My operating systems textbook describes the three components of a process:

  • An executable program.
  • The associated data needed by the program (variables, work space, buffers, etc.)
  • The execution context of the program.

However, the textbook seemingly contradicts itself when discussing the execution context of a program:

The last element is essential. The execution context, or process state, is the internal data by which the OS is able to supervise and control the process. This internal information is separated from the process, because the OS has information not permitted to the process.

The first statement says that the execution context of a program is part of a process. The second statement says that the execution context of a program is separated from the process. So which one is it? Is the execution context of a program part of a process or not? Or am I misinterpreting what the author is saying?


The associated data needed by the program, is the actual run time data necessary to run the process and keep track of its state. You should see the execution context more as related information, like the user running the process, the process priority, what the allocated memory is, security clearance (like UAC on Windows), etc.

So the third part is not part of the actual process. It can be kept in close proximity of the actual program data as described in #2, but the process doesn't have access to it.

  • Thank you for the answer. So the textbook is technically wrong in describing it as one of three components of a process? – The Pointer Jan 10 '17 at 8:02
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    I don't think it is really wrong, just formulated a little ambiguous. – Patrick Hofman Jan 10 '17 at 8:02
  • Thank you again for the answer. I'll award the bounty when it allows me (23 hours). – The Pointer Jan 10 '17 at 8:15
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    No worries. Just keep it open for a while. Maybe you will get better answers. – Patrick Hofman Jan 10 '17 at 8:17

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