Copy on Write

Copy-on-write is the name given to the policy that whenever a task attempts to make a change to the shared information, it should first create a separate (private) copy of that information to prevent its changes from becoming visible to all the other tasks. If this policy is enforced by the operating system kernel, then the fact of being given a reference to shared information rather than a private copy can be transparent to all tasks, whether they need to modify the information or not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copy-on-write

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