There is a special type of filesystem used to swap memory.

This is not something you’ll need to use directly. But since we’re talking about filesystems, now’s a good time to explain paging and swapping.

Depending on your operating system, this might be managed for you. I know that Linux users should have a partition with a Linux-swap filesystem setup. Other operating systems might give your the option for controlling paging or offer to manage everything for you.

I’ll get to what paging is in just a moment. For now, just know that this is something the operating system needs to do sometimes when it gets low on memory. The benefit of having a dedicated partition for this is the operating system has one place to go when it needs more memory and doesn’t have to squeeze things into the same space you’re using to hold your important documents. Without a separate partition and dedicated filesystem, then the operating system will use a file that it creates.

Listen to the full episode to learn more details including an imaginary example that explains virtual memory and paging. You’ll also learn a bit about how the microprocessor enables virtual memory by going into protected mode. And a bit about random access memory or RAM. Putting all this together, you’ll understand how your computer can appear to have more memory than exists and what role the filesystem plays to enable all this.