Adding and Managing Swap File on Ubuntu 22.04

1. Introduction

1.1 What is a Swap File?

A swap file is a dedicated file on the file system that serves as virtual memory, supplementing physical RAM. In Ubuntu 22.04, a swap file offers flexibility in managing virtual memory without the need for dedicated disk partitioning.

1.2 Importance of Swap File

Understanding the significance of a swap file is essential for maintaining system stability and optimal performance. It allows the operating system to move less frequently used data from RAM to the swap file when memory is in high demand, preventing system crashes and ensuring smooth operation.

2. Checking and Determining

2.1 Checking Current Swap Status

Before adding a swap file, it's essential to check the existing swap configuration on your Ubuntu 22.04 system.

2.1.1 Using the free Command

The free command displays information about the system's memory usage, including swap space. Open a terminal and enter:

free -h

This command will show the total, used, and free amounts of both physical memory (RAM) and swap space.

2.1.2 Checking with swapon Command

The swapon command provides detailed information about swap space usage and active swap devices. In the terminal, type:

swapon --show

This command lists all active swap devices along with their respective sizes.

2.2 Determining Swap Requirements

Before proceeding to add a swap file, assess your system's memory usage and determine the appropriate size needed.

2.2.1 Understanding System Usage

Analyze your system's memory usage using tools like htop or top. Identify periods of high memory consumption and assess how frequently the system relies on swap space.

2.2.2 Calculating Swap File Size

To calculate the recommended swap file size, consider factors such as the total amount of RAM and the system's usage patterns. As a general guideline, the swap file size should be equal to or larger than the amount of RAM.

3. Adding Swap File

3.1 Creating a Swap File

3.1.1 Choosing Swap File Location

Select a location for the swap file. Common locations include the root directory or a specific directory on your file system.

3.1.2 Determining Swap File Size

Determine the size of the swap file based on your earlier calculations. Allocate sufficient space considering future resource needs.

3.1.3 Creating and Enabling the Swap File

Open a terminal and execute the following commands to create and enable a swap file:

# Choose a location and file name, for example:
sudo fallocate -l SIZE_IN_GIGABYTESG /path/to/swapfile
sudo chmod 600 /path/to/swapfile
sudo mkswap /path/to/swapfile
sudo swapon /path/to/swapfile

Replace SIZE_IN_GIGABYTES with the desired size of the swap file, and /path/to/swapfile with the chosen location and file name.

4. Configuring and Monitoring

4.1 Adjusting Swap Settings

4.1.1 Swappiness Configuration

Understand and configure swappiness, influencing the use of swap space:

sudo sysctl vm.swappiness=VALUE
echo "vm.swappiness=VALUE" >> /etc/sysctl.conf


  • Swappiness Value: Swappiness is a kernel parameter that determines how often the system swaps data from RAM to the swap space. It is expressed as a value between 0 and 100. A higher value (closer to 100) indicates a preference for swapping, while a lower value (closer to 0) prefers to keep data in RAM.

  • Configuring Swappiness: The sysctl command is used to dynamically change kernel parameters, and in this case, it sets the swappiness value. The echo command appends the configuration to the /etc/sysctl.conf file, making the configuration permanent across reboots.

4.2 Verifying and Monitoring Swap

4.2.1 Confirming Swap Space Addition

Ensure the new swap space is active:

swapon --show

If this command returns no output, it indicates that there are currently no active swap devices. Possible reasons for this include:

  1. No Swap Configured:

    • There might be no swap space, either in the form of a swap file or swap partition, configured or activated on the system.
  2. Swap is Disabled:

    • If swap was previously configured but has been disabled (turned off), the swapon --show command won't display any active swap devices.
  3. Error or Misconfiguration:

    • There could be an error in the configuration of existing swap devices, or the system may not recognize them correctly.

To address this, follow the recommendations mentioned earlier in the article to check and configure swap space.

4.2.2 Checking Swap File

Verify the status of the swap file:

free -h

Monitor swap usage using system monitoring tools like htop.

5. Modifying and Troubleshooting

5.1 Modifying Swap Configuration

5.1.1 Changing Swap File Size

Adjust the size of an existing swap file:

sudo swapoff /path/to/swapfile
sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/path/to/swapfile bs=1M count=NEW_SIZE
sudo mkswap /path/to/swapfile
sudo swapon /path/to/swapfile

Replace /path/to/swapfile with your file path and NEW_SIZE with the desired size.


  • sudo: This command is used to execute a command with superuser privileges.

  • dd: This is the command itself, a versatile utility for copying and converting data.

  • if=/dev/zero: The if option specifies the input file. In this case, it's /dev/zero, a special file that provides null bytes when read. Using /dev/zero allows us to create an empty file filled with null bytes.

  • of=/swapfile: The of option specifies the output file. In this case, it's /swapfile, which is the file that will be created to serve as the swap file.

  • bs=1M: The bs option sets the block size. In this command, it is set to 1 megabyte (1M). It determines how much data is read and written in each operation.

  • count=512: The count option sets the number of blocks to be copied. In this command, it is set to 512. Since the block size is 1 megabyte, this results in a total size of 512 megabytes.

5.1.2 Changing Swap File Location

If you need to change the location of your swap file, follow these steps:

# Disable the current swap file
sudo swapoff /path/to/swapfile
# Move the swap file to the new location
sudo mv /path/to/swapfile /new/path/to/swapfile
# Update the swap file path
sudo swapon /new/path/to/swapfile

Replace /path/to/swapfile with the current file path and /new/path/to/swapfile with the new file path.

5.2 Disabling and Deleting Swap File

5.2.1 Disabling Swap

Temporarily disable the swap file:

sudo swapoff /path/to/swapfile

5.2.2 Deleting Swap File

To permanently delete a swap file, follow these steps:

# Disable the swap file
sudo swapoff /path/to/swapfile

# Remove the swap file
sudo rm /path/to/swapfile

Replace /path/to/swapfile with your file path.


  • Disabling Swap: This command temporarily disables the swap file without removing it. Useful in situations where you want to halt swapping temporarily.
  • Deleting Swap File: These commands disable the swap file (temporarily) using swapoff and then delete the file using rm. This process is useful when you want to remove the swap file entirely from your system.

6. Additional Configurations

6.1 Making Swap File Permanent

If you want to make sure your swap file is activated automatically at system boot, add an entry to the /etc/fstab file.

echo "/path/to/swapfile none swap sw 0 0" | sudo tee -a /etc/fstab

Replace /path/to/swapfile with the actual path to your swap file.


  • Fstab Configuration: The /etc/fstab file contains information about disk drives and partitions, including swap space. The added entry ensures that the swap file is mounted automatically during the system boot process.

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, this comprehensive guide has covered the entire process of adding, configuring, and managing a swap file in Ubuntu 22.04. From understanding the role of swap space to practical steps for creation, configuration, and troubleshooting, you now have a comprehensive resource for optimizing your system's virtual memory using a swap file.