From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In computing, a futex (short for "fast userspace mutex") is a kernel system call that programmers can use to implement basic locking, or as a building block for higher-level locking abstractions such as semaphores and POSIX mutexes or condition variables.

A futex consists of a kernelspace wait queue that is attached to an aligned integer in userspace. Multiple processes or threads operate on the integer entirely in userspace (using atomic operations to avoid interfering with one another), and only resort to relatively expensive system calls to request operations on the wait queue (for example to wake up waiting processes, or to put the current process on the wait queue). A properly programmed futex-based lock will not use system calls except when the lock is contended; since most operations do not require arbitration between processes, this will not happen in most cases.


On Linux, Hubertus Franke (IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center), Matthew Kirkwood, Ingo Molnár (Red Hat) and Rusty Russell (IBM Linux Technology Center) originated the futex mechanism. Futexes appeared for the first time in version 2.5.7 of the Linux kernel development series; the semantics stabilized as of version 2.5.40, and futexes have been part of the Linux kernel mainline since the December 2003 release of 2.6.x stable kernel series.

In 2002 discussions took place on a proposal to make futexes accessible via the file system by creating a special node in /dev or /proc. However, Linus Torvalds strongly opposed this idea and rejected any related patches.[1]

In May 2014 the CVE system announced a vulnerability discovered in the Linux kernel's futex subsystem that allowed denial-of-service attacks or local privilege escalation.[2][3]

Futexes have been implemented in OpenBSD since 2016.[4]


Futexes have two basic operations, WAIT and WAKE. A third operation called REQUEUE is available and functions as a more generic WAKE operation that can move threads between waiting queues. [5]

  • WAIT(addr, val)
If the value stored at the address addr is val, puts the current thread to sleep.
  • WAKE(addr, num)
Wakes up num number of threads waiting on the address addr.
  • CMP_REQUEUE(old_addr, new_addr, num_wake, num_move, val)
If the value stored at the address old_addr is val, wakes num_wake threads waiting on the address old_addr, and enqueues num_move threads waiting on the address old_addr to now wait on the address new_addr.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Torvalds, Linus. "Futex Asynchronous Interface". 
  2. ^ CVE-2014-3153
  3. ^ "[SECURITY] [DSA 2949-1] linux security update". Lists.debian.org. 2014-06-05. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  4. ^ Mazurek, Michal. "'Futexes for OpenBSD' - MARC". marc.info. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Futexes Are Tricky, Red Hat (v 1.6, 2011).

External links[edit]