Priority CPU Scheduling Algorithm

Learn more at

The SJF (Shortest Job First) algorithm is a special case of the general priority-scheduling algorithm. A priority is associated with each process, and the CPU is allocated to the process with the highest priority. Equal-priority processes are scheduled in FCFS (First-Come First-Served) order. An SJF algorithm is simply a priority algorithm where the priority (p) is the inverse of the (predicted) next CPU burst. The larger the CPU burst, the lower the priority, and vice versa.

Note: Processes alternate between these two states. Process execution begins with a CPU burst. That is followed by an I/O burst, which is followed by another CPU burst, then anotherI/O burst, and so on. Eventually, the final CPU burst ends with a system request to terminate execution.

Note that we discuss scheduling in terms of high priority and low priority. Priorities are generally indicated by some fixed range of numbers, such as 0 to 7 or 0 to 4,095. However, there is no general agreement on whether 0 is the highest or lowest priority. Some systems use low numbers to represent low priority; others use low numbers for high priority. This difference can lead to confusion. In this text, we assume that low numbers represent high priority. As an example, consider the following set of processes, assumed to have arrived at time 0 in the order P1, P2, ..., P5, with the length of the CPU burst given in milliseconds:

ProcessBurst TimePriority

Using priority scheduling, we would schedule these processes according to the following Gantt chart:

The average waiting time is 8.2 milliseconds. Priorities can be defined either internally or externally. Internally defined priorities use some measurable quantity or quantities to compute the priority of a process. For example, time limits, memory requirements, the number of open files, and the ratio of average I/O burst to average CPU burst have been used in computing priorities. External priorities are set by criteria outside the operating system, such as the importance of the process, the type and amount of funds being paid for computer use, the department sponsoring the work, and other, often political, factors.

Priority scheduling can be either preemptive or nonpreemptive. When a process arrives at the ready queue, its priority is compared with the priority of the currently running process. A preemptive priority scheduling algorithm will preempt the CPU if the priority of the newly arrived process is higher than the priority of the currently running process. A nonpreemptive priority scheduling algorithm will simply put the new process at the head of the ready queue.

A major problem with priority scheduling algorithms is indefinite blocking, or starvation. A process that is ready to run but waiting for the CPU can be considered blocked. A priority scheduling algorithm can leave some lowpriority processes waiting indefinitely. In a heavily loaded computer system, a steady stream of higher-priority processes can prevent a low-priority process from ever getting the CPU. Generally, one of two things will happen. Either the process will eventually be run (at 2 A.M. Sunday, when the system is finally lightly loaded), or the computer system will eventually crash and lose all unfinished low-priority processes. (Rumor has it that when they shut down the IBM 7094 at MIT in 1973, they found a low-priority process that had been submitted in 1967 and had not yet been run.)

A solution to the problem of indefinite blockage of low-priority processes is aging. Aging involves gradually increasing the priority of processes that wait in the system for a long time. For example, if priorities range from 127 (low) to 0 (high), we could periodically (say, every second) increase the priority of a waiting process by 1. Eventually, even a process with an initial priority of 127 would have the highest priority in the system and would be executed. In fact, it would take a little over 2 minutes for a priority-127 process to age to a priority-0 process.

Another option is to combine round-robin and priority scheduling in such a way that the system executes the highest-priority process and runs processes with the same priority using round-robin scheduling. Let's illustrate with an example using the following set of processes, with the burst time in milliseconds:

ProcessBurst TimePriority

Using priority scheduling with round-robin for processes with equal priority, we would schedule these processes according to the following Gantt chart using a time quantum of 2 milliseconds:

In this example, process P4 has the highest priority, so it will run to completion. Processes P2 and P3 have the next-highest priority, and they will execute in a round-robin fashion. Notice that when process P2 finishes at time 16, process P3 is the highest-priority process, so it will run until it completes execution. Now, only processes P1 and P5 remain, and as they have equal priority, they will execute in round-robin order until they complete.

Other scheduling algorithms are: First-Come First-Served; Round Robin; Multilevel Queue; Multilevel Feedback Queue. All are explined in Operating System Concepts.

About the Authors

Abraham Silberschatz is the Sidney J. Weinberg Professor of Computer Science at Yale University. Prior to joining Yale, he was the Vice President of the Information Sciences Research Center at Bell Laboratories. Prior to that, he held a chaired professorship in the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

Professor Silberschatz is a Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), a Fellow of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

Greg Gagne is chair of the Computer Science department at Westminster College in Salt Lake City where he has been teaching since 1990. In addition to teaching operating systems, he also teaches computer networks, parallel programming, and software engineering.

Learn more at

The tenth edition of Operating System Concepts
has been revised to keep it fresh and up-to-date with contemporary examples of how operating systems function, as well as enhanced interactive elements to improve learning and the student's experience with the material. It combines instruction on concepts with real-world applications so that students can understand the practical usage of the content. End-of-chapter problems, exercises, review questions, and programming exercises help to further reinforce important concepts. New interactive self-assessment problems are provided throughout the text to help students monitor their level of understanding and progress. A Linux virtual machine (including C and Java source code and development tools) allows students to complete programming exercises that help them engage further with the material.

A reader in the U.S. says, "This is what computer-related books should be like. It is thorough, in depth, information packed, authoritative, and exhaustive. You cannot get this kind of excellent information from the Internet - or many other computer books these days. It's a shame that quality computer books are declining so rapidly in number. I hope they continue to update and publish this book for many years to come.

Learn more at

More Computer Architecture Articles:
• The AMD Athlon 64 X2 Processor
• The Computer's Chipset
• Operating System File Management
• Pi-Top kit - Build Your Own Laptop
• Monolithic Kernel vs Microkernel vs Hybrid Kernel
• Intel Celeron D Processor
• Operating System Boot
• Digital Logic Levels and Transfer Characteristics
• Operating System Process Scheduling Queues
• Basic Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) Circuitry