mmap, munmap - map or unmap files or devices into memory


#include <sys/mman.h>
void *mmap(void *start, size_t length, int prot, int flags,
           int fd, off_t offset);
int munmap(void *start, size_t length);


mmap() creates a new mapping in the virtual address space of the calling process. The starting address for the new mapping is specified in start. The length argument specifies the length of the mapping.

If start is NULL, then the kernel chooses the address at which to create the mapping; this is the most portable method of creating a new mapping. If start is not NULL, then the kernel takes it as a hint about where to place the mapping; on Linux, the mapping will be created at the next higher page boundary. The address of the new mapping is returned as the result of the call.

The contents of a file mapping (as opposed to an anonymous mapping; see MAP_ANONYMOUS below), are initialised using length bytes starting at offset offset in the file (or other object) referred to by the file descriptor fd. offset must be a multiple of the page size as returned by sysconf(_SC_PAGE_SIZE).

The prot argument describes the desired memory protection of the mapping (and must not conflict with the open mode of the file). It is either PROT_NONE or the bitwise OR of one or more of the following flags:

Pages may be executed.
Pages may be read.
Pages may be written.
Pages may not be accessed.

The flags argument determines whether updates to the mapping are visible to other processes mapping the same region, and whether updates are caried through to the underlying file. This behaviour is determined by including exactly one of the following values in flags:

Share this mapping. Updates to the mapping are visible to other processes that map this file, and are carried through to the underlying file. The file may not actually be updated until msync(2) or munmap(2) is called.
Create a private copy-on-write mapping. Updates to the mapping are not visible to other processes mapping the same file, and are not carried through to the underlying file. It is unspecified whether changes made to the file after the mmap() call are visible in the mapped region.

Both of these flags are described in POSIX.1-2001.

In addition, zero or more of the following values can be ORed in flags:

Don't interpret start as a hint: place the mapping at exactly that address. start must be a multiple of the page size. If the memory region specified by start and len overlaps pages of any existing mapping(s), then the overlapped part of the existing mapping(s) will be discarded. If the specified address cannot be used, mmap() will fail. Because requiring a fixed address for a mapping is less portable, the use of this option is discouraged.
This flag is ignored. (Long ago, it signalled that attempts to write to the underlying file should fail with ETXTBUSY. But this was a source of denial-of-service attacks.)
This flag is ignored.
Do not reserve swap space for this mapping. When swap space is reserved, one has the guarantee that it is possible to modify the mapping. When swap space is not reserved one might get SIGSEGV upon a write if no physical memory is available. See also the discussion of the file /proc/sys/vm/overcommit_memory in proc(5). In kernels before 2.6, this flag only had effect for private writable mappings.
MAP_LOCKED (since Linux 2.5.37)
Lock the pages of the mapped region into memory in the manner of mlock(). This flag is ignored in older kernels.
Used for stacks. Indicates to the kernel virtual memory system that the mapping should extend downwards in memory.
Synonym for MAP_ANONYMOUS. Deprecated.
The mapping is not backed by any file; its contents are initialised to zero. The fd and offset arguments are ignored; however, some implementations require fd to be -1 if MAP_ANONYMOUS (or MAP_ANON) is specified, and portable applications should ensure this. The use of MAP_ANONYMOUS in conjunction with MAP_SHARED is only supported on Linux since kernel 2.4.
Compatibility flag. Ignored.
Put the mapping into the first 2GB of the process address space. Ignored when MAP_FIXED is set. This flag is currently only supported on x86-64 for 64bit programs.
MAP_POPULATE (since Linux 2.5.46)
Populate (prefault) page tables for a file mapping, by performing read-ahead on the file. Later accesses to the mapping will not be blocked by page faults.
MAP_NONBLOCK (since Linux 2.5.46)
Only meaningful in conjunction with MAP_POPULATE. Don't perform read-ahead: only create page tables entries for pages that are already present in RAM.

Of the above flags, only MAP_FIXED is specified in POSIX.1-2001. However, most systems also support MAP_ANONYMOUS (or its synonym MAP_ANON).

