How to create a swap file for Ubuntu or CentOS 7


Here are bare minimal instructions on how to set up a swap file for Ubuntu Linux and CentOS 7.

In the beginning and in the end swapon command is used to test for the availability of the swap file. In the middle the vi text editor is used to append the requisite swap entries to fstab. If you’re working with AWS EC2, also see the reference pointing to their site.

It’s possible to use this entire procedure for CentOS 7 but you can’t do fallocate and you have to use dd instead.

Ubuntu Instructions

sudo swapon --show

sudo fallocate -l 1G /swapfile

sudo chmod 600 /swapfile

sudo mkswap /swapfile

sudo swapon /swapfile

sudo vi /etc/fstab

Append /swapfile swap swap defaults 0 0

sudo swapon --show

free -h

CentOS 7

Example is for 4 GB, but for 1 GB count = 1048576 so use a calculator and multiply by your desired size or whatever

swapon --show
dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile bs=1024 count=4194304
chmod 600 /swapfile
mkswap /swapfile
swapon /swapfile
sudo nano /etc/fstab

add this to fstab:

/swapfile swap swap defaults 0 0

Comment out the old swap file line

Note about existing swap file

There is a command swapoff

but the problem is you shouldn’t just use it unless you have a lot of time. See references why this is complicated, but in a nutshell once you run this command it’s going to transfer what’s in the current swap file to memory, and that’s a complicated process. It might just crash your machine or slow it down to FUBAR.

So it’s better just to create a new swap file, and then remove the other swap file later. Follow the above steps but use /swapfile2 as the name.

How Much Swap Is Needed*

*Adapted from the Ubuntu reference, removed hibernation column as Servers don’t hibernate

RAM       Recommended    Maximum
1GB          1GB          2GB
2GB          1GB          4GB
3GB          2GB          6GB
4GB          2GB          8GB
5GB          2GB          10GB
6GB          2GB          12GB
8GB          3GB          16GB
12GB         3GB          24GB
16GB         4GB          32GB
24GB         5GB          48GB
32GB         6GB          64GB
64GB         8GB          128GB
128GB        11GB         256GB
256GB        16GB         512GB
512GB        23GB         1TB
1TB          32GB         2TB
2TB          46GB         4TB
4TB          64GB         8TB
8TB          91GB         16TB


  1. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SwapFaq#How_much_swap_do_I_need.3F
  2. https://linuxize.com/post/how-to-add-swap-space-on-centos-7/
  3. https://linuxize.com/post/how-to-add-swap-space-on-ubuntu-18-04/
  4. https://aws.amazon.com/premiumsupport/knowledge-center/ec2-memory-swap-file/
  5. https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/403451/why-is-swapoff-so-slow

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