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CPU hotplug in the Kernel


December, 2016


Sebastian Andrzej Siewior <bigeasy@linutronix.de>, Rusty Russell <rusty@rustcorp.com.au>, Srivatsa Vaddagiri <vatsa@in.ibm.com>, Ashok Raj <ashok.raj@intel.com>, Joel Schopp <jschopp@austin.ibm.com>


Modern advances in system architectures have introduced advanced error reporting and correction capabilities in processors. There are couple OEMS that support NUMA hardware which are hot pluggable as well, where physical node insertion and removal require support for CPU hotplug.

Such advances require CPUs available to a kernel to be removed either for provisioning reasons, or for RAS purposes to keep an offending CPU off system execution path. Hence the need for CPU hotplug support in the Linux kernel.

A more novel use of CPU-hotplug support is its use today in suspend resume support for SMP. Dual-core and HT support makes even a laptop run SMP kernels which didn't support these methods.

Command Line Switches


Restrict boot time CPUs to n. Say if you have fourV CPUs, using maxcpus=2 will only boot two. You can choose to bring the other CPUs later online.


Restrict the total amount CPUs the kernel will support. If the number supplied here is lower than the number of physically available CPUs than those CPUs can not be brought online later.


Use this to limit hotpluggable CPUs. This option sets cpu_possible_mask = cpu_present_mask + additional_cpus

This option is limited to the IA64 architecture.


This option sets possible_cpus bits in cpu_possible_mask.

This option is limited to the X86 and S390 architecture.


Use this option to disable/enable putting offlined processors to an extended H_CEDE state on supported pseries platforms. If nothing is specified, cede_offline is set to "on".

This option is limited to the PowerPC architecture.


Allow to shutdown CPU0.

This option is limited to the X86 architecture.

CPU maps


Bitmap of possible CPUs that can ever be available in the system. This is used to allocate some boot time memory for per_cpu variables that aren't designed to grow/shrink as CPUs are made available or removed. Once set during boot time discovery phase, the map is static, i.e no bits are added or removed anytime. Trimming it accurately for your system needs upfront can save some boot time memory.


Bitmap of all CPUs currently online. Its set in __cpu_up() after a CPU is available for kernel scheduling and ready to receive interrupts from devices. Its cleared when a CPU is brought down using __cpu_disable(), before which all OS services including interrupts are migrated to another target CPU.


Bitmap of CPUs currently present in the system. Not all of them may be online. When physical hotplug is processed by the relevant subsystem (e.g ACPI) can change and new bit either be added or removed from the map depending on the event is hot-add/hot-remove. There are currently no locking rules as of now. Typical usage is to init topology during boot, at which time hotplug is disabled.

You really don't need to manipulate any of the system CPU maps. They should be read-only for most use. When setting up per-cpu resources almost always use cpu_possible_mask or for_each_possible_cpu() to iterate. To macro for_each_cpu() can be used to iterate over a custom CPU mask.

Never use anything other than cpumask_t to represent bitmap of CPUs.

Using CPU hotplug

The kernel option CONFIG_HOTPLUG_CPU needs to be enabled. It is currently available on multiple architectures including ARM, MIPS, PowerPC and X86. The configuration is done via the sysfs interface: :

$ ls -lh /sys/devices/system/cpu
total 0
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu0
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu1
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu2
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu3
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu4
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu5
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu6
drwxr-xr-x  9 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 cpu7
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root    0 Dec 21 16:33 hotplug
-r--r--r--  1 root root 4.0K Dec 21 16:33 offline
-r--r--r--  1 root root 4.0K Dec 21 16:33 online
-r--r--r--  1 root root 4.0K Dec 21 16:33 possible
-r--r--r--  1 root root 4.0K Dec 21 16:33 present

The files offline, online, possible, present represent the CPU masks. Each CPU folder contains an online file which controls the logical on (1) and off (0) state. To logically shutdown CPU4: :

$ echo 0 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu4/online
 smpboot: CPU 4 is now offline

