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zram: Compressed RAM based block devices
* Introduction
The zram module creates RAM based block devices named /dev/zram<id>
(<id> = 0, 1, ...). Pages written to these disks are compressed and stored
in memory itself. These disks allow very fast I/O and compression provides
good amounts of memory savings. Some of the usecases include /tmp storage,
use as swap disks, various caches under /var and maybe many more :)
Statistics for individual zram devices are exported through sysfs nodes at
* Usage
There are several ways to configure and manage zram device(-s):
a) using zram and zram_control sysfs attributes
b) using zramctl utility, provided by util-linux (
In this document we will describe only 'manual' zram configuration steps,
IOW, zram and zram_control sysfs attributes.
In order to get a better idea about zramctl please consult util-linux
documentation, zramctl man-page or `zramctl --help'. Please be informed
that zram maintainers do not develop/maintain util-linux or zramctl, should
you have any questions please contact
Following shows a typical sequence of steps for using zram.
For the sake of simplicity we skip error checking parts in most of the
examples below. However, it is your sole responsibility to handle errors.
zram sysfs attributes always return negative values in case of errors.
The list of possible return codes:
-EBUSY -- an attempt to modify an attribute that cannot be changed once
the device has been initialised. Please reset device first;
-ENOMEM -- zram was not able to allocate enough memory to fulfil your
-EINVAL -- invalid input has been provided.
If you use 'echo', the returned value that is changed by 'echo' utility,
and, in general case, something like:
echo 3 > /sys/block/zram0/max_comp_streams
if [ $? -ne 0 ];
should suffice.
1) Load Module:
modprobe zram num_devices=4
This creates 4 devices: /dev/zram{0,1,2,3}
num_devices parameter is optional and tells zram how many devices should be
pre-created. Default: 1.
2) Set max number of compression streams
Regardless the value passed to this attribute, ZRAM will always
allocate multiple compression streams - one per online CPUs - thus
allowing several concurrent compression operations. The number of
allocated compression streams goes down when some of the CPUs
become offline. There is no single-compression-stream mode anymore,
unless you are running a UP system or has only 1 CPU online.
To find out how many streams are currently available:
cat /sys/block/zram0/max_comp_streams
3) Select compression algorithm
Using comp_algorithm device attribute one can see available and
currently selected (shown in square brackets) compression algorithms,
change selected compression algorithm (once the device is initialised
there is no way to change compression algorithm).
#show supported compression algorithms
cat /sys/block/zram0/comp_algorithm
lzo [lz4]
#select lzo compression algorithm
echo lzo > /sys/block/zram0/comp_algorithm
For the time being, the `comp_algorithm' content does not necessarily
show every compression algorithm supported by the kernel. We keep this
list primarily to simplify device configuration and one can configure
a new device with a compression algorithm that is not listed in
`comp_algorithm'. The thing is that, internally, ZRAM uses Crypto API
and, if some of the algorithms were built as modules, it's impossible
to list all of them using, for instance, /proc/crypto or any other
method. This, however, has an advantage of permitting the usage of
custom crypto compression modules (implementing S/W or H/W compression).
4) Set Disksize
Set disk size by writing the value to sysfs node 'disksize'.
The value can be either in bytes or you can use mem suffixes.
# Initialize /dev/zram0 with 50MB disksize
echo $((50*1024*1024)) > /sys/block/zram0/disksize
# Using mem suffixes
echo 256K > /sys/block/zram0/disksize
echo 512M > /sys/block/zram0/disksize
echo 1G > /sys/block/zram0/disksize
There is little point creating a zram of greater than twice the size of memory
since we expect a 2:1 compression ratio. Note that zram uses about 0.1% of the
size of the disk when not in use so a huge zram is wasteful.
5) Set memory limit: Optional
Set memory limit by writing the value to sysfs node 'mem_limit'.
The value can be either in bytes or you can use mem suffixes.
In addition, you could change the value in runtime.
# limit /dev/zram0 with 50MB memory
echo $((50*1024*1024)) > /sys/block/zram0/mem_limit
# Using mem suffixes
echo 256K > /sys/block/zram0/mem_limit
echo 512M > /sys/block/zram0/mem_limit
echo 1G > /sys/block/zram0/mem_limit
# To disable memory limit
echo 0 > /sys/block/zram0/mem_limit
6) Activate:
mkswap /dev/zram0
swapon /dev/zram0
mkfs.ext4 /dev/zram1
mount /dev/zram1 /tmp
7) Add/remove zram devices
zram provides a control interface, which enables dynamic (on-demand) device
addition and removal.
In order to add a new /dev/zramX device, perform read operation on hot_add
attribute. This will return either new device's device id (meaning that you
can use /dev/zram<id>) or error code.
cat /sys/class/zram-control/hot_add
To remove the existing /dev/zramX device (where X is a device id)
echo X > /sys/class/zram-control/hot_remove
8) Stats:
Per-device statistics are exported as various nodes under /sys/block/zram<id>/
A brief description of exported device attributes. For more details please
read Documentation/ABI/testing/sysfs-block-zram.
Name access description
---- ------ -----------
disksize RW show and set the device's disk size
initstate RO shows the initialization state of the device
reset WO trigger device reset
num_reads RO the number of reads
failed_reads RO the number of failed reads
num_write RO the number of writes
failed_writes RO the number of failed writes
invalid_io RO the number of non-page-size-aligned I/O requests
max_comp_streams RW the number of possible concurrent compress operations
comp_algorithm RW show and change the compression algorithm
notify_free RO the number of notifications to free pages (either
slot free notifications or REQ_DISCARD requests)
zero_pages RO the number of zero filled pages written to this disk
orig_data_size RO uncompressed size of data stored in this disk
compr_data_size RO compressed size of data stored in this disk
mem_used_total RO the amount of memory allocated for this disk
mem_used_max RW the maximum amount of memory zram have consumed to
store the data (to reset this counter to the actual
current value, write 1 to this attribute)
mem_limit RW the maximum amount of memory ZRAM can use to store
the compressed data
pages_compacted RO the number of pages freed during compaction
(available only via zram<id>/mm_stat node)
compact WO trigger memory compaction
debug_stat RO this file is used for zram debugging purposes
per-stat sysfs attributes are considered to be deprecated.
The basic strategy is:
-- the existing RW nodes will be downgraded to WO nodes (in linux 4.11)
-- deprecated RO sysfs nodes will eventually be removed (in linux 4.11)
The list of deprecated attributes can be found here:
Basically, every attribute that has its own read accessible sysfs node
(e.g. num_reads) *AND* is accessible via one of the stat files (zram<id>/stat
or zram<id>/io_stat or zram<id>/mm_stat) is considered to be deprecated.
User space is advised to use the following files to read the device statistics.
File /sys/block/zram<id>/stat
Represents block layer statistics. Read Documentation/block/stat.txt for
File /sys/block/zram<id>/io_stat
The stat file represents device's I/O statistics not accounted by block
layer and, thus, not available in zram<id>/stat file. It consists of a
single line of text and contains the following stats separated by
File /sys/block/zram<id>/mm_stat
The stat file represents device's mm statistics. It consists of a single
line of text and contains the following stats separated by whitespace:
9) Deactivate:
swapoff /dev/zram0
umount /dev/zram1
10) Reset:
Write any positive value to 'reset' sysfs node
echo 1 > /sys/block/zram0/reset
echo 1 > /sys/block/zram1/reset
This frees all the memory allocated for the given device and
resets the disksize to zero. You must set the disksize again
before reusing the device.
Nitin Gupta