For instance, the C and C++ programming languages provide the library stdio.
  • Kernel Level Modules − This enables interaction between the device driver and the device controller as well as the device independent I/O modules.
  • Hardware − This layer contains the actual hardware as well as the hardware controllers that communicate with the device drivers to bring the hardware to life.

For example, a program that reads a file as input should be able to read a file on a floppy disk, on a hard disk, or on a CD-ROM, without having to modify the program for each different device.

User Space

  • These are the libraries which provide richer and simplified interface to access the functionality of the kernel or ultimately interactive with the device drivers. Most of the user-level I/O software consists of library procedures with some exception like spooling system which is a way of dealing with dedicated I/O devices in a multiprogramming system.
  • I/O Libraries (e.g., stdio) are in user-space to provide an interface to the OS resident device-independent I/O SW. For example putchar(), getchar(), printf() and scanf() are example of user level I/O library stdio available in C programming.


Kernel I/O Subsystem is responsible to provide many services related to I/O. Following are some of the services provided.

  • Scheduling − Kernel schedules a set of I/O requests to determine a good order in which to execute them. When an application issues a blocking I/O system call, the request is placed on the queue for that device. The Kernel I/O scheduler rearranges the order of the queue to improve the overall system efficiency and the average response time experienced by the applications.
  • Buffering − Kernel I/O Subsystem maintains a memory area known as buffer that stores data while they are transferred between two devices or between a device with an application operation. Buffering is done to cope with a speed mismatch between the producer and consumer of a data stream or to adapt between devices that have different data transfer sizes.
  • Spooling and Device Reservation − A spool is a buffer that holds output for a device, such as a printer, that cannot accept interleaved data streams. The spooling system copies the queued spool files to the printer one at a time. In some operating systems, spooling is managed by a system daemon process. In other operating systems, it is handled by an in kernel thread.
  • Caching − Kernel maintains cache memory which is region of fast memory that holds copies of data. Access to the cached copy is more efficient than access to the original.
  • Error Handling − An operating system that uses protected memory can guard against many kinds of hardware and application errors.