Temporary Linux swap in user space

Once in a while, you might run into a situation where you need some extra RAM (or swap) for a short time. (I ran into this situation today while stitching some really enormous images in Hugin). Adding a new swap partition isn’t practical if you only need the extra swap space for a short time.

If you have enough space in your home directory (or elsewhere on your filesystem) then you can use this as a temporary swap file without making a partition.

First we allocate the file that will be used as swap. This is where we set the size. In this example, I’ve chosen 10GB.

truncate -s 10G ~/tempswap

Now we tell this file to be a swap file:

mkswap ~/tempswap

And finally we can tell our system to use the new swap file (on top of any existing swap files):

sudo swapon ~/tempswap

To check on your memory and swap availability and usage, try:

free -m

This swap file won’t be used as swap on next boot unless you add it to your /etc/fstab, but you’ll still have to delete the file to get the space back. To clear up after yourself manually, do this:

sudo swapoff ~/tempswap
rm ~/tempswap


  1. okigan
    September 24, 2013

    does not work:

    mkswap ~/tempswap
    swapon: /home/ec2-user/tempswap: skipping – it appears to have holes.

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