Swap space in Linux is used when the amount of physical memory (RAM) is full. If the system needs more memory resources and the RAM is full, inactive pages in memory are moved to the swap space. While swap space can help machines with a small amount of RAM, it should not be considered a replacement for more RAM. Swap space is located on hard drives, which have a slower access time than physical memory.
Swap space can be a dedicated swap partition (recommended), a swap file, or a combination of swap partitions and swap files.
Swap should equal 2x physical RAM for up to 2 GB of physical RAM, and then an additional 1x physical RAM for any amount above 2 GB, but never less than 32 MB.
M = Amount of RAM in GB, and S = Amount of swap in GB, then
If M < 2
S = M *2
S = M + 2
Using this formula, a system with 2 GB of physical RAM would have 4 GB of swap, while one with 3 GB of physical RAM would have 5 GB of swap. Creating a large swap space partition can be especially helpful if you plan to upgrade your RAM at a later time.
For systems with really large amounts of RAM (more than 32 GB) you can likely get away with a smaller swap partition (around 1x, or less, of physical RAM).