mkswap Command: Tutorial & Examples

Create Swap Space

Swap space is a crucial aspect of Linux server administration. It provides additional virtual memory that can be utilized when the system's physical memory (RAM) is insufficient to meet the demands of running processes. The mkswap command allows you to create and enable swap space on your Linux server, ensuring smooth operation even under heavy workloads.

How Does mkswap Work?

The mkswap command initializes a swap area on a specified block device or a regular file, making it ready for use as swap space. It creates a special swap signature within the designated resource, enabling the Linux kernel to recognize and utilize it efficiently.

When the mkswap command is executed, it formats the chosen device or file with the appropriate swap signature. This signature identifies the area as swap space, allowing the kernel to manage it as an extension of the physical memory. Once the swap space is set up, it can be activated using the swapon command, making it available for use.

Why is mkswap Important?

Having sufficient swap space is vital for server performance and stability. In situations where your system encounters memory-intensive tasks or runs out of physical memory, swap space provides a safety net. It allows the operating system to move less frequently used data from RAM to disk, freeing up physical memory for more important tasks.

By utilizing swap space, you can prevent or alleviate issues such as application crashes, slowdowns, or out-of-memory errors. The mkswap command plays a fundamental role in establishing this crucial infrastructure, enabling Linux servers to handle varying workloads efficiently.

Examples of Using mkswap

To create swap space on a block device, such as a dedicated partition or a logical volume, use the following command:

mkswap /dev/sdb1

If you prefer to use a regular file for swap, you can create one with the desired size and then initialize it using mkswap. Here's an example:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile bs=1G count=4
chmod 600 /swapfile
mkswap /swapfile

In this case, we create a 4GB file named /swapfile using dd, set appropriate permissions with chmod, and then apply the mkswap command to make it a usable swap resource.

Once the swap area is created, you can activate it with the swapon command. For instance, to enable swap on the block device /dev/sdb1, use:

swapon /dev/sdb1

To activate the swap file /swapfile, execute:

swapon /swapfile

To ensure that the swap space is mounted automatically at system boot, you should add an entry to the /etc/fstab file. Include the appropriate information for your swap device or file, following the existing syntax in the file.


With the mkswap command, you have the ability to create and enable swap space on your Linux server. By utilizing swap, you can enhance your system's performance and ensure stability, particularly when encountering memory-intensive tasks or insufficient physical memory. Remember to activate the swap space using the swapon command and configure it to mount automatically on boot by editing the /etc/fstab file.

Now that you understand how mkswap works, you have an essential tool at your disposal for managing swap space on your Linux servers and ensuring smooth operation even under demanding conditions.

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