The Use of Swap Space in Modern Linux Systems

Linux is a free and open-source operating system that is widely used in modern computing systems. It has a rich set of features that make it one of most popular operating systems in world. One such feature is use of swap space. Swap space is a part of Linux file system that is used to temporarily store data when computer's RAM (Random Access Memory) is full. In this article, we will discuss use of swap space in modern Linux systems, its benefits, and how to configure it.

What is Swap Space?

Swap space is a designated area on a hard disk that Linux kernel uses to temporarily store data that is not currently being used by computer's RAM. When RAM is full, operating system transfers least-used data from RAM to swap space to free up space for more important data. This process is called swapping, and it ensures that computer can continue to operate smoothly even when RAM is full.

Benefits of Swap Space

The use of swap space has several benefits, including −

  • Improved Performance − use of swap space allows Linux system to continue running smoothly, even when RAM is full. This is because system can quickly transfer data to swap space and free up space in RAM for more important data.

  • Increased Memory Capacity − By using swap space, Linux system can effectively increase its memory capacity. This is because system can use hard disk space as an extension of RAM, allowing it to store more data than it would be able to otherwise.

  • Prevents Crashes − When RAM is full, Linux system can become unstable and may even crash. By using swap space, system can prevent crashes and ensure that it continues to operate smoothly even when RAM is full.

How to Configure Swap Space

Configuring swap space on a Linux system is a simple process that involves creating a swap partition or file. Here are steps to follow −

  • Check Current Swap Usage − Before configuring swap space, it's important to check current swap usage on system. This can be done by running following command in terminal −

$ swapon --show

This will display a list of all current swap devices or files.

  • Create a Swap File − If there is no current swap file or partition, you can create a swap file using following command −

$ sudo fallocate -l 2G /swapfile

This will create a 2GB swap file named "swapfile" in root directory.

  • Enable Swap File − Once swap file is created, you can enable it using following command −

$ sudo mkswap /swapfile

This will format file as a swap file and enable it.

  • Mount Swap File − Finally, you need to mount swap file using following command −

$ sudo swapon /swapfile

This will mount swap file and make it available for use.

Uses of Swap Space

Swap space is a crucial component of any modern Linux system, and it can be used for several purposes, including −

  • Running Memory-Intensive Applications − When running memory-intensive applications such as video editors, virtual machines, or database servers, there may not be enough RAM available to keep everything in memory. In this case, swap space can be used to temporarily store data that is not being used, allowing application to continue running smoothly.

  • Handling Spikes in Memory Usage − When a sudden spike in memory usage occurs, system may not have enough time to free up memory before system becomes unstable. Swap space can be used to store excess data until system can free up enough memory to operate normally again.

  • Hibernation − When a computer is put into hibernation mode, all data from RAM is saved to hard disk. This data is stored in swap space, allowing system to quickly resume operation when it is awakened.

Examples of Swap Space Usage

  • Virtual Machines − When running virtual machines, it's essential to have enough memory available to prevent guest operating system from crashing. Swap space can be used to provide additional memory capacity, ensuring that virtual machine operates smoothly.

  • Web Servers − Web servers such as Apache or Nginx can use swap space to temporarily store data, such as images or video files, that are not currently being used. This frees up memory for other important data, such as server's configuration files or web pages.

  • Database Servers − Database servers such as MySQL or PostgreSQL often use a lot of memory to process queries and store data. In cases where there is not enough RAM available, swap space can be used to provide additional memory capacity, ensuring that server can continue to operate smoothly.


The use of swap space is an essential feature of modern Linux systems. It allows system to continue running smoothly even when RAM is full, improving performance and preventing crashes. By following steps outlined in this article, you can easily configure swap space on your Linux system and enjoy benefits that it provides.