The benefit of memory mapping a file is increasing I/O performance, especially when used on large files. For small files, memory-mapped files can result in a waste of slack space as memory maps are always aligned to the page size, which is mostly 4 KiB. Therefore, a 5 KiB file will allocate 8 KiB and thus 3 KiB are wasted. Accessing memory mapped files is faster than using direct read and write operations for two reasons. Firstly, a system call is orders of magnitude slower than a simple change to a program’s local memory. Secondly, in most operating systems the memory region mapped actually is the kernel’s page cache (file cache), meaning that no copies need to be created in user space.
A possible benefit of memory-mapped files is a “lazy loading”, thus using small amounts of RAM even for a very large file. Trying to load the entire contents of a file that is significantly larger than the amount of memory available can cause severe thrashing as the operating system reads from disk into memory and simultaneously writes pages from memory back to disk. Memory-mapping may not only bypass the page file completely, but also allow smaller page-sized sections to be loaded as data is being edited, similarly to demand paging used for programs.