Oracle Solaris Tunable Parameters Reference Manual

bufhwm and bufhwm_pct


Defines the maximum amount of memory for caching I/O buffers. The buffers are used for writing file system metadata (superblocks, inodes, indirect blocks, and directories). Buffers are allocated as needed until the amount of memory (in Kbytes) to be allocated exceed bufhwm. At this point, metadata is purged from the buffer cache until enough buffers are reclaimed to satisfy the request.

For historical reasons, bufhwm does not require the ufs: prefix.

Data Type

Signed integer


2 percent of physical memory


80 Kbytes to 20 percent of physical memory, or 2 TB, whichever is less. Consequently, bufhwm_pct can be between 1 and 20.


bufhwm: Kbytes

bufhwm_pct: percent of physical memory


No. bufhwm and bufhwm_pct are only evaluated at system initialization to compute hash bucket sizes. The limit in bytes calculated from these parameters is then stored in a data structure that adjusts this value as buffers are allocated and deallocated.

Modifying bufhwm or bufhwm_pct at runtime has no effect.


If bufhwm is less than its lower limit of 80 Kbytes or greater than its upper limit (the lesser of 20 percent of physical memory, 2 TB, or one quarter (1/4) of the maximum amount of kernel heap), it is reset to the upper limit. The following message appears on the system console and in the /var/adm/messages file if an invalid value is attempted:

"binit: bufhwm (value attempted) out of range 
(range start..range end). Using N as default."

“Value attempted” refers to the value specified in the/etc/system file or by using a kernel debugger. N is the value computed by the system based on available system memory.

Likewise, if bufhwm_pct is set to a value that is outside the allowed range of 1 percent to 20 percent, it is reset to the default of 2 percent. And, the following message appears on the system console and in the /var/adm/messages file:

"binit: bufhwm_pct(value attempted) out of range(0..20).
       Using 2 as default."

If both bufhwm or bufhwm_pct are set to non-zero values, bufhwm takes precedence.

When to Change

Because buffers are only allocated as they are needed, the overhead from the default setting is the required allocation of control structures for the buffer hash headers. These structures consume 52 bytes per potential buffer on a 32-bit kernel and 96 bytes per potential buffer on a 64-bit kernel.

On a 512-Mbyte 64-bit kernel, the number of hash chains calculates to 10316 / 32 == 322, which scales up to next power of 2, 512. Therefore, the hash headers consume 512 x 96 bytes, or 48 Kbytes. The hash header allocations assume that buffers are 32 Kbytes.

The amount of memory, which has not been allocated in the buffer pool, can be found by looking at the bfreelist structure in the kernel with a kernel debugger. The field of interest in the structure is b_bufsize, which is the possible remaining memory in bytes. Looking at it with the buf macro by using the mdb command:

# mdb -k
Loading modules: [ unix krtld genunix ip nfs ipc ]
> bfreelist::print "struct buf" b_bufsize
b_bufsize = 0x225800

The default value for bufhwm on this system, with 6 Gbytes of memory, is 122277. You cannot determine the number of header structures used because the actual buffer size requested is usually larger than 1 Kbyte. However, some space might be profitably reclaimed from control structure allocation for this system.

The same structure on a 512-Mbyte system shows that only 4 Kbytes of 10144 Kbytes has not been allocated. When the biostats kstat is examined with kstat -n biostats, it is determined that the system had a reasonable ratio of buffer_cache_hits to buffer_cache_lookups as well. As such, the default setting is reasonable for that system.

Commitment Level


Change History

For information, see bufhwm (Solaris 9 Releases).