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Old 10-25-2004, 01:10 PM   #1
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How Linux uses RAM

I was working on my computer when suddenly I noticed the hard drive began to make a bit more noise. So I launched System Monitor to observe what was happening, and I noticed in a space of about 1.5 minutes the RAM being used on my machine climbed from about 298 or so to 422 before leveling off. (Just before it leveled off, at about 403 RAM or so I closed applications that I had open like nautilus and vi).

Is this normal for that kind of RAM usage to climb up like that? I hadn't done anything unusual like start an intense application. I was just editing a file in vi as I had been doing for the last 30 minutes or so. Could this be a sign of a bad program on my machine? I don't normally go out to the internet with it, but occasionally I do.

Thanks for any feedback.
Old 10-25-2004, 01:32 PM   #2
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Linux tries to use as much RAM as it can and only starts using swap when it absolutely, positively must. If you think about it, this actually makes sense. Why would you want things in swap, which is dog slow, when you have perfectly good RAM available? The whole idea of "free RAM" is one of those horrible Windows-think ideas that you need to discard when using Linux. As long as your applications are running decently, let Linux worry about how to manage memory.
Old 10-25-2004, 01:33 PM   #3
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Hard to say. Next time run top to show what is happening and which processes consume the most memory etc.
Old 10-25-2004, 03:18 PM   #4
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Thanks to both of you for your responses.

Hangdog42 -

Yeah thanks I had heard that Linux uses RAM differently than windows. And indeed I do have 1GB of RAM on this machine, a workstation, so there is plenty available. I just wanted to check to be sure that was what was going on.. That this is normal. I should have mentioned too that I had been running another application a few times before the RAM increase began and I can see where Linux may have recalculated and decided to use more RAM since there was more available.

ugge -

Thank you for your advice about "top". I will look into that.
Old 10-25-2004, 05:04 PM   #5
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Also, be aware that a cron (or anacron) job could have been running to start utilizing system resources like that...

Mandrake especially is prone to do this. Essentially, cron (or anacron) runs jobs in the background that do typical system maintainance. Problem is that the processes occasionally have too much priority and slow down other things you might be doing... You can adjust how much and when cron will do these jobs. Doing so can be a pain though.
Old 10-25-2004, 08:39 PM   #6
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Could this be a sign of a bad program on my machine?
someone will correct me if i'm wrong, but no, this is not a concern. it is highly unlikely that you have any sort of spyware or virii hogging your system's resources. most of those are written for the 99% of the world that uses windows, and simply wouldn't know where to begin on a linux box.
Old 10-26-2004, 08:44 AM   #7
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mcd: It might be a badly designed program that get couaght in a fork loop or something.

A remark: A cron or anacron job is scheduled task.


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