Interactivity with heavy IO improved with swap disabled

Jason Smith jason.smith at
Wed Aug 31 18:13:14 UTC 2011

Since about the maverick kernel (cant remember if maverick was good or 
bad) any time my system does IO (compiles are a big offender here) the 
interactivity of other applications, including the window manager, goes 
to hell. For all intents and purposes they stop functioning until the IO 
is completed. It causes my music to stop playing, the web browser to 
stop working, everything.

So in desperation I started trying random things, anything I could find 
on google. Finally I found the swapiness parameter, which I immediately 
set to 0. This however didn't help very much. So as a lark I turned off 
swap all together, and bang, everything works GREAT. IO is full speed, 
desktop remains interactive, no problems at all.

In light of this, I have ordered 8GB of ram to upgrade my normal 4GB. 
That said I never consumed the full 4GB to start with and have not hit 
the OOM killer once since disabling swap. I can't imagine why turning it 
off has mattered at all :/


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