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DMA with ISA and LPC devices
:Author: Pierre Ossman <>
This document describes how to do DMA transfers using the old ISA DMA
controller. Even though ISA is more or less dead today the LPC bus
uses the same DMA system so it will be around for quite some time.
Headers and dependencies
To do ISA style DMA you need to include two headers::
#include <linux/dma-mapping.h>
#include <asm/dma.h>
The first is the generic DMA API used to convert virtual addresses to
bus addresses (see Documentation/DMA-API.txt for details).
The second contains the routines specific to ISA DMA transfers. Since
this is not present on all platforms make sure you construct your
Kconfig to be dependent on ISA_DMA_API (not ISA) so that nobody tries
to build your driver on unsupported platforms.
Buffer allocation
The ISA DMA controller has some very strict requirements on which
memory it can access so extra care must be taken when allocating
(You usually need a special buffer for DMA transfers instead of
transferring directly to and from your normal data structures.)
The DMA-able address space is the lowest 16 MB of _physical_ memory.
Also the transfer block may not cross page boundaries (which are 64
or 128 KiB depending on which channel you use).
In order to allocate a piece of memory that satisfies all these
requirements you pass the flag GFP_DMA to kmalloc.
Unfortunately the memory available for ISA DMA is scarce so unless you
allocate the memory during boot-up it's a good idea to also pass
__GFP_RETRY_MAYFAIL and __GFP_NOWARN to make the allocator try a bit harder.
(This scarcity also means that you should allocate the buffer as
early as possible and not release it until the driver is unloaded.)
Address translation
To translate the virtual address to a bus address, use the normal DMA
API. Do _not_ use isa_virt_to_phys() even though it does the same
thing. The reason for this is that the function isa_virt_to_phys()
will require a Kconfig dependency to ISA, not just ISA_DMA_API which
is really all you need. Remember that even though the DMA controller
has its origins in ISA it is used elsewhere.
Note: x86_64 had a broken DMA API when it came to ISA but has since
been fixed. If your arch has problems then fix the DMA API instead of
reverting to the ISA functions.
A normal ISA DMA controller has 8 channels. The lower four are for
8-bit transfers and the upper four are for 16-bit transfers.
(Actually the DMA controller is really two separate controllers where
channel 4 is used to give DMA access for the second controller (0-3).
This means that of the four 16-bits channels only three are usable.)
You allocate these in a similar fashion as all basic resources:
extern int request_dma(unsigned int dmanr, const char * device_id);
extern void free_dma(unsigned int dmanr);
The ability to use 16-bit or 8-bit transfers is _not_ up to you as a
driver author but depends on what the hardware supports. Check your
specs or test different channels.
Transfer data
Now for the good stuff, the actual DMA transfer. :)
Before you use any ISA DMA routines you need to claim the DMA lock
using claim_dma_lock(). The reason is that some DMA operations are
not atomic so only one driver may fiddle with the registers at a
The first time you use the DMA controller you should call
clear_dma_ff(). This clears an internal register in the DMA
controller that is used for the non-atomic operations. As long as you
(and everyone else) uses the locking functions then you only need to
reset this once.
Next, you tell the controller in which direction you intend to do the
transfer using set_dma_mode(). Currently you have the options
Set the address from where the transfer should start (this needs to
be 16-bit aligned for 16-bit transfers) and how many bytes to
transfer. Note that it's _bytes_. The DMA routines will do all the
required translation to values that the DMA controller understands.
The final step is enabling the DMA channel and releasing the DMA
Once the DMA transfer is finished (or timed out) you should disable
the channel again. You should also check get_dma_residue() to make
sure that all data has been transferred.
int flags, residue;
flags = claim_dma_lock();
set_dma_mode(channel, DMA_MODE_WRITE);
set_dma_addr(channel, phys_addr);
set_dma_count(channel, num_bytes);
while (!device_done());
flags = claim_dma_lock();
residue = dma_get_residue(channel);
if (residue != 0)
printk(KERN_ERR "driver: Incomplete DMA transfer!"
" %d bytes left!\n", residue);
It is the driver's responsibility to make sure that the machine isn't
suspended while a DMA transfer is in progress. Also, all DMA settings
are lost when the system suspends so if your driver relies on the DMA
controller being in a certain state then you have to restore these
registers upon resume.