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How much memory does my UNIX box have ?

How can I find out how much memory I have on my UNIX workstation?

This is a tricky question. First of all there are different sorts of memory. First there is the amount of RAM installed on the machine, then there is the amount of virtual memory available, and the amount of memory a user can get.

First the RAM or real memory. On some machine the boot sequence displays how much RAM there is on the system, and for instance on the SUN running SUNOS 4.x one can find out what this was by saying:

   /etc/dmesg | grep mem

which displays something like:

   mem = 16384K (0x1000000) avail mem = 14938112

Because GAMS and most of the solvers under GAMS access memory rather randomly with the notion of locality this gives you important information: solving models that require more workspace than this number will result in lots of disk I/O, and slowing down of the system (trashing). Another way to find this onformation is on the invoice of your computer.

The amount of virtual memory can be interrogated by for instance on a SUN:

   /etc/pstat -s

which outputs:

   1648k allocated + 468k reserved = 2116 used, 41752k available

on a SUN, and for instance for the RS/6000:

   /etc/lsps -a

which says:

Page Space  Physical Volume   Volume Group    Size   %Used  Active  Auto  Type
hd62        hdisk2            rootvg          24MB       9     yes   yes    lv
hd61        hdisk1            rootvg          24MB       9     yes   yes    lv
hd6         hdisk0            rootvg         424MB       2     yes   yes    lv

The amount of virtual memory should be large than the amount of real memory.

The amount of memory an individual user can get is an other story. Of course the amount of virtual memory is an upperbound, but quota's can reduce this further. On AIX for instance smit user allows the super user to change user limits. When running the c-shell (csh) the command limit will display user limits:

      cputime        unlimited
      filesize       unlimited
      datasize       524280 kbytes i
      stacksize      8192 kbytes
      coredumpsize   unlimited
      memoryuse      unlimited
      descriptors    64

One other easy way is to write a small c program that allocates memory, and tells how much it can allocate:


#define KB  1024
#define MB  (1000*KB)

long maxavail(init)
long init;
     long lo, up, new;
     char *p;
     long maxdiff;

     /* find initial interval */
     lo = 0;
     up = init;
     while ( (p = malloc(up)) != NULL) {
       lo = up;
        up = 2*up;

     /* now reduce interval to acceptable size */
     maxdiff = KB;

     while ( (up-lo) > maxdiff ) {
        new = (up+lo) / 2;
        if ( (p = malloc(new)) != NULL) {
                lo = new;
                up = new;


main() {

       long avail;
        double mb;

       avail = maxavail(MB);
       mb = ((double) avail)/((double)MB);
       printf("Could allocate %g MB\n",mb);

On some systems this is still an overestimate, because until you physically touch all the pages, it is still not sure you can get the memory. On AIX for instance a process may be killed by the operating system, because not enough swap space (virtual memory) was available, when is was really needed. This is sometimes difficult to trace down. AIX offers a version of malloc that really touches all the pages called psmalloc, the source of which can be found in /usr/lpp/bos/samples/psmalloc.c.

Notice that on some systems (BSD, AIX 3.1) one extra byte requested can result in a doubling of the memory allocated to your process. On these system memory is allocated using the buddy systems, which uses blocks in sizes of powers of two. This is done to keep the fragmentation of the memory space small. Fragmentation results in many free blocks which are very small, and quite useless, so that a job requesting a big block can not run, while the total of free space would be sufficient.

In GAMS we use dynamic memory inside GAMS itself where we use Pascal's new or C's malloc. Allocation and freeing of memory in very small chunks is on most machines very expensive, therefore we allocate larger blocks, which we manage then ourselves. For the solvers written in C (Cplex, Loqo, XA) malloc is used. Fortran does not have dynamic memory, but most Fortran based solvers under GAMS use the GAMS interface software which provides means to allocate a large array, which then can be partitioned into useful arrays. On many machines this is done by a wrapper around malloc. We don't use psmalloc on AIX because it is rather slow.

IMPRESSUM / LEGAL NOTICEPRIVACY POLICY platform/how_much_memory_does_my_unix_box_have.1170431296.txt.gz · Last modified: 2007/10/30 16:02 (external edit)