Linux Add a Swap File – HowTo

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Procedure To Add a Swap File Under Linux

You need to use the dd command to create swap file. The mkswap command is used to set up a Linux swap area on a device or in a file.

Step #1: Login as the Root User

Open a terminal window (select Applications > Accessories > Terminal) or login to remote server using the ssh client. Switch to the root user by typing su - (or sudo -s) and entering the root password, when prompted:
$ su -
OR
$ sudo -s

Step #2: Create Storage File

Type the following command to create 512MB swap file (1024 * 512MB = 524288 block size):
# dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile1 bs=1024 count=524288
Sample outputs:

Where,

  1. if=/dev/zero : Read from /dev/zero file. /dev/zero is a special file in that provides as many null characters to build storage file called /swapfile1.
  2. of=/swapfile1 : Read from /dev/zero write storage file to /swapfile1.
  3. bs=1024 : Read and write 1024 BYTES bytes at a time.
  4. count=524288 : Copy only 523288 BLOCKS input blocks.

Step #3: Secure swap file

Setup correct file permission for security reasons, enter:
# chown root:root /swapfile1
# chmod 0600 /swapfile1

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.

Step #4: Set up a Linux swap area

Type the following command to set up a Linux swap area in a file:
# mkswap /swapfile1
Sample outputs:

Step #5: Enabling the swap file

Finally, activate /swapfile1 swap space immediately, enter:
# swapon /swapfile1

Step #6: Update /etc/fstab file

To activate /swapfile1 after Linux system reboot, add entry to /etc/fstab file. Open this file using a text editor such as vi:
# vi /etc/fstab
Append the following line:
/swapfile1 none swap sw 0 0
Save and close the file. Next time Linux comes up after reboot, it enables the new swap file for you automatically.

How do I verify swap is activated or not?

Simply use the free command:
$ free -m

How can I display swap usage summary on Linux?

Type the following swapon command:
# swapon -s
Sample outputs:

Another option is to view /proc/meminfo file:
$ less /proc/meminfo
$ grep -i --color swap /proc/meminfo

Sample outputs:

You can also use top command, atop command, and/or htop command to display information about swap usage:
# top
# atop
# htop

Sample outputs from a database server running on a CentOS Linux server:

How can I disable devices and files for paging and swapping on Linux?

You need to use the swapoff command:
# swapoff /swapfile1
# swapon -s

How do I set swappiness on a Linux server?

The syntax is:
# sysctl vm.swappiness=VALUE
# sysctl vm.swappiness=20

OR
# 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:

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