Linux has implemented a memory management efficiently and even more than that. In most of cases, you don't have to worry system memory buffering. However, in some cases, you do want clear out the cache in the memory, for example, during benchmarking, you want to clear buffered cache before you do benchmarking. Linux provides a way to flush or clear ram cache.

Every Linux System has three options to clear cache without interrupting any processes or services.

1. Clear PageCache only.

# sync; echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

2. Clear dentries and inodes.

# sync; echo 2 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

3. Clear PageCache, dentries and inodes.

# sync; echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

Explanation of above command.

First, sync will flush the file system buffer. Command Separated by “;” run sequentially. The shell wait for each command to terminate before executing the next command in the sequence. As mentioned in kernel documentation, writing to drop_cache will clean cache without killing any application/service, command echo is doing the job of writing to file.

If you have to clear the disk cache, the first command is safest in enterprise and production as “...echo 1 > ….” will clear the PageCache only.

Note: It is not recommended to use third option above “...echo 3 >” in production until you know what you are doing, as it will clear PageCache, dentries and inodes.


Is it a good idea to free Buffer and Cache in Linux that might be used by Linux Kernel?

When you are applying various settings and want to check, if it is actually implemented specially on I/O-extensive benchmark, then you may need to clear buffer cache. You can drop cache as explained above without rebooting the System i.e., no downtime required.

Linux is designed in such a way that it looks into disk cache before looking onto the disk. If it finds the resource in the cache, then the request doesn’t reach the disk. If we clean the cache, the disk cache will be less useful as the OS will look for the resource on the disk.

Moreover it will also slow the system for a few seconds while the cache is cleaned and every resource required by OS is loaded again in the disk-cache.

Clear Swap space

The command below clear swap space:

# swapoff -a && swapon -a