How to Select the Page to Be Swapped

When choosing pages for swap out, it would be nice to be able to rank them according to some criterion. Several Least Recently Used (LRU) replacement algorithms have been proposed and used in some kernels. The main idea is to associate a counter storing the age of the page with each page in RAM—that is, the interval of time elapsed since the last access to the page. The oldest page of the process can then be swapped out.

Some computer platforms provide sophisticated support for LRU algorithms; for instance, the CPUs of some mainframes automatically update the value of a counter included in each Page Table entry to specify the age of the corresponding page. But 80 x 86 processors do not offer such a hardware feature, so Linux cannot use a true LRU algorithm. However, when selecting a candidate for swap out, Linux takes advantage of the Accessed flag included in each Page Table entry, which is automatically set by the hardware when the page is accessed. As we'll see later, this flag is set and cleared in a rather simplistic way to keep pages from being swapped in and out too much.

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