Some systems document the additional flags MAP_AUTOGROW, MAP_AUTORESRV, MAP_COPY, and MAP_LOCAL.

Memory mapped by mmap() is preserved across fork(2), with the same attributes.

A file is mapped in multiples of the page size. For a file that is not a multiple of the page size, the remaining memory is zeroed when mapped, and writes to that region are not written out to the file. The effect of changing the size of the underlying file of a mapping on the pages that correspond to added or removed regions of the file is unspecified.

The munmap() system call deletes the mappings for the specified address range, and causes further references to addresses within the range to generate invalid memory references. The region is also automatically unmapped when the process is terminated. On the other hand, closing the file descriptor does not unmap the region.

If MAP_FIXED is specified, start must be a multiple of the page size. In all other cases start address is rounded up to the next page size boundary. All pages containing a part of the indicated range are unmapped, and subsequent references to these pages will generate SIGSEGV. It is not an error if the indicated range does not contain any mapped pages.

For file-backed mappings, the st_atime field for the mapped file may be updated at any time between the mmap() and the corresponding unmapping; the first reference to a mapped page will update the field if it has not been already.

The st_ctime and st_mtime field for a file mapped with PROT_WRITE and MAP_SHARED will be updated after a write to the mapped region, and before a subsequent msync() with the MS_SYNC or MS_ASYNC flag, if one occurs.


On success, mmap() returns a pointer to the mapped area. On error, the value MAP_FAILED (that is, (void *) -1) is returned, and errno is set appropriately. On success, munmap() returns 0, on failure -1, and errno is set (probably to EINVAL).


It is architecture dependent whether PROT_READ implies PROT_EXEC or not. Portable programs should always set PROT_EXEC if they intend to execute code in the new mapping.


A file descriptor refers to a non-regular file. Or MAP_PRIVATE was requested, but fd is not open for reading. Or MAP_SHARED was requested and PROT_WRITE is set, but fd is not open in read/write (O_RDWR) mode. Or PROT_WRITE is set, but the file is append-only.
The file has been locked, or too much memory has been locked (see setrlimit(2)).
fd is not a valid file descriptor (and MAP_ANONYMOUS was not set).
We don't like start, length, or offset (e.g., they are too large, or not aligned on a page boundary).
(since Linux 2.6.12), length was 0.
flags contained neither MAP_PRIVATE or MAP_SHARED, or contained both of these values.
The system limit on the total number of open files has been reached.
The underlying filesystem of the specified file does not support memory mapping.
No memory is available, or the process's maximum number of mappings would have been exceeded.
The prot argument asks for PROT_EXEC but the mapped area belongs to a file on a filesystem that was mounted no-exec.
MAP_DENYWRITE was set but the object specified by fd is open for writing.

Use of a mapped region can result in these signals:

Attempted write into a region mapped as read-only.
Attempted access to a portion of the buffer that does not correspond to the file (for example, beyond the end of the file, including the case where another process has truncated the file).


On POSIX systems on which mmap(), msync() and munmap() are available, _POSIX_MAPPED_FILES is defined in <unistd.h> to a value greater than 0. (See also sysconf(3).)


SVr4, 4.4BSD, POSIX.1-2001.


On Linux there are no guarantees like those suggested above under MAP_NORESERVE. By default, any process can be killed at any moment when the system runs out of memory.

In kernels before 2.6.7, the MAP_POPULATE flag only has effect if prot is specified as PROT_NONE.

SUSv3 specifies that mmap() should fail if length is 0. However, in kernels before 2.6.12, mmap() succeeded in this case: no mapping was created and the call returned start. Since kernel 2.6.12, mmap() fails with the error EINVAL for this case.


getpagesize(2), mincore(2), mlock(2), mmap2(2), mremap(2), msync(2), remap_file_pages(2), setrlimit(2), shm_open(3)
B.O. Gallmeister, POSIX.4, O'Reilly, pp. 128-129 and 389-391.