Definition of Deadlock

A deadlock is a situation in computer systems where two or more processes are indefinitely blocked, waiting for each other to release a resource they need to proceed. This results in a circular dependency that prevents further progress of the involved processes. Deadlocks lead to system inefficiency and need to be resolved either by a deadlock prevention mechanism or by using a deadlock detection and recovery method.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Deadlock” is: /ˈdɛdˌlɒk/

Key Takeaways

  1. A deadlock is a situation in which two or more competing processes are stuck in a state where they are unable to progress due to a circular dependency on shared resources or conditions.
  2. Deadlocks can be prevented or managed by using various strategies, such as resource allocation, process synchronization, and deadlock detection & recovery algorithms.
  3. It’s essential for software developers and system administrators to have a good understanding of deadlocks and their solutions to ensure smooth and efficient system performance.

Importance of Deadlock

The technology term “Deadlock” is important because it refers to a critical situation that occurs in computer systems, especially in multi-tasking environments, where two or more processes are unable to proceed with their execution due to shared resources or dependencies, ultimately causing the entire system to become unstable or unresponsive.

Understanding and managing deadlocks is vital for ensuring smooth and efficient functioning of computer systems and applications.

Deadlocks can lead to a considerable loss of time, computing resources, and productivity.

Therefore, designers and developers must employ various methods, such as resource allocation strategies, timeouts, and deadlock prevention algorithms, to identify, avoid, and handle deadlocks, thus ensuring optimal system performance and reliability.


Deadlock is a situation that arises within computer systems when two or more processes are unable to proceed with their operations due to a conflict over shared resources. These processes become interdependent, each waiting for another to release the necessary resource, resulting in a standstill preventing any further execution.

The purpose of the deadlock concept is to identify where such situations may occur and apply effective solutions to mitigate the impact on overall system performance. Deadlocks are important to consider in systems where multiple processes run concurrently and require access to shared resources, such as memory, files, or data structures.

System designers and developers utilise various techniques to prevent, avoid, detect, or recover from these situations in order to maintain efficient system operation. For example, when designing an operating system or a database management system, developers ensure that proper resource allocation and release mechanisms are in place to minimise the risk of deadlocks and their detrimental effects on the system performance.

Examples of Deadlock

Deadlocks can occur in various real-world scenarios where multiple processes or resources are competing or are interdependent. Below are three real-world examples of deadlocks involving technology:Databases: In database management systems (DBMS), multiple users or applications can request access to the same data simultaneously. A deadlock situation may arise when two or more transactions are competing for the same resources (tables, rows, etc.) but are unable to acquire them due to locks held by each other. For example, Transaction A locks Table 1 for an update and then requests access to Table 2, while Transaction B locks Table 2 and then requests access to Table

Now both transactions are stuck and unable to proceed, resulting in a deadlock.Operating Systems: In an operating system, processes often compete for system resources such as memory, processing power, or input/output devices. A deadlock can occur when multiple processes are holding resources while waiting for other resources still owned by other processes. For example, Process P1 holds a printer device resource and waits for a scanner device resource that is held by Process P2, while Process P2 is waiting for the printer device resource held by Process P

As a result, both processes are stuck in a deadlock situation.Networking: Network protocols, such as the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), can experience deadlocks when two or more devices compete for resources, like bandwidth, while waiting for responses from each other. For example, Computer A is waiting for Computer B to acknowledge receipt of a data packet before sending the next packet, but Computer B is also waiting for an acknowledgment from Computer A before sending its next packet. This can lead to a stalemate where neither of the systems can proceed, resulting in a deadlock.

Deadlock FAQ

What is a deadlock?

A deadlock is a situation where two or more processes are waiting for resources held by each other, resulting in a circular wait, and none of the processes can proceed. These resources can be memory, files, or any system resource required for a process to complete its execution.

What causes a deadlock?

Deadlock occurs due to four necessary conditions: Mutual exclusion, Hold and wait, No preemption, and Circular wait. If these conditions are met, deadlock can occur. Deadlock happens when resources are not properly managed, or there’s a lack of efficient scheduling and allocation strategies.

How can a deadlock be detected?

Deadlock detection can be performed by monitoring the state of the system and analyzing the resource allocation graph. One common technique is to use a wait-for graph that shows the dependencies between processes and the resources they are waiting for. If a cycle is detected in the graph, a deadlock is present.

How can deadlocks be prevented?

Deadlocks can be prevented by ensuring that at least one of the four necessary conditions does not hold. Some common strategies include resource allocation and ordering, using timeouts, and implementing a deadlock detection and recovery mechanism. These prevention methods help in proper resource management and avoid deadlock situations.

What are some examples of deadlocks?

Examples of deadlocks include:
1. Two or more processes are competing for shared printer resources.
2. Database transactions with conflicting locking conditions.
3. Threads in a multithreaded environment competing for access to a shared resource.
4. Traffic deadlock when all four cars at a four-way intersection try to move simultaneously.
Understanding these examples can help identify possible deadlock situations in other scenarios.

Related Technology Terms

  • Resource Allocation
  • Locking
  • Wait-For Graph
  • Starvation
  • Livelock

Sources for More Information


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