I am studying Professional Linux Kernel Architecture and I am in Chapter 3 Memory Management. While I studied kernel address space itself is split into direct mapping area, vmalloc area, kmap area and fixed mapping area.

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What I am wondering is just like below.

  1. Can direct mapping area(896MB) of kernel address space in 32-bit machine be accessed by function like __va, __pa without MMU?

  2. if 1. is true then master kernel page table(swapper_pg_dir) manages only 128MB ?

  3. While I am studying kernel code I found difference in paging_init function between 32-bit and 64-bit. In 32-bit, I found pagetable_init function which initialize and master kernel page table in paging_init function.

function paging_init in 32-bit

void __init pageit_init(void){



But in 64-bit, I could't find kernel page table related function in paging_init function.

void __init paging_init(void)

    node_clear_state(0, N_MEMORY);
        node_clear_state(0, N_NORMAL_MEMORY);


Is 64-bit kernel doesn't have master kernel page table? If it's true is it just access kernel memory only by direct mapping?

1 Answer 1


Answers to questions 1 and 2: no, once paging has been enabled, the CPU instructions only use virtual addresses, which are translated to physical addresses using the MMU before reading or writing RAM. The __va and __pa macros don't access memory, they just convert addresses between the address spaces. On a 32-bit machine, __va just adds 0xc0000000 to the physical address given as argument, because the mapping has been set up so that physical address N is at virtual address N+0xc0000000.

Addresses you want to access with the CPU must have a mapping; you can't bypass the MMU. So a mapping that manages only 128 MB is not sufficient.

  • Thank you so much!! It really helped a lot!! I can understand how it works!! Dec 20, 2017 at 20:43

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