Posts Linux Memory Management

Linux Memory Management


  • Linux kernel system call that loads a file’s content into page cache. This prefetches the files so when it is subsequently accessed, the content is read from main memory rather then hdd, resulting in faster response time
  • Readahead 的基本原理是預先載入開機過程可能使用的檔案到記憶體中 (page cache)。如此開機程式執行時,便可節省讀入檔案的時間,進而加快開機速度

Page cache

  • 用來加速系統讀取檔案速度
  • 當資料 write to / read from storage, 資料也會儲存一份到空閒的記憶體中 (unused areas of memory), act as cache
  • 當該資料再度需要時就可以從 cache 裏讀出, 加速速度
  • CentOS 6 中, free -m 出現的 cached 欄位就是 page cache 目前使用的大小
  • 當目前的記憶體大小無法滿足程式的記憶體需求時, areas of page cache that are no longer in use will be automatically deleted

Dirty page

  • 當寫入資料時, 會先寫入 page cache, 然後當作 dirty pages
  • Dirty pages means 儲存在 page cache 的資料但需要寫入 storage (hdd, NAS 等)
  • 測試
    • dd if=/dev/zero of=testfile.txt bs=1M count=10
    • cat /proc/meminfo | grep Dirty, Drity 數字會增加約 10240 KB
    • 執行 sync 後數字會立即降低, 代表 page cache 資料已回寫到 hdd
    • 系統也會透過 flush 自動將 dirty pages 寫入 hdd


  • Kernel process flushes dirty pages from page cache to storage (hdd, NAS 等)
  • On CentOS 6, try
    • ps aux | grep flush ; [flush-253:0]
    • grep ^ /sys/class/block/*/dev
    • Compare both results
    • Extra reading

TLB-translation lookaside buffer

  • Memory cache used to reduce the time taken to access a user memory location ( page table in main memory)
  • Sits between CPU and main memory
  • Is associative memory
  • Used by MMU when virtual-physical address mapping is required
  • Stores the recent translation of virtual memory to physical memory (recent access of page table entries)
  • Access to main memory is slower then access to CPU cache, so below
  • TLB is mostly stored on CPU cache such as L1, L2, L3 cache (?)
  • More reading, reading, reading, reading, reading, reading


  • Physical memory break down to frame, pfn is physical frame number

Physical memory:

  • Page frame is the smallest fixed-length contiguous block of physical memory
  • Page frame is 4KB (4096bytes) in size
  • Use command getconf PAGESIZE to get the page frame size
  • More reading

Paging daemon:

  • Background process
  • Responsible to maintain a pool of free clean page frames
  • Checks if at least 20% of frames are free every 250ms (/proc/sys/vm/dirty_ratio)
    • Select pages to evict using the replacement algorithm
    • Schedule disk writes for dirty pages (flush process?)


  • When paging daemon is not keeping up with the demand for free pages on the system
  • Swapper swaps out the entire process to free momery
  • Typically swaps out large, sleeping processes in order to free memory quickly

Virtual memory:

  • A page, memory page, or virtual page is a fixed-length contiguous block of virtual memory, described by a single entry in the page table
  • Size of a page is equal to the size of page frame
  • Page is initially read-only
  • When someone wants to write to page, it traps kernel, then OS copies the page and change it to read-write (copy on write)
  • Process can only access to virtual memory so each process is virtual memory isolated

Page fault:

  • When a desired page is not in the memory
  • Traps to kernel to exec further process

Page table:

  • Table for process to map virtual address to physical address
  • Each process has it’s on page table
  • TLB is used to cache and speed up the mapping access time between virtual and physical address
  • Page table is stored in main memory (physical memory)

Invert page table:

Multi-level paging:

  • Linux uses three-level page tables
    • Global directory
    • Page middle directory
    • Page table
    • Page

MMU-momery management unit:

  • The job of MMU is to translate page number to (page)frame number
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