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As the subject says, I want to install Mandriva (probably with all the bells and whistles and eye candy) but I don't know whether I really need a 2Gb SWAP partition (as I understand it the SWAP is generally 2x physical RAM) given that I have 1Gb RAM already. Please advise.
From what I've read it's best to have a swap file. Linux makes maximum use of swap and ram memory to make the system run as smooth as possible. However, (again from what I've read) if you have 1GB of RAM there's no need to do 2xRAM for SWAP. I'd go for 1GB SWAP.
I would create a small swap partition of about 256MB. Swap doesn't need to be 2xRAM, that's just a rule of thumb that's becoming outdated as RAM becomes more plentiful. The small swap partition will allow the virtual memory manager to run most efficiently.
if you want to use hibernation, my guess would be to go with more than 1 GB of swap, even if it's a damn waste of space... In case you RAM is "full" you will need 1 GB of swap to hibernate, plus what swap will be in use at the time of hibernation.
I'm not intending to use it all the time, I just don't want to have 256MB swap and find that I can't use it at all.
Also, this might be a really stupid obvious question but, if I have more swap does that mean I can have more programs open and my computer will generally run smoother or will it not make much of a difference given the amount of physical RAM I have?
What's a bit of (potentially wasted) disk space these days ???.
Lots of desktop users never see it used.
If you need to swap, and you don't have any active, something (maybe everything) dies a horrible death.
Then there is Suspend2 and its ilk.
Your choice what is acceptable risk.
As an aside I run a Gig plus 5 Gig swap, and I regularly see 2 Gig of the swap actively in use.
Not your typical user, but there are cases where it really gets used.