Memory-Mapped I/O in C


Memory-mapped I/O is a technique that allows you to interact with hardware devices as if they were memory locations. In C, you can access these devices by directly reading from or writing to specific memory addresses. This guide introduces the concept of memory-mapped I/O in C and provides sample code to demonstrate its usage.

Why Use Memory-Mapped I/O?

Memory-mapped I/O offers several advantages:

  • Efficiency: Accessing hardware as memory locations can be more efficient than using I/O instructions.
  • Abstraction: It simplifies hardware interaction, making it more accessible to developers.
  • Portability: Memory-mapped I/O code can be more portable across different platforms.

Key Concepts in Memory-Mapped I/O

Before diving into memory-mapped I/O, it's essential to understand key concepts:

  • Memory-Mapped Registers: These are memory locations that are associated with hardware devices.
  • Read and Write Operations: You can read from and write to these memory-mapped registers like regular memory.
  • Device Documentation: It's crucial to refer to the hardware documentation to know the memory addresses and how to interact with specific devices.

Sample Code for Memory-Mapped I/O

Let's look at a basic example of memory-mapped I/O in C:

#include <stdio.h>
// Memory-mapped address for a GPIO (example address)
#define GPIO_ADDRESS 0x20000000
// Read from a memory-mapped GPIO
int read_gpio() {
volatile int *gpio = (int *)GPIO_ADDRESS;
return *gpio;
// Write to a memory-mapped GPIO
void write_gpio(int value) {
volatile int *gpio = (int *)GPIO_ADDRESS;
*gpio = value;
int main() {
int value_to_write = 42;
// Write to the memory-mapped GPIO
// Read from the memory-mapped GPIO
int read_value = read_gpio();
printf("Read value: %d\n", read_value);
return 0;

This code demonstrates memory-mapped I/O by reading from and writing to a memory-mapped GPIO (general-purpose input/output) register. Please note that the actual memory addresses and operations depend on the specific hardware you're working with.

Exploring Further

Memory-mapped I/O is a broad topic. To deepen your understanding, you can explore:

  • Working with various hardware devices and associated memory-mapped registers.
  • Understanding specific hardware documentation for proper interaction.
  • Debugging and error handling in memory-mapped I/O code.


Memory-mapped I/O in C simplifies the interaction with hardware devices by treating them as memory locations. This guide introduced the basics of memory-mapped I/O and provided a simple code example. Continue to explore memory-mapped I/O for interfacing with various hardware components.