Once the CPU is shutdown, it will be removed from /proc/interrupts, /proc/cpuinfo and should also not be shown visible by the top command. To bring CPU4 back online: :

$ echo 1 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu4/online
smpboot: Booting Node 0 Processor 4 APIC 0x1

The CPU is usable again. This should work on all CPUs. CPU0 is often special and excluded from CPU hotplug. On X86 the kernel option CONFIG_BOOTPARAM_HOTPLUG_CPU0 has to be enabled in order to be able to shutdown CPU0. Alternatively the kernel command option cpu0_hotplug can be used. Some known dependencies of CPU0:

Please let Fenghua Yu <fenghua.yu@intel.com> know if you find any dependencies on CPU0.

The CPU hotplug coordination

The offline case

Once a CPU has been logically shutdown the teardown callbacks of registered hotplug states will be invoked, starting with CPUHP_ONLINE and terminating at state CPUHP_OFFLINE. This includes:

Using the hotplug API

It is possible to receive notifications once a CPU is offline or onlined. This might be important to certain drivers which need to perform some kind of setup or clean up functions based on the number of available CPUs: :

#include <linux/cpuhotplug.h>

ret = cpuhp_setup_state(CPUHP_AP_ONLINE_DYN, "X/Y:online",
                        Y_online, Y_prepare_down);

X is the subsystem and Y the particular driver. The Y_online callback will be invoked during registration on all online CPUs. If an error occurs during the online callback the Y_prepare_down callback will be invoked on all CPUs on which the online callback was previously invoked. After registration completed, the Y_online callback will be invoked once a CPU is brought online and Y_prepare_down will be invoked when a CPU is shutdown. All resources which were previously allocated in Y_online should be released in Y_prepare_down. The return value ret is negative if an error occurred during the registration process. Otherwise a positive value is returned which contains the allocated hotplug for dynamically allocated states (CPUHP_AP_ONLINE_DYN). It will return zero for predefined states.

The callback can be remove by invoking cpuhp_remove_state(). In case of a dynamically allocated state (CPUHP_AP_ONLINE_DYN) use the returned state. During the removal of a hotplug state the teardown callback will be invoked.

Multiple instances

If a driver has multiple instances and each instance needs to perform the callback independently then it is likely that a ''multi-state'' should be used. First a multi-state state needs to be registered: :

ret = cpuhp_setup_state_multi(CPUHP_AP_ONLINE_DYN, "X/Y:online,
                              Y_online, Y_prepare_down);
Y_hp_online = ret;

The cpuhp_setup_state_multi() behaves similar to cpuhp_setup_state() except it prepares the callbacks for a multi state and does not invoke the callbacks. This is a one time setup. Once a new instance is allocated, you need to register this new instance: :

ret = cpuhp_state_add_instance(Y_hp_online, &d->node);

This function will add this instance to your previously allocated Y_hp_online state and invoke the previously registered callback (Y_online) on all online CPUs. The node element is a struct hlist_node member of your per-instance data structure.

On removal of the instance: ::

cpuhp_state_remove_instance(Y_hp_online, &d->node)

should be invoked which will invoke the teardown callback on all online CPUs.

Manual setup

Usually it is handy to invoke setup and teardown callbacks on registration or removal of a state because usually the operation needs to performed once a CPU goes online (offline) and during initial setup (shutdown) of the driver. However each registration and removal function is also available with a _nocalls suffix which does not invoke the provided callbacks if the invocation of the callbacks is not desired. During the manual setup (or teardown) the functions get_online_cpus() and put_online_cpus() should be used to inhibit CPU hotplug operations.

The ordering of the events

The hotplug states are defined in include/linux/cpuhotplug.h:

A dynamically allocated state via CPUHP_AP_ONLINE_DYN is often enough. However if an earlier invocation during the bring up or shutdown is required then an explicit state should be acquired. An explicit state might also be required if the hotplug event requires specific ordering in respect to another hotplug event.

