program - where static variables are stored in memory in c

How are the different segments like heap, stack, text related to the physical memory? (4)

  1. When a C program is compiled and the object file(ELF) is created. the object file contains different sections such as bss, data, text and other segments. I understood that these sections of the ELF are part of virtual memory address space. Am I right? Please correct me if I am wrong.

  2. Also, there will be a virtual memory and page table associated with the compiled program. Page table associates the virtual memory address present in ELF to the real physical memory address when loading the program. Is my understanding correct?

  3. I read that in the created ELF file, bss sections just keeps the reference of the uninitialised global variables. Here uninitialised global variable means, the variables that are not intialised during declaration?

  4. Also, I read that the local variables will be allocated space at run time (i.e., in stack). Then how they will be referenced in the object file?

  5. If in the program, there is particular section of code available to allocate memory dynamically. How these variables will be referenced in object file?

I am confused that these different segments of object file (like text, rodata, data, bss, stack and heap) are part of the physical memory (RAM), where all the programs are executed. But I feel that my understanding is wrong. How are these different segments related to the physical memory when a process or a program is in execution?

4. If you look at a assembler code generated by gcc you can see that memory local variables is allocated in stack through command push or through changing value of the register ESP. Then they are initiated with command mov or something like that.

1. Correct, the ELF file lays out the absolute or relative locations in the virtual address space of a process that the operating system should copy the ELF file contents into. (The bss is just a location and a size, since its supposed to be all zeros, there is no need to actually have the zeros in the ELF file). Note that locations can be absolute locations (like virtual address 0x100000 or relative locations like 4096 bytes after the end of text.)

2. The virtual memory definition (which is kept in page tables and maps virtual addresses to physical addresses) is not associated with a compiled program, but with a "process" (or "task" or whatever your OS calls it) that represents a running instance of that program. For example, a single ELF file can be loaded into two different processes, at different virtual addresses (if the ELF file is relocatable).

3. The programming language you're using defines which uninitialized state goes in the bss, and which gets explicitly initialized. Note that the bss does not contain "references" to these variables, it is the storage backing those variables.

4. Stack variables are referenced implicitly from the generated code. There is nothing explicit about them (or even the stack) in the ELF file.

5. Like stack references, heap references are implicit in the generated code in the ELF file. (They're all stored in memory created by changing the virtual address space via a call to sbrk or its equivalent.)

The ELF file explains to an OS how to setup a virtual address space for an instance of a program. The different sections describe different needs. For example ".rodata" says I'd like to store read-only data (as opposed to executable code). The ".text" section means executable code. The "bss" is a region used to store state that should be zeroed by the OS. The virtual address space means the program can (optionally) rely on things being where it expects when it starts up. (For example, if it asks for the .bss to be at address 0x4000, then either the OS will refuse to start it, or it will be there.)

Note that these virtual addresses are mapped to physical addresses by the page tables managed by the OS. The instance of the ELF file doesn't need to know any of the details involved in which physical pages are used.

I am not sure if 1, 2 and 3 are correct but I can explain 4 and 5.

4: They are referenced by offset from the top of the stack. When executing a function, the top of the stack is increased to allocate space for local variables. Compiler determines the order of local variables in the stack so the compiler nows what is the offset of the variables from the top of the stack.

Stack in physical memory is positioned upside down. Beginning of stack usually has highest memory address available. As programs runs and allocates space for local variables the address of the top of the stack decrements (and can potentially lead to - overlapping with segments on lower addresses :-) )

5: Using pointers - Address of dynamically allocated variable is stored in (local) variable. This corresponds to using pointers in C.

I have found nice explanation here:

If you want to know these things, learn about the OS, with source code ( if possible.
You need to realize that the OS kernel is actually running the CPU and managing the memory resource. And C code is just a light weight script to drive the OS and to run only simple operation with registers.

  1. Virtual memory and Physical memory is about CPU's TLB letting the user space process to use contiguous memory virtually through the power of TLB (using page table) hardware. So the actual physical memory, mapped to the contiguous virtual memory can be scattered to anywhere on the RAM. Compiled program doesn't know about this TLB stuff and physical memory address stuff. They are managed in the OS kernel space.

  2. BSS is a section which OS prepares as zero filled memory addresses, because they were not initialized in the c/c++ source code, thus marked as bss by the compiler/linker.

  3. Stack is something prepared only a small amount of memory at first by the OS, and every time function call has been made, address will be pushed down, so that there is more space to place the local variables, and pop when you want to return from the function. New physical memory will be allocated to the virtual address when the first small amount of memory is full and reached to the bottom, and page fault exception would occur, and the OS kernel will prepare a new physical memory and the user process can continue working.

  4. No magic. In object code, every operation done to the pointer returned from malloc is handled as offsets to the register value returned from malloc function call.

Actually malloc is doing quite complex things. There are various implementations (jemalloc/ptmalloc/dlmalloc/googlemalloc/...) for improving dynamic allocations, but actually they are all getting new memory region from the OS using sbrk or mmap(/dev/zero), which is called anonymous memory.