Automating Swap File Creation on Server Images with Insufficient Swap

There are myriad server images available from cloud providers that, while optimized for various tasks, sometimes lack the swap space configurations adequate for personal use-cases. Swap space is essentially a ‘backup’ for RAM. If your system runs out of RAM, it will start using the swap space. This prevents system crashes, but accessing data in swap is slower than RAM.

While adjusting swap space sounds technical, you can automate this process with a simple script. Let’s dive into how this script can be an indispensable tool for setting up your server.

Understanding the Need for Swap

Before diving into the script, it’s important to understand why having a proper swap space matters:

  1. Performance Safety Net: If your applications consume all the available RAM, they can use the swap as an overflow.
  2. Help with Memory Spikes: Temporary spikes in memory usage won’t bring the system to a standstill.
  3. Versatility: Especially crucial for those who juggle multiple applications or workloads on their server.


  1. Root Access: The script needs elevated privileges to make system-level changes.
  2. Backup: Ensure you’ve backed up any crucial data from your server. While the script is safe to use, it’s always best practice to prepare for unforeseen issues.
  3. Basic Bash Knowledge: Familiarity with Bash is helpful if you want to tweak the script or understand its internals.

The Script: Automating the Process

The heart of the solution is a Bash script. It not only creates the swap file but also sets it up so that the swap file is utilized after a system reboot.

The script performs the following steps:

  1. Allocates a 16GB Swap File: While 16GB is a general recommendation, you can adjust it based on your needs.
  2. Sets Up Proper Permissions: Ensures that the swap file is secure.
  3. Formats and Activates the Swap: Makes it ready for system use.
  4. Ensures Persistence: Adds the swap file to the fstab file, so it’s used after reboots.
  5. Verification: A crucial step to ensure that the swap has been activated and that there are no obvious issues with the fstab entries.

Using the Script


# Ensure script is run as root
if [[ $EUID -ne 0 ]]; then
    echo "This script must be run as root"
    exit 1

# 1. Create a 16GB swap file
fallocate -l 16G /swapfile

# 2. Set the appropriate permissions
chmod 600 /swapfile

# 3. Format the file as swap
mkswap /swapfile

# 4. Activate the swap
swapon /swapfile

# 5. Add to /etc/fstab for persistence after reboot
grep -q "/swapfile" /etc/fstab || echo "/swapfile none swap sw 0 0" >> /etc/fstab

# 6. Verify the swap is active
free -h | grep Swap

# 7. Verify that the fstab file is without syntax errors
echo "Checking /etc/fstab for errors..."
if ! mount -a -O no_netdev,nofail 2>&1 | grep -q "mount:"; then
    echo "/etc/fstab seems to be fine."
    echo "There might be an error in /etc/fstab! Please check manually."


Servers are powerful tools, but every tool can benefit from a bit of customization. By leveraging this script, you can ensure that your server is better equipped to handle memory-intensive tasks or unexpected spikes in memory usage. Whether you’re running a personal project or setting up a new server for development, having ample swap space can make a significant difference in performance and stability.