If I run a free -m, I get this output:

Free -m output

Is there a command that I could use to clear the used memory? I have tried this:

echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

It will ask for sudo. But even after sudo, it gives bad command error.

Here is the link where I got to know about drop_caches.

I am just looking for a way on how to clear the cache.

  • Off topic. Belongs to superuser. Voting to close.
    – Macmade
    Sep 2, 2012 at 3:33
  • Why are you asking?? It is usually not worth the effort! Sep 2, 2012 at 7:42
  • I want to test the performance of an application , which initiates several processes , and generate some statistics , If i run the same application for two times the statistics will not be accurate , and also clear understanding of how the application behaves in each of scenarios , will remain as a mystery . If cache is the matter for its performance , I definitely need to know if there is any way there to clear the cache so that I can take care of it . I am really sorry , If this stack overflow is not a platform to ask such system level questions .
    – aravind.udayashankara
    Sep 2, 2012 at 16:43

3 Answers 3


Try this as root (not sudo):

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

The problem with:

sudo echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

is that the redirect happens in the initial shell - i.e. under your own account - before the "sudo echo 1" happens, which isn't the part that really needs root access. You need to get the opening of drop_caches by ">" to be inside of the sudo. One lazy way (lazy because it clones the 3 back to stdout, which you don't actually need) is:

echo 3 | sudo tee /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

The options to write into drop_caches are:

  1. Free pagecache
  2. Free dentries and inodes
  3. Free pagecache, dentries, and inodes.

And you should sync first, so all in all:

sync ; echo 3 | sudo tee /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

or if you don't like the spurious "3" on stdout:

sudo sh -c 'sync ; echo 3 >/prod/sys/vm/drop_caches'

We can make it automatically using crontab as root.

~$ sudo crontab -e

You'll see the your/new crontab file like it:

# For example, you can run a backup of all your user accounts
# at 5 a.m every week with:
# 0 5 * * 1 tar -zcf /var/backups/home.tgz /home/
# For more information see the manual pages of crontab(5) and cron(8)
# m h  dom mon dow   command

And you'll add this one in new lines to flush every hour:

# Every hour flushes the memory cache on system
0 * * * * sync; echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

I see in my syslog tailf output.

~$ tailf /var/log/syslog | grep 'cron'

And I see the output below:

May 31 14:07:16 debian crontab[17353]: (root) BEGIN EDIT (root)
May 31 14:07:20 debian crontab[17353]: (root) END EDIT (root)


May 31 15:00:02 debian CRON[22169]: (root) CMD (sync; echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches)
May 31 15:17:01 debian CRON[18828]: (root) CMD (   cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.hourly)

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