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PostgreSQL 9.0 High Performance by Gregory Smith

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Chapter 5. Memory for Database Caching

When you start a PostgreSQL server, it allocates a fixed-size block of shared memory where all access to the information in the database passes through. In addition, each client that connects to memory uses up its own bit of memory, expanding it as the client uses resources such as sorting space and storing data about pending transactions to commit.

Some settings in the database can be adjusted by the clients after they connect. For example, the work_mem setting, a limiter on how much memory can be used for sorting, can be increased by a client after he connects. These allocations use non-shared memory, and tuning them is covered in the next chapter.

The major component to the shared memory used by the server ...

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