free is a command which can give us valuable information on available RAM in Linux machine. But many new Linux users and admins misinterpret it’s output. In this post we will walk through it’s output format and show you actual free RAM.
Free command examples
Example 1: Display RAM details in Linux machine
total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8027952 4377300 3650652 0 103648 1630364 -/+ buffers/cache: 2643288 5384664 Swap: 15624188 608948 15015240
Let us see what this table for you.
Line 1: Indicates Memory details like total available RAM, used RAM, Shared RAM, RAM used for buffers, RAM used of caching content.
Line 2: Indicates total buffers/Cache used and free.
Line 3: Indicates total swap memory available, used swap and free swap memory size available.
Let us dig more in to these lines to better understand it as Linux user prospective.
Line 1:Mem: 8027952 4377300 3650652 0 103648 1630364
8027952 : Indicates memory/physical RAM available for your machine. These numbers are in KB’s
4377300 : Indicates memory/RAM used by system. This include even buffers and cached data size as well.
3650652 : Indicates Total RAM free and available for new process to run.
0 : Indicates shared memory. This column is obsolete and may be removed in future releases of free.
103648 : Indicates total RAM buffered by different applications in Linux
1630364 : Indicates total RAM used for Caching of data for future purpose.
Puzzled with buffers and cache?
What is the difference between buffers and Cache?
A buffer is a temporary location to store data for a particular application and this data is not used by any other application. This is similar to bandwidth concept. When you try to send burst of data through network, if your network card is capable of sending less data, it will keep these huge amounts of data in buffer so that it can send data constantly in lesser speeds. In other hand Cache is a memory location to store frequently used data for faster access. Other difference between a buffer and a cache is that cache can be used multiple times where as buffer is used single time. And both are temporary store for your data processing.
Line 2: -/+ buffers/cache: 2643288 5384664
2643288 : This is actual size of used RAM which we get from RAM used -(buffers + cache) A bit of mathematical calculation Used RAM = +4377300 Used Buffers = -103648 Used Cache = -1630364
Actual Total used RAM is 4377300 -(103648+1630364)= 2643288
Then why my Linux machine is showing 4377300 as used RAM. This is because Linux counts cached RAM, Buffered RAM to this used RAM. But in future if any application want to use these buffers/cache, Linux will free it for you. To know more about this, visit this site.
5384664 : Indicates actual total RAM available, we get to this number by subtracting actual RAM used from total RAM available in the system.
Total RAM = +8027952 actual used RAM = -2643288 Total actual available RAM = 5384664
So from today on words don’t complain that Linux ate your RAM, it’s our understanding of free command output which is the culprit and the teacher who thought us Linux. If any one asks what is the free RAM available, we have to give this number(5384664) instead of first line number(4377300) for free RAM available in your machine.
Line 3: Swap: 15624188 608948 15015240
This line indicates swap details like total SWAP size, used as well as free SWAP.
Example2: Display RAM in human readable formats like in KB’s, MB’s, GB’s, TB’s
free -k free -m free -g free --tera
email@example.com:/home/surendra# free -k total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8027952 5323952 2704000 0 116876 1626940 -/+ buffers/cache: 3580136 4447816 Swap: 15624188 603792 15020396 firstname.lastname@example.org:/home/surendra# free -m total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 7839 5197 2642 0 114 1588 -/+ buffers/cache: 3495 4344 Swap: 15257 589 14668 email@example.com:/home/surendra# free -g total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 7 5 2 0 0 1 -/+ buffers/cache: 3 4 Swap: 14 0 14 firstname.lastname@example.org:/home/surendra# free --tera total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 0 0 0 0 0 0 -/+ buffers/cache: 0 0 Swap: 0 0 0
Note: If you observe with option –tera, the RAM size shows as 0, this is because my RAM is just 8GB and the output of free command will not support floating point numbers.
Example3: My actual RAM is 8GB but it is showing 7GB when using -g option, whats wrong with my RAM. This is because free command by default counts 1024 as power instead of 1000. To see difference use –si
With out –si
total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 7 5 2 0 0 1 -/+ buffers/cache: 3 4 Swap: 14 0 14
free --si -g
total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8 5 2 0 0 1 -/+ buffers/cache: 3 4 Swap: 15 0 15
Example 4: Want to see combined size of both swap as well as RAM use -t option
total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8027952 5369012 2658940 0 117228 1634396 -/+ buffers/cache: 3617388 4410564 Swap: 15624188 603788 15020400 Total: 23652140 5972800 17679340
Example 5: I want to see continuous varying of RAM usage for every second, use -s option to mention number of seconds
free -s 1
total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8027952 5370220 2657732 0 117376 1635144 -/+ buffers/cache: 3617700 4410252 Swap: 15624188 603788 15020400 total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8027952 5367244 2660708 0 117392 1635272 -/+ buffers/cache: 3614580 4413372 Swap: 15624188 603788 15020400 total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8027952 5367556 2660396 0 117392 1635272 -/+ buffers/cache: 3614892 4413060 Swap: 15624188 603788 15020400 total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 8027952 5367388 2660564 0 117392 1635272 -/+ buffers/cache: 3614724 4413228 Swap: 15624188 603788 15020400
This is not a good way to display continuous output, we can use watch command to do iterations
In out next post we will see other RAM details.
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