What Is /dev/shm And Its Practical Usage

What Is /dev/shm And Its Practical Usage

last updated in Categories Linux

/dev/shm is nothing but implementation of traditional shared memory concept. It is an efficient means of passing data between programs. One program will create a memory portion, which other processes (if permitted) can access. This will result into speeding up things on Linux.

shm / shmfs is also known as tmpfs, which is a common name for a temporary file storage facility on many Unix-like operating systems. It is intended to appear as a mounted file system, but one which uses virtual memory instead of a persistent storage device.




If you type the mount command you will see /dev/shm as a tempfs file system. Therefore, it is a file system, which keeps all files in virtual memory. Everything in tmpfs is temporary in the sense that no files will be created on your hard drive. If you unmount a tmpfs instance, everything stored therein is lost. By default almost all Linux distros configured to use /dev/shm:
$ df -h
Sample outputs:

Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
                      444G   70G  351G  17% /
tmpfs                 3.9G     0  3.9G   0% /lib/init/rw
udev                  3.9G  332K  3.9G   1% /dev
tmpfs                 3.9G  168K  3.9G   1% /dev/shm
/dev/sda1             228M   32M  184M  15% /boot

Nevertheless, where can I use /dev/shm?

You can use /dev/shm to improve the performance of application software such as Oracle or overall Linux system performance. On heavily loaded system, it can make tons of difference. For example VMware workstation/server can be optimized to improve your Linux host’s performance (i.e. improve the performance of your virtual machines).

In this example, remount /dev/shm with 8G size as follows:
# mount -o remount,size=8G /dev/shm
To be frank, if you have more than 2GB RAM + multiple Virtual machines, this hack always improves performance. In this example, you will give you tmpfs instance on /disk2/tmpfs which can allocate 5GB RAM/SWAP in 5K inodes and it is only accessible by root:
# mount -t tmpfs -o size=5G,nr_inodes=5k,mode=700 tmpfs /disk2/tmpfs

  • -o opt1,opt2 : Pass various options with a -o flag followed by a comma separated string of options. In this examples, I used the following options:
    • remount : Attempt to remount an already-mounted filesystem. In this example, remount the system and increase its size.
    • size=8G or size=5G : Override default maximum size of the /dev/shm filesystem. he size is given in bytes, and rounded up to entire pages. The default is half of the memory. The size parameter also accepts a suffix % to limit this tmpfs instance to that percentage of your pysical RAM: the default, when neither size nor nr_blocks is specified, is size=50%. In this example it is set to 8GiB or 5GiB. The tmpfs mount options for sizing ( size, nr_blocks, and nr_inodes) accept a suffix k, m or g for Ki, Mi, Gi (binary kilo, mega and giga) and can be changed on remount.
    • nr_inodes=5k : The maximum number of inodes for this instance. The default is half of the number of your physical RAM pages, or (on a machine with highmem) the number of lowmem RAM pages, whichever is the lower.
    • mode=700 : Set initial permissions of the root directory.
    • tmpfs : Tmpfs is a file system which keeps all files in virtual memory.

How do I restrict or modify size of /dev/shm permanently?

You need to add or modify entry in /etc/fstab file so that system can read it after the reboot. Edit, /etc/fstab as a root user, enter:
# vi /etc/fstab
Append or modify /dev/shm entry as follows to set size to 8G

none      /dev/shm        tmpfs   defaults,size=8G        0 0

Save and close the file. For the changes to take effect immediately remount /dev/shm:
# mount -o remount /dev/shm
Verify the same:
# df -h

Recommend readings:

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