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Paging in OS vs. Swapping in OS: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 29, 2024
Paging in OS divides memory into fixed-size blocks for efficient management, while swapping in OS involves exchanging entire processes or data between memory and disk.

Key Differences

Paging in an operating system is a memory management scheme that eliminates the need for contiguous allocation of physical memory. It breaks physical memory into fixed-size blocks called 'pages.' Swapping, on the other hand, refers to the process where an entire process or parts of it are moved from main memory to a secondary storage device, and vice versa. It is used to free up memory space or when the system is under memory pressure.
In paging, each page can be located anywhere in the physical memory, allowing for more flexible memory usage. This system uses a page table to track where pages are stored in physical memory. Swapping involves moving data or processes in their entirety between the main memory and disk, which can be a slower operation due to the speed limitations of disk access. Swapping is often used as a part of virtual memory management.
The main goal of paging is to reduce external fragmentation in memory allocation and to allow for non-contiguous memory allocation. This makes it easier for the OS to manage memory and helps in accommodating more processes. Swapping, however, is used primarily for memory management purposes, allowing the operating system to handle more processes than can be accommodated in the physical memory by temporarily moving some processes to the disk.
Paging improves the efficiency of memory usage by allowing the system to use only the required memory segments, reducing wasted space. Swapping, while necessary for managing a large number of processes, can lead to a performance decrease, as disk I/O operations are slower than memory operations. This performance decrease is often referred to as 'thrashing,' especially when the system is excessively swapping.
Paging is a technique for memory management that involves breaking memory into manageable pieces, whereas swapping is a process management technique used to move processes between memory and disk storage. Both are critical for efficient operation of modern operating systems but serve different purposes in the management of system resources.

Comparison Chart


Manages memory by dividing it into pages
Exchanges entire processes between memory and disk

Memory Allocation

Non-contiguous, uses fixed-size blocks
Moves entire process or large data chunks


Faster access, as it involves RAM
Slower, involves disk access

Fragmentation Handling

Reduces external fragmentation
Can lead to fragmentation on disk

Impact on System Performance

Generally improves efficiency
Can decrease performance due to disk I/O

Paging in OS and Swapping in OS Definitions

Paging in OS

Paging allows the operating system to use physical memory more flexibly and efficiently.
The OS's paging mechanism prevented memory wastage by allocating just enough pages for the process.

Swapping in OS

Swapping helps an operating system handle more processes than can be accommodated in RAM.
When RAM was full, the OS used swapping to ensure all processes could continue running.

Paging in OS

Through paging, the OS can handle larger processes than the physical memory size.
Despite limited RAM, paging enabled the OS to run the memory-intensive application.

Swapping in OS

Swapping is the process of moving processes or data between main memory and secondary storage.
The OS swapped out inactive processes to disk to free up RAM for new tasks.

Paging in OS

Paging in OS uses a page table to keep track of where each page is stored in physical memory.
To locate the data, the OS consulted the page table, a key component of its paging system.

Swapping in OS

In swapping, entire processes are temporarily moved to disk to manage limited physical memory.
To manage the heavy workload, the OS began swapping less-used applications to the disk.

Paging in OS

In paging, physical memory is segmented into equal-sized pages to facilitate memory management.
To handle the large data set, the OS allocated several pages in physical memory.

Swapping in OS

Swapping can lead to performance issues due to slower disk access compared to RAM.
The system slowed down as the OS started swapping frequently due to insufficient RAM.

Paging in OS

Paging is the process of dividing virtual memory into discrete blocks known as pages.
The OS used paging to efficiently manage the application's memory requirements.

Swapping in OS

Swapping in OS is used to optimize memory usage, especially under high load conditions.
During peak usage, the OS resorted to swapping to maintain system performance.


Is paging faster than swapping in OS?

Yes, paging is generally faster as it deals with RAM, whereas swapping involves slower disk operations.

When does an OS perform swapping?

An OS performs swapping when it needs to free up RAM or manage more processes than the RAM can hold.

What is paging in an OS?

Paging is a memory management technique that divides virtual memory into fixed-size segments called pages.

Can paging handle large processes in an OS?

Yes, paging allows an OS to handle larger processes by breaking them into smaller pages.

What is the main purpose of swapping in OS?

The main purpose of swapping is to optimize memory usage and manage multiple processes efficiently.

How does swapping work in an OS?

Swapping involves moving entire processes or large chunks of data between main memory and disk storage.

Why is paging used in operating systems?

Paging is used to manage memory more efficiently and to reduce external fragmentation.

How does paging prevent memory wastage in OS?

Paging prevents memory wastage by allocating only the needed amount of memory in fixed-size blocks.

Can swapping lead to disk fragmentation in OS?

Yes, frequent swapping can cause fragmentation on the disk.

How does the OS decide which pages to swap?

The OS uses algorithms like Least Recently Used (LRU) to decide which pages to swap out to disk.

How does swapping impact multitasking in OS?

Swapping can impact multitasking if the system frequently swaps processes, leading to slower response times.

Is paging used in all operating systems?

Most modern operating systems use paging for efficient memory management.

Does swapping affect system performance in OS?

Yes, excessive swapping can slow down system performance due to the slower speed of disk access.

What happens when there is too much swapping in OS?

Too much swapping, known as thrashing, can significantly degrade system performance.

How does paging improve system efficiency in OS?

Paging improves system efficiency by allowing non-contiguous memory allocation and reducing fragmentation.

Is swapping necessary for virtual memory in OS?

Swapping is a key component of virtual memory systems, allowing for efficient memory management.

Does swapping only occur when memory is full in OS?

Swapping primarily occurs when memory is full, but it can also be used for managing memory more efficiently.

What are the disadvantages of swapping in OS?

The main disadvantages are slower system performance and potential disk fragmentation.

What is a page table in paging in OS?

A page table is a data structure used by the OS to keep track of the mapping between virtual pages and physical frames.

Can paging occur without swapping in an OS?

Yes, paging can occur without swapping if there is enough physical memory available.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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