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Linux: Using a swap file rather than a swap partition


Linux RAM is composed of chunks of memory called pages. To free up pages of RAM, a “linux swap” can occur and a page of memory is copied from the RAM to preconfigured space on the hard disk. Linux swaps allow a system to harness more memory than was originally physically available.

However, swapping does have disadvantages. Because hard disks have a much slower memory than RAM, virtual private server performance may slow down considerably. Additionally, swap thrashing can begin to take place if the system gets swamped from too many files being swapped in and out.
Check for Swap Space
Before we proceed to set up a swap file, we need to check if any swap files have been enabled on the VPS by looking at the summary of swap usage.

sudo swapon -s

An empty list will confirm that you have no swap files enabled:

Filename                Type        Size    Used    Priority

Check the File System
After we know that we do not have a swap file enabled on the virtual server, we can check how much space we have on the server with the df command. The swap file will take 512MB— since we are only using up about 8% of the /dev/sda, we can proceed.

df
Filesystem     1K-blocks    Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda        20907056 1437188  18421292   8% /
udev              121588       4    121584   1% /dev
tmpfs              49752     208     49544   1% /run
none                5120       0      5120   0% /run/lock
none              124372       0    124372   0% /run/shm

Create and Enable the Swap File
Now it’s time to create the swap file itself using the dd command :

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile bs=1024 count=2048k

“of=/swapfile” designates the file’s name. In this case the name is swapfile.

—————————————————————————————————————————–
Sizing:
bs=1024:  Each block is made of 1024 bytes
count=2048K: There will be 2048K blocks, so
(bs x  count) = (1024 x 2,048,000)
This would create a 2 GB swapfile.
—————————————————————————————————————————–

You can change count to 1024K if you want 1 Gigabyte of swap, more than that is not really recommended.

Subsequently we are going to prepare the swap file by creating a linux swap area:

sudo mkswap /swapfile

The results display:

Setting up swapspace version 1, size = 262140 KiB
no label, UUID=103c4545-5fc5-47f3-a8b3-dfbdb64fd7eb

Finish up by activating the swap file:

sudo swapon /swapfile

You will then be able to see the new swap file when you view the swap summary.

swapon -s
Filename                Type        Size    Used    Priority
/swapfile                               file        262140    0    -1

This file will last on the virtual private server until the machine reboots. You can ensure that the swap is permanent by adding it to the fstab file.

Open up the file:

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Paste in the following line:

/swapfile       none    swap    sw      0       0

Swappiness in the file should be set to 10. Skipping this step may cause both poor performance, whereas setting it to 10 will cause swap to act as an emergency buffer, preventing out-of-memory crashes.

You can do this with the following commands:

echo 10 | sudo tee /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
echo vm.swappiness = 10 | sudo tee -a /etc/sysctl.conf

To prevent the file from being world-readable, you should set up the correct permissions on the swap file:

sudo chown root:root /swapfile
sudo chmod 0600 /swapfile

By: Digital Ocean