Whenever I reboot my laptop, everything runs amazingly and I have a maximum of 40% memory usage (out of 8GB). However over time (~ 1 day of usage), memory usage goes up to 90%+, and the system starts swapping.

Right now, free -mh returns this:

              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           7,7G        1,3G        141M        223M        6,3G        246M
Swap:          7,5G        530M        6,9G

I was assuming that buff/cache memory is free to be reallocated if processes require it, but it seems to mostly be unavailable.

cat /proc/meminfo:

MemTotal:        8055268 kB
MemFree:          145184 kB
MemAvailable:     247984 kB
Buffers:           49092 kB
Cached:           423724 kB
SwapCached:        38652 kB
Active:           881184 kB
Inactive:         791552 kB
Active(anon):     708420 kB
Inactive(anon):   725564 kB
Active(file):     172764 kB
Inactive(file):    65988 kB
Unevictable:         252 kB
Mlocked:             252 kB
SwapTotal:       7812092 kB
SwapFree:        7267624 kB
Dirty:               352 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:       1195320 kB
Mapped:           235860 kB
Shmem:            234068 kB
Slab:            6117796 kB
SReclaimable:     167260 kB
SUnreclaim:      5950536 kB
KernelStack:       10352 kB
PageTables:        30312 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:    11839724 kB
Committed_AS:    6410728 kB
VmallocTotal:   34359738367 kB
VmallocUsed:           0 kB
VmallocChunk:          0 kB
HardwareCorrupted:     0 kB
AnonHugePages:    104448 kB
CmaTotal:              0 kB
CmaFree:               0 kB
HugePages_Total:       0
HugePages_Free:        0
HugePages_Rsvd:        0
HugePages_Surp:        0
Hugepagesize:       2048 kB
DirectMap4k:     1361472 kB
DirectMap2M:     5859328 kB
DirectMap1G:     1048576 kB

I found these values especially interesting, as they correlate a lot with the buff/cache usage from free, but I don't know what to do with them or where to look next:

SReclaimable:     167260 kB
SUnreclaim:      5950536 kB
Slab:            6117796 kB

Where can I look next? What is the slab, and is there a way to reduce it's memory usage?

  • But what is your real problem? The system works as expected, nothing to fear from these numbers. And if you dislike the swapping you can run your system without swap at all. Otherwise see if you are a long running process that hogs the RAM. On my systems it is often the browser... Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:26
  • 1
    It gets sluggish, because of swapping. But the memory genuinely seems to be used, so swap is necessary. Swappiness is already pretty low (10). None of my processes seem to take up a lot of memory. The most is used by firefox, and that's less than 1GB. Even when I close most processes, most of the RAM is still unavailable. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 15:56
  • Remove the swap then. In top hit M and processes will be ordered by amount of RAM they use. RAM is not unavailable. Cache/Buffer part will shrink automatically as needed. And as counter-intuitive as it may be the kernel may decide it is better to put things in swap (pages rarely touched, like a sleeping process) than take memory from the buffer cache. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 16:24
  • 2
    @PatrickMevzek, 6GB of unreclaimable slab memory when the active processes use only 1.6 GB sounds like an issue to me because the Kernel is not freeing the memory to be used by the processes, so the system becomes sluggish and needs a reboot.
    – Alecz
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 14:59

3 Answers 3


You should check with top if something is actually using your RAM or not, sort by memory usage, or check the memory usage in the System Monitor.

Linux will borrow unused memory for disk caching. This makes it looks like you are low on memory, but you are not. Check this webpage for more explanation : https://www.linuxatemyram.com/

You have actually around 6.5Gb unused memory on the example which was posted. You can also see that the swap amount is very low (540Mb).

You can release the cache(s) as explained here and then free will display you the free memory in the available field :

  • To free pagecache:

      # echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches
  • To free dentries and inodes:

      # echo 2 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches
  • To free pagecache, dentries and inodes:

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

Or with this command :

free && sync && echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches && free

Regarding Slab:
Slab, SReclaimable, SUnreclaim
The kernel does a lot of repetition during the time it is running. Some objects, like asking for the specific inode of a file may be performed thousand times a day. In such case, it would be wise to store it in a quick reference list, or cache. Slab are the caches for kernel objects, to optimize those activities that happen the most.

The Slab field is the total of SReclaimable and SUnreclaim.

Try to troubleshoot what is using the Slab SUnreclaim memory amount with slabtop.

The above are meant to be run as root.

  • 6
    Just to be clear: freeing the various caches is counterproductive. It will "improve" the numbers and perhaps make the OP feel better for a little while, but the caches will be repopulated with time and everything will go back to the way it was before the caches were freed: that is normal. Unless there is some other indication that something is wrong, it is best to leave this alone.
    – NickD
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 13:31
  • 1
    Additionally the provided meminfo shows that the memory is sitting in slab unreclaimable, so this won't do anything anyway.
    – phemmer
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 13:54
  • I've tried that, it releases at most a couple of MB. Like Patrick says, it seems to be the slab, and I have no idea what that is or how to troubleshoot it. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 16:01
  • 2
    @mazs: OK - I see now that the OP is complaining about swapping and sluggishness (although he does not seem to be using much swap). But the unreclaimable memory in the slab does seem problematic.
    – NickD
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 12:48
  • 7
    @mazs - in the link you provided (+1 for the great link), it says "To see how much ram your applications could use without swapping, run free -m and look at the "available" column. Now the OP has only 246M in the available column - But you mentioned in your answer that there is actually 6.5GB. Seems like there is a contradiction ?
    – HopeKing
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 8:58

So after some somewhat overengineered troubleshooting I found out that xflux seems to be causing the kmalloc-4096 slab to grow slowly but steadily. I will try to find out why and update this anwser.


As a side note, I recently faced on a system running top in batch mode (-b option) that the proc SLAB grows. For example:

# cat /proc/slabinfo | grep proc
proc_inode_cache    5567   5868    440    9    1 : tunables    0    0    0 : slabdata    652    652      0

When I start my system without top running, the proc SLAB memory consumption is tremendously lower:

# cat /proc/slabinfo | grep proc
proc_inode_cache     564    846    440    9    1 : tunables    0    0    0 : slabdata     94     94      0 

This is due to the fact that top tool travels all over /proc to get the per-process statistics. This triggers the filling of the proc SLAB with the inodes of the last accessed proc files.

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