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Paging vs. Segmentation: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 20, 2023
Paging divides memory into fixed-size pages; segmentation divides it into variable-sized segments based on program needs.

Key Differences

Paging is a memory management scheme that eliminates the need for contiguous allocation of physical memory, dividing memory into fixed-size parts called pages. Segmentation, on the other hand, divides memory based on the different needs of a program, resulting in variable-sized segments. Both are mechanisms designed to aid in the efficient and flexible use of memory, but they approach the task from different angles.
Paging's primary goal is to simplify memory allocation by ensuring every page has an equal size, making it easier to swap data between RAM and the disk. Segmentation's objective is to segregate different types of data or instructions, separating them into segments which might differ in size. These segments often align with different logical sections of a program.
With paging, the system doesn't need to be concerned about the type or use of data within each page, focusing solely on the memory addresses. Segmentation, however, is more concerned with the content, dividing memory based on logical units, which can be a function, data structure, or a variable. This means the sizes of segments vary depending on the program's requirements.
One notable difference between paging and segmentation is in how they handle external fragmentation. Paging effectively eliminates this issue since every page is of identical size, but segmentation might still experience external fragmentation due to the variable sizes of its segments. Both schemes, however, work towards optimizing memory usage, albeit using distinct methodologies.

Comparison Chart


Divides memory into fixed-size parts.
Divides memory into variable-sized segments based on program needs.


Fixed-sized pages.
Variable-sized segments.

Based on

Memory addresses.
Logical units or content of a program.

External Fragmentation

Effectively eliminated due to fixed sizes.
Can still occur due to variable segment sizes.


Simplifies memory allocation; aids in swapping.
Segregates different types of data or instructions.

Paging and Segmentation Definitions


A scheme eliminating the need for contiguous memory allocation.
Paging is essential for modern operating systems.


The division of something into segments or sections.
Segmentation of the market helps in targeted advertising.


The act of calling someone via an intercom or PA system.
They used paging to locate the doctor in the hospital.


A memory management technique using variable-sized segments.
Segmentation divides memory based on a program's needs.


A memory management method using fixed-size pages.
Paging ensures efficient utilization of memory.


Breaking down data into logical units.
Segmentation of data simplifies complex tasks.


A process for swapping pages between RAM and disk.
Paging prevents system crashes during memory shortages.


A technique for separating different types of program data.
Proper segmentation enhances program efficiency.


Referring to the action of turning pages in a book.
Paging through the book, she found the desired chapter.


The process of dividing a digital image into multiple segments.
Image segmentation aids in object recognition.


Division into segments.


What's the primary goal of paging?

Paging aims to simplify memory allocation with fixed-size pages.

Can segmentation sizes vary within the same program?

Yes, segment sizes depend on individual program sections' requirements.

How does segmentation address memory needs?

Segmentation divides memory based on logical units or program requirements.

Why is paging beneficial for modern OS?

Paging prevents external fragmentation and aids in efficient memory swapping.

Is paging more concerned with content or addresses?

Paging primarily focuses on memory addresses.

How does paging affect system performance?

Efficient paging can prevent system slowdowns or crashes during memory shortages.

Why is segmentation content-driven?

Segmentation divides memory based on logical content, like functions or data structures.

How do modern operating systems handle paging?

Most modern OS use paging combined with other methods for effective memory management.

Can paging be implemented without hardware support?

Typically, paging requires hardware support like a Memory Management Unit (MMU).

What kind of data is stored in segments?

Segments can store functions, arrays, stacks, or other logical program units.

Can segmentation lead to fragmentation?

Yes, segmentation can cause external fragmentation.

How do paging and segmentation affect virtual memory?

Both methods can be used in virtual memory systems to handle memory mapping and swapping.

In brief, how do paging and segmentation differ in approach?

Paging focuses on fixed-sized memory chunks, while segmentation is driven by program content.

Does paging always require a fixed size?

Yes, paging always uses fixed-sized pages for memory management.

What's a significant advantage of segmentation?

Segmentation allows for memory division based on logical program sections.

Which method is better for eliminating external fragmentation?

Paging is more effective at eliminating external fragmentation.

How do paging and segmentation impact memory access time?

Both methods can influence access time, but efficient implementation minimizes delays.

Are paging and segmentation mutually exclusive?

No, some systems combine both methods for optimal memory management.

What are some use cases for segmentation outside memory management?

Market segmentation in business or image segmentation in digital processing.

Are segments in segmentation always contiguous?

Not necessarily; segments can be scattered, leading to external fragmentation.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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