Swap space is nothing but a disk storage used to increase the amount of memory available on the Ubuntu Linux server. In this tutorial, you will learn how to create and use a swap file on an Ubuntu Linux server.
What is a swap file on Ubuntu server or desktop system?
As a sysadmin it is necessary to add more swap space after installation on the server. Swap file allows Ubuntu Linux to use hard disk to increase virtual memory.
Virtual Memory = RAM + Swap space/file Virtual Memory (1GB) = Actual RAM (512MB) + Swap space/file (512MB)
When the Ubuntu server runs low on memory, it swaps a section of RAM (say an idle program like foo) onto the hard disk (swap space) to free up memory for other programs. Then when you need that program (say foo again), kernel swapped out foo program, it changes places with another program in RAM.
Procedure to add a swap file on a Ubuntu Linux
Open the Terminal app or use the ssh client to get into the remote server. Login as a root user using sudo command:
Create a swap file command
Type the following command to create a 2GB swap file on Ubuntu:
# dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile bs=1G count=2
2+0 records in 2+0 records out 2147483648 bytes (2.1 GB) copied, 20.2256 s, 106 MB/s
Verify that file has been created on the server:
# ls -lh /swapfile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 2.0G Oct 29 14:07 /swapfile
Creating swap space using fallocate command instead of dd command
Instead of the dd command, you can use the the faster fallocate command to create swap file as follows:
# fallocate -l 1G /swapfile-1
# ls -lh /swapfile-1
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1.0G Oct 29 14:11 /swapfile-1
Secure the swap file
Type the following chmod command and chown command to secure and set correct file permission for security reasons:
# chown root:root /swapfile
# chmod 0600 /swapfile
# ls -lh /swapfile
-rw------- 1 root root 2.0G Oct 29 14:07 /swapfile
A world-readable swap file is a huge local vulnerability. The above commands make sure only root user can read and write to the file.
Turn on the swap file
First, use the mkswap command as follows to enable the swap space on Ubuntu:
# mkswap /swapfile
Setting up swapspace version 1, size = 2097148 KiB no label, UUID=10231c61-6e55-4dd3-8324-9e2a892e7137
Finally, activate the swap file, enter:
# swapon /swapfile
Verify new swap file and settings on Ubuntu
Type the following command
# swapon -s
FilenameTypeSizeUsedPriority /dev/sda5 partition3998716704-1 /swapfile file20971480-2
You can also run the following commands to verify swap file and its usage:
# grep -i --color swap /proc/meminfo
How can I disable swapfile on Ubuntu?
You need to use the swapoff command as follows:
# swapoff /swapfile
# swapon -s
Update /etc/fstab file
You need to make sure the swap file enabled when server comes on line after the reboot. Edit /etc/fstab file, enter:
# vi /etc/fstab
Append the following line:
/swapfile none swap sw 0 0
Save and close the file.
Tuning the swap file i.e. tuning virtual memory
You can tune the following two settings:
How do I set swappiness on a Ubuntu server?
The syntax is:
# sysctl vm.swappiness=VALUE
# sysctl vm.swappiness=20
# echo VALUE > /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
# echo 30 > /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
The value in /proc/sys/vm/swappiness file controls how aggressively the kernel will swap memory pages. Higher values increase agressiveness, lower values descrease aggressiveness. The default value is 60. To make changes permanent add the following line to /etc/sysctl.conf:
echo 'vm.swappiness=30' >> /etc/sysctl.conf
For database server such as Oracle or MySQL I suggest you set a swappiness value of 10. For more information see the official Linux kernel virtual memory settings page.