external sort

external sort

A sort program that uses the hard disk as a temporary workspace. In the early days of computing, tape drives were used as work drives. Contrast with internal sort.
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Much of those resources are consumed by external sorts, in which the file is too large to fit in internal memory and must reside in secondary storage (typically on magnetic disks).
In addition, the I/O block size in large external sorts is often on the order of the disk track size.

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