Interprocess Communication (IPC)

Official Definition: Interprocess communication (IPC) is used for programs to communicate data to each other and to synchronize their activities. Semaphores, shared memory, and internal message queues are common methods of interprocess communication.

What it means:
IPC is a method for two or more separate programs or processes to communicate with each other. This avoids using real disk-based files and the associated I/O overhead to pass information. Like a file, you must first create or open the resource, use it and close it. Like real files, the resources have an owner, a group, and permissions. Until you remove the resource it continues to exist. Unlike real disk-based files, semaphores, message queues and shared memory do not persist across reboots.[1]

Interprocess Communication
source: Tutorials Point

Synchronization in Interprocess Communication[2]
Synchronization is a necessary part of interprocess communication. It is either provided by the interprocess control mechanism or handled by the communicating processes. Some of the methods to provide synchronization are as follows −

  • Semaphore: A semaphore is a variable that controls the access to a common resource by multiple processes. The two types of semaphores are binary semaphores and counting semaphores.
  • Mutual Exclusion: Mutual exclusion requires that only one process thread can enter the critical section at a time. This is useful for synchronization and also prevents race conditions.
  • Barrier: A barrier does not allow individual processes to proceed until all the processes reach it. Many parallel languages and collective routines impose barriers.
  • Spinlock: This is a type of lock. The processes trying to acquire this lock wait in a loop while checking if the lock is available or not. This is known as busy waiting because the process is not doing any useful operation even though it is active.


  1. What is Interprocess Communication (IPC)? IBM
  2. Synchronization in Interprocess Communication Tutorials Point