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This question already has an answer here:

I'm running Arch Linux, with 8 GB memory and no swap defined.

Sometimes it ran out of memory, then my system get a little bit stuck, and I can see the HDD indicator blinking. Then I restart X, which kills a few memory consumer, and the issue gets solved.

But why would the HDD indicator blink? I have no swap defined / mounted

Maybe the Linux kernel is seeking free spaces with some algorithm? I couldn't find any details about that

marked as duplicate by Mat, slm, Anthon, jasonwryan, Bernhard Dec 12 '13 at 6:46

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I think you're asking a pretty general question, here. You can find a very, very clear answer by reproducing your issue, and logging in to the system through ssh from another host. Run a process like 'iotop' and intentionally push the host to be out of RAM, and see what/if anything blips to show it's accessing the hard drive. If you don't have swap enabled, your system won't try to write to it; more likely, your system is probably killing processes that aren't valuable enough to keep, and whatever temporary files they wrote that are supposed to be expunged on kill.

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