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2. System call

A system call is used by application (user) programs to request service from the operating system. The following statements illustrate why system calls are needed. An operating system can access a system's hardware directly, but a user program is not given direct access to the hardware. This is done so that the kernel can keep the system safe and secure from malicious user programs. But often, a user program requires some information from the hardware (e.g., from a web camera to show you the picture), but it cannot get the information directly. So, it requests the operating system to supply it the information. This request is made by using an appropriate system call.

A system call executes in the kernel mode. Every system call has a number associated with it. This number is passed to the kernel and that's how the kernel knows which system call was made. When a user program issues a system call, it is actually calling a library routine. The library routine issues a trap to the Linux operating system by executing INT 0x80 assembly instruction. It also passes the system call number to the kernel using the EAX register. The arguments of the system call are also passed to the kernel using other registers (EBX, ECX, etc.). The kernel executes the system call and returns the result to the user program using a register. If the system call needs to supply the user program with large amounts of data, it will use another mechanism (e.g., copy_to_user call).