How are the O_SYNC and O_DIRECT flags in open(2) different/alike?

O_DIRECT alone only promises that the kernel will avoid copying data from user space to kernel space, and will instead write it directly via DMA (Direct memory access; if possible). Data does not go into caches. There is no strict guarantee that the function will return only after all data has been transferred.

O_SYNC guarantees that the call will not return before all data has been transferred to the disk (as far as the OS can tell). This still does not guarantee that the data isn’t somewhere in the harddisk write cache, but it is as much as the OS can guarantee.

O_DIRECT|O_SYNC is the combination of these, i.e. “DMA + guarantee”.

Leave a Comment