swapoff Command: Tutorial & Examples

swapoff is a fundamental command in Linux that is used for disabling the device or file for swapping. It is a command that is frequently used in system administration tasks, particularly in memory management. This page will guide you through what the swapoff command does, how it works, why it is important, and how you can use it effectively.

What It Does

The swapoff command disables swapping on the specified devices and files. In other words, it instructs the kernel to stop moving inactive pages in physical memory to the specified swap space. This leads to an increase in the available physical memory. This is particularly useful in scenarios where you want to free up some swap space without having to reboot your server.

How It Works

In a Linux environment, when the system is running out of physical memory, it uses a portion of the hard drive space as a virtual memory, also known as swap space. The kernel then swaps less frequently used memory pages to the swap space, thereby freeing up physical memory.

The swapoff command works by instructing the kernel to move the swapped out memory pages from swap space back to the physical memory. This process continues until all pages have been moved or the physical memory is full.

swapoff /dev/sda2

This command will disable swapping on the device /dev/sda2.

Why It Is Important

The swapoff command is crucial for managing swap spaces in Linux. It allows system administrators to disable swap spaces which can be useful in many scenarios. For example, if there is a need to resize the swap space, or if the system is primarily relying on swap memory and thus suffering from performance issues due to excessive disk I/O.

How to Use It

To use the swapoff command, you need to specify the device or file that you want to disable swapping on. For example, to disable swapping on a swap file located at /swapfile, you would use:

swapoff /swapfile

You can also use the -a option to disable all swap spaces:

swapoff -a

Common Command Line Parameters

  • -a, --all: disable all swap devices and files.
  • -e, --ifexists: silently skip devices that do not exist.
  • -v, --verbose: provide verbose output.

Potential Problems and Pitfalls

While the swapoff command is generally safe and easy to use, there are a few potential problems to be aware of. Firstly, if your system is low on physical memory and heavily relying on swap space, running swapoff could cause the system to run out of memory, leading to a high load or even a system crash.

Secondly, disabling swap space does not delete the swap file or partition. It just disables swapping on it. If you want to completely remove the swap space, you need to delete the swap file or partition using appropriate commands like rm for files or fdisk for partitions.

Lastly, remember that swapoff is not a permanent command. The swap space will be activated again after a system reboot unless you remove the corresponding entry from the /etc/fstab file.


In summary, the swapoff command is a powerful tool for managing swap spaces on a Linux server. It allows you to disable swap space, which can be helpful for system performance tuning and memory management. However, care should be taken while using this command, especially on systems with low physical memory.

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