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multiple concurrent instances of physical file systems

Main articles: Memory protection and Shared memory (interprocess communication)

Virtual memory is a method of decoupling the memory organization from the physical hardware. The applications operate on memory via virtual addresses. Each attempt by the application to access a particular virtual memory address results in the virtual memory address being translated to an actual physical address. In this way the addition of virtual memory enables granular control over memory systems and methods of access.

In virtual memory systems the operating system limits how a process can access the memory. This feature, called memory protection, can be used to disallow a process to read or write to memory that is not allocated to it, preventing malicious or malfunctioning code in one program from interfering with the operation of another.

Even though the memory allocated for specific processes is normally isolated, processes sometimes need to be able to share information. Shared memory is one of the fastest techniques for inter-process communication.

Memory is usually classified by access rate into primary storage and secondary storage. Memory management systems, among other operations, also handle the moving of information between these two levels of memory.