How Much Swap?

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I’ve been in the UNIX and GNU/Linux world since 1999. Back then, hard drives were barely passing double digits in GB, and RAM was PC100 speed at roughly 128 MB max. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for most systems to have 32 MB of RAM with an 8 GB hard drive. And we ran GNOME, which had barely released, and KDE on these machines!

However, when installing the operating system, is was a general rule of thumb that the size of your swap file should be 2x the amount of RAM. So for a 32 MB RAM system, this meant dedicating 64 MB of disk to swap. This wasn’t a big deal back then. After all, hard drives were 8-10 GB in size. What’s 64 MB?

Fast forward just a few years, and it wasn’t long before this recommendation became unreasonable.

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