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How can I increase or reduce the kernel address space?

By default, the kernel address space is 256 MB on FreeBSD 3.x and 1 GB on FreeBSD 4.x. If you run a network-intensive server (e.g. a large FTP or HTTP server), you might find that 256 MB is not enough.

So how do you increase the address space? There are two aspects to this. First, you need to tell the kernel to reserve a larger portion of the address space for itself. Second, since the kernel is loaded at the top of the address space, you need to lower the load address so it does not bump its head against the ceiling.

The first goal is achieved by increasing the value of NKPDE in src/sys/i386/include/pmap.h. Here is what it looks like for a 1 GB address space:

    #ifndef NKPDE
    #ifdef SMP
    #define NKPDE                   254     /* addressable number of page tables/pde's */
    #define NKPDE                   255     /* addressable number of page tables/pde's */
    #endif  /* SMP */

To find the correct value of NKPDE, divide the desired address space size (in megabytes) by four, then subtract one for UP and two for SMP.

To achieve the second goal, you need to compute the correct load address: simply subtract the address space size (in bytes) from 0x100100000; the result is 0xc0100000 for a 1 GB address space. Set LOAD_ADDRESS in src/sys/i386/conf/Makefile.i386 to that value; then set the location counter in the beginning of the section listing in src/sys/i386/conf/kernel.script to the same value, as follows:

    OUTPUT_FORMAT("elf32-i386", "elf32-i386", "elf32-i386")
    SEARCH_DIR(/usr/lib); SEARCH_DIR(/usr/obj/elf/home/src/tmp/usr/i386-unknown-freebsdelf/lib);
      /* Read-only sections, merged into text segment: */
      . = 0xc0100000 + SIZEOF_HEADERS;
      .interp     : { *(.interp)    }

Then reconfig and rebuild your kernel. You will probably have problems with ps(1) top(1) and the like; make world should take care of it (or a manual rebuild of libkvm, ps(1) and top(1) after copying the patched pmap.h to /usr/include/vm/.

NOTE: the size of the kernel address space must be a multiple of four megabytes.

[David Greenman adds: I think the kernel address space needs to be a power of two, but I am not certain about that. The old(er) boot code used to monkey with the high order address bits and I think expected at least 256MB granularity.]

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