About Processes and Threads
Each process provides the resources needed to execute a program. A process has a virtual address space, executable code, open handles to system objects, a security context, a unique process identifier, environment variables, a priority class, minimum and maximum working set sizes, and at least one thread of execution. Each process is started with a single thread, often called the primary thread, but can create additional threads from any of its threads.
A thread is the entity within a process that can be scheduled for execution. All threads of a process share its virtual address space and system resources. In addition, each thread maintains exception handlers, a scheduling priority, thread local storage, a unique thread identifier, and a set of structures the system will use to save the thread context until it is scheduled. The thread context includes the thread's set of machine registers, the kernel stack, a thread environment block, and a user stack in the address space of the thread's process. Threads can also have their own security context, which can be used for impersonating clients.
Microsoft Windows supports preemptive multitasking, which creates the effect of simultaneous execution of multiple threads from multiple processes. On a multiprocessor computer, the system can simultaneously execute as many threads as there are processors on the computer.
A job object allows groups of processes to be managed as a unit. Job objects are namable, securable, sharable objects that control attributes of the processes associated with them. Operations performed on the job object affect all processes associated with the job object.
An application can use the thread pool to reduce the number of application threads and provide management of the worker threads. Applications can queue work items, associate work with waitable handles, automatically queue based on a timer, and bind with I/O.
User-mode scheduling (UMS) is a lightweight mechanism that applications can use to schedule their own threads. An application can switch between UMS threads in user mode without involving the system scheduler and regain control of the processor if a UMS thread blocks in the kernel. Each UMS thread has its own thread context instead of sharing the thread context of a single thread. The ability to switch between threads in user mode makes UMS more efficient than thread pools for short-duration work items that require few system calls.
A fiber is a unit of execution that must be manually scheduled by the application. Fibers run in the context of the threads that schedule them. Each thread can schedule multiple fibers. In general, fibers do not provide advantages over a well-designed multithreaded application. However, using fibers can make it easier to port applications that were designed to schedule their own threads.
For more information, see the following topics:
- Multiple Threads
- Child Processes
- Thread Pools
- Job Objects
- User-Mode Scheduling