C Programming

How to Use Readahead System Call

The readahead() system call stores a document inside the page cache while working on the Linux operating system. Whenever the Linux kernel reads documents from a disk, it executes a readahead simulation. Whenever the demand for one portion of a document is generated, the kernel immediately reads the next portion of the document. For example, if another demand for that portion is created later while reading a document consecutively, the kernel will automatically return the required information. Such optimization is relatively inexpensive since disks have track caches (apparently, hard disks are doing their readahead from within), and documents are usually spread out sequentially on the system. A wider readahead window could favor a consecutively accessible document, whereas readahead could be unnecessary overhead for a spontaneously accessible document. The kernel automatically adjusts the length of the readahead frame in reply to a success rate within that frame, as mentioned in Kernel Internal parts. A bigger frame would’ve been preferable if there were more strikes; a narrower screen would’ve been preferable if there were fewer hits. The madvise() framework call enables the program to control the window size immediately.


Whenever the Readahead() system call gets successful, it yields 0 on completion. If it doesn’t complete itself, it will return -1 on loss through errno set to signify the mistake.


  • EBADF: This error occurs when the fd file descriptor is either not usable and is therefore not read-only.
  • EINVAL: This error occurs when readahead() system call could apply to fd because this is not a document kind.

To use any system call, e.g., readahead system call, you must install the manpages-dev library to see its usage and syntax. For that, write out the below command in the shell.

$ sudo apt install manpages-dev

Now you can see the readahead system call information using manpages by utilizing the below instruction.

$ man 2 readahead

Following the below screen will be opened showing the syntax and data about the readahead system call. Press q to exit from this page.

You have to include the “fcntl.h” library first while using C language code. The fd parameter is a document descriptor that specifies which document to be read from your Linux system. The offset parameter determines the reference point for reading the information, while count determines the total of bytes to be read. Since I/O is done in pages, offset is essentially adjusted downcast to a page frontier, and bytes become read up to another page edge approximately equivalent or more than to (offset+count). The readahead() system call doesn’t read the document to the top. The document offset of the available file definition alluded to it by the file descriptor fd is preserved.

If anyone wants to utilize readahead in the C language further, try out the below command to set up the compiler for the C language, the GCC compiler.

$ sudo apt install gcc


The readahead() system call returns directly after attempting to prepare the reads in the foreground. It can, nevertheless, pause while reading the filesystem schema required to find the required blocks.

Readahead Predictability:

Reading ahead is a technique for speeding up access to files by preloading with most of a file’s component in the page cache beforehand of schedule. Once spare I/O services are open, this could be accomplished. Predictability is the most important restriction for making the best use of readahead. Here are some characteristics of the predictability of readahead:

  • Predictions based on the habits of file reads. If pages are interpreted sequentially from a register, which is the perfect situation for readahead, retrieving subsequent blocks before they’ve been demanded has clear performance benefits.
  • System Initialization: The init series for the machine remains unchanged. Certain scripts and data files are interpreted in the same sequence every time.
  • Application Initialization: The very identical mutual libraries and certain portions of the program are mounted each moment a program is executed.

Benefits of Readahead System Call:

With a lot of Ram, the readahead system call has the below benefits:

  • Device and program initialization times have been slashed.
  • The performance has been enhanced. This could be achieved with storage devices such as hard disks, where switching the disk heads among arbitrary sectors takes a long time. Reading ahead provides the I/O scheduling system with far more I/O demands in a much more effective manner, combining a higher proportion of adjacent disk blocks and reducing disk head movements.
  • I/O and processor energy are used most efficiently overall. Whenever the processor is active, additional document I/O is executed.
  • Whenever a computer no longer has to sleep awaiting I/O whenever the information it requests has indeed been extracted, context switching, which consumes valuable CPU cycles, is diminished.


  • Since readahead prevents before all information has indeed been interpreted, it should be used with caution. A simultaneous thread usually triggers it.
  • Advisory programs such as fadvise and madvise are a safer option to readahead.
  • The readahead argument’s capacity can be calculated to improve the efficiency of massive file transfers, however, to just an extent. Thus, after rebooting the readahead length, monitor the system’s output and refine it a lot before transfer rates do not increase anymore.


The readahead() system call starts readahead on a document such that successive reads from such a document can be fulfilled from the buffer rather than blocking on I/O (supposing the readahead is started early sufficient as well as other device operation could not wipe pages as from buffer in the meanwhile). Although any readahead is normally beneficial, the best outcomes are determined by the amount of readahead performed.

About the author

Aqsa Yasin

I am a self-motivated information technology professional with a passion for writing. I am a technical writer and love to write for all Linux flavors and Windows.