I have need to store large square matrices in memory, some times sparse, some times not. I have used up to $2^{15}$ by $2^{15}$ as my upper bound so far, and Mathematica has handled it even if it took quite a while :).

I would like to try to do some calculations on a $2^{20}$ by $2^{20}$ now, but it will take quite a long time to compute... so I need to know in advance if Mathematica will be able to handle that much memory use. Answers for both sparse and dense cases are encouraged.

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    $\begingroup$ A $2^{15}$ dense square matrix takes 8GB of RAM. A $2^{20}$ one takes 8TB. Do you have that much RAM? I think Mathematica should be able to handle it, if your OS can. However, I've never tested this, as the biggest computer I have access to has only 4TB of RAM, and Mathematica isn't available on it. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2015 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @OleksandrR. where do you get a computer that has that much physical RAM? I want one, or two ... dozen. $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @rcollyer the cheapest way is probably to get 32 computers each with 256GB of RAM, connect them together using 40Gbit/s Infiniband, and install vSMP on them. Alternatively you could buy an SGI UV. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2015 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ @OleksandrR. here I was hoping you could get a single motherboard with that much RAM, but alas, 512GB seems to be the limit. $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ The other thing is, many matrix operations have a complexity of between $O(N^2)$ and $O(N^3)$. So, be prepared for your calculation with the $2^{20}$ matrix to take several (tens of) thousands of times longer than "quite a while". $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2015 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


Oleksandr remarked on the memory required for a dense matrix. I shall attempt to explore SparseArray limitations.

From this error message it appears that the dimensions of the array must be machine integers:

SparseArray[{}, {2, 2}^70]

SparseArray::adims: Array dimension specification {1180591620717411303424,1180591620717411303424} should be Automatic, a non-negative machine integer, or a list of non-negative machine integers. >>

If smaller dimensions are used it may still take too much memory:

SparseArray[{}, {2, 2}^60]
No more memory available.
Mathematica kernel has shut down.
Try quitting other applications and then retry.

From earlier experimentation I determined that every row in the arrays takes significant memory, so if we limit the number of rows:

SparseArray[{}, {2^20, 2^63 - 2}] // ByteCount

Mathematica is easily able to address a sparse array with 2^20 rows and on my machine up to 2^63 - 2 columns. However transposing this array would be impossible.

While we can assemble a SparseArray of this size with some non-zero elements:

rls = 
   Round[RandomReal[1, 2]*{2^20, 2^63 - 2}] -> # &,

test = SparseArray[rls, {2^20, 2^63 - 2}];

and some fundamental operations are possible:

3*test // ByteCount

others operations are not:

SparseArray[{1 -> 2, 7 -> 14, 183 -> 99}, 2^20].test
No more memory available.
Mathematica kernel has shut down.
Try quitting other applications and then retry.

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