PostgreSQL version:

work_mem

Specifies the amount of memory to be used by internal sort operations and hash tables before writing to temporary disk files. The value defaults to four megabytes (4MB). Note that for a complex query, several sort or hash operations might be running in parallel; each operation will be allowed to use as much memory as this value specifies before it starts to write data into temporary files. Also, several running sessions could be doing such operations concurrently. Therefore, the total memory used could be many times the value of work_mem; it is necessary to keep this fact in mind when choosing the value. Sort operations are used for ORDER BY, DISTINCT, and merge joins. Hash tables are used in hash joins, hash-based aggregation, and hash-based processing of IN subqueries.

Recommendations

Sets the limit for the amount of non-shared RAM available for each query operation, including sorts and hashes. This limit acts as a primitive resource control, preventing the server from going into swap due to overallocation. Note that this is non-shared RAM per operation, which means large complex queries can use multple times this amount. Also, work_mem is allocated by powers of two, so round to the nearest binary step. The second formula is for reporting and DW servers which run a lot of complex queries.

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