Intention of this page

This page was created by Per Persson for describing the functions and macros copy_{to,from}_user() and __copy_{to,from}_user. Several people have asked about them at

Hopefully, I will not just start creating this page, but also complete it (if it can be completed :) ).

In the meantime, take a look at


During the time I've been on the KernelNewbies mailing list, I've seen questions about the "copy_user" functions several times, and also tried to explain some of them. Although I'm just a kernel newbie, the response to my explanations has been very positive. John Levon even has published my explanation of __copy_user at KernelNewbies:

Even if you're not especially interested in the "copy_user" functions/macros themselves, their implementations contain some techniques that can be useful in other situations:

Most of the code considered in this text can be found in the file include/asm-i386/uaccess.h.

There are four functions/macros that I will cover here:

  1. copy_to_user

  2. copy_from_user

  3. __copy_to_user

  4. __copy_from_user











Perhaps the __copy_{to,from}_user macros would better be called copy_{to,from}_user_nocheck because they don't do the access-checking that copy_{to,from}_user do.

Constant or Generic?

At the top level, the four "functions" are implemented as macros:

#define copy_to_user(to,from,n)                         \
        (__builtin_constant_p(n) ?                      \
         __constant_copy_to_user((to),(from),(n)) :     \

This code tells the compiler to check if n is a constant (known at compile time), and if so the optimised (inline) function __constant_copy_to_user should be used, in other cases the function __generic_copy_to_user should be used.

KernelNewbies: CopyUser (last edited 2017-12-30 01:30:08 by localhost)