Testing of hotplug states

One way to verify whether a custom state is working as expected or not is to shutdown a CPU and then put it online again. It is also possible to put the CPU to certain state (for instance CPUHP_AP_ONLINE) and then go back to CPUHP_ONLINE. This would simulate an error one state after CPUHP_AP_ONLINE which would lead to rollback to the online state.

All registered states are enumerated in /sys/devices/system/cpu/hotplug/states: :

$ tail /sys/devices/system/cpu/hotplug/states
138: mm/vmscan:online
139: mm/vmstat:online
140: lib/percpu_cnt:online
141: acpi/cpu-drv:online
142: base/cacheinfo:online
143: virtio/net:online
144: x86/mce:online
145: printk:online
168: sched:active
169: online

To rollback CPU4 to lib/percpu_cnt:online and back online just issue: :

$ cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu4/hotplug/state
$ echo 140 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu4/hotplug/target
$ cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu4/hotplug/state

It is important to note that the teardown callbac of state 140 have been invoked. And now get back online: :

$ echo 169 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu4/hotplug/target
$ cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu4/hotplug/state

With trace events enabled, the individual steps are visible, too: :

#     | |       |        |         |
    bash-394  [001]  22.976: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 140 step: 169 (cpuhp_kick_ap_work)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.977: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 140 step: 168 (sched_cpu_deactivate)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.990: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 168 step: 168 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.991: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 140 step: 144 (mce_cpu_pre_down)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.992: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 144 step: 144 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.993: cpuhp_multi_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 140 step: 143 (virtnet_cpu_down_prep)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.994: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 143 step: 143 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.995: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 140 step: 142 (cacheinfo_cpu_pre_down)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  22.996: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 142 step: 142 ret: 0
    bash-394  [001]  22.997: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 140 step: 169 ret: 0
    bash-394  [005]  95.540: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 169 step: 140 (cpuhp_kick_ap_work)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.541: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 169 step: 141 (acpi_soft_cpu_online)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.542: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 141 step: 141 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.543: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 169 step: 142 (cacheinfo_cpu_online)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.544: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 142 step: 142 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.545: cpuhp_multi_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 169 step: 143 (virtnet_cpu_online)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.546: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 143 step: 143 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.547: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 169 step: 144 (mce_cpu_online)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.548: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 144 step: 144 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.549: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 169 step: 145 (console_cpu_notify)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.550: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 145 step: 145 ret: 0
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.551: cpuhp_enter: cpu: 0004 target: 169 step: 168 (sched_cpu_activate)
 cpuhp/4-31   [004]  95.552: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 168 step: 168 ret: 0
    bash-394  [005]  95.553: cpuhp_exit:  cpu: 0004  state: 169 step: 140 ret: 0

As it an be seen, CPU4 went down until timestamp 22.996 and then back up until 95.552. All invoked callbacks including their return codes are visible in the trace.

Architecture's requirements

The following functions and configurations are required:


This entry needs to be enabled in Kconfig


Arch interface to bring up a CPU


Arch interface to shutdown a CPU, no more interrupts can be handled by the kernel after the routine returns. This includes the shutdown of the timer.


This actually supposed to ensure death of the CPU. Actually look at some example code in other arch that implement CPU hotplug. The processor is taken down from the idle() loop for that specific architecture. __cpu_die() typically waits for some per_cpu state to be set, to ensure the processor dead routine is called to be sure positively.

User Space Notification

After CPU successfully onlined or offline udev events are sent. A udev rule like: :

SUBSYSTEM=="cpu", DRIVERS=="processor", DEVPATH=="/devices/system/cpu/*", RUN+="the_hotplug_receiver.sh"

will receive all events. A script like: :


if [ "${ACTION}" = "offline" ]
    echo "CPU ${DEVPATH##*/} offline"

elif [ "${ACTION}" = "online" ]
    echo "CPU ${DEVPATH##*/} online"


can process the event further.

Kernel Inline Documentations Reference