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What are your tips for improving overall system performance on ubuntu? Inspired by this question I realized that some default settings may be rather conservative on Ubuntu and that it's possible to tweak it with little or no risk if you wish to make it faster.

This is not meant to be application specific (e.g. make firefox load pages faster), but system wide.

Preferably 1 tip per answer, with enough detail for people to implement it.

A couple of mine would be:

  • Install Preload (via Software Center or sudo apt-get install preload);
  • Change Swappiness value - "which controls the degree to which the kernel prefers to swap when it tries to free memory";

What are yours?

PS: Since this is not intended to have a unique answer but rather, several useful tips, I'm making this community wiki out-of-the-box.

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It would be a good idea to mention how effective your tip is: how much of an improvement did you notice, or even better, measure? – Gilles Aug 13 '10 at 17:47
I have not found any evidence that changing the swappiness has any positive effect. It might give a temporary feeling of performance increase, that seems to subside quite fast. I have not seen any concrete evidence in form of benchmarks that would proof the effectiveness of changing the swapiness parameter – txwikinger Aug 14 '10 at 14:27
I doubt it has any noticeable performance impact. The ttys used hardly any memory, nor would there be any significant cpu usage. – txwikinger Aug 16 '10 at 14:37
Isn't "premature optimization the root of all evil"? ( – Alejandro Sep 26 '10 at 2:11
@Alejandro that quote assumes that you've done it as well as you could in the first place. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 16 '12 at 13:26

39 Answers 39

If you edit video files, set up a stripped RAID 0 configuration for your video files. I noticed significant improvement in the smoothness of video editing after I did this.

Of course you will need a minimum to two hard drives to do this, and it's easier if they are separate from the drive the OS is on (If you only have two hard drives, as I did, you can create a mirrored, RAID 1, boot partition and then a RAID 0 partition for everything else).

Note that since RAID 0 provides no fault tolerance or redundancy, the failure of one drive will cause the entire array to fail; as a result of having data striped across all disks, the failure will result in total data loss.

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The ubuntu-tweak utility has a handy "Janitor" tool that allows you to clear caches and orphan packages very easily.

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak

Note that as of 2016-04-16 Ubuntu Tweak is abandoned, with last update over year ago - see (what makes outdated).

Ubuntu Tweak's Janitor

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Tuning ext4 for maximum smoke

Enable writeback mode. This mode will typically provide the best ext4 performance. Note that it happens at cost of reliability as it disables journaling for writing data. Data may be written into the main filesystem after its metadata has been committed to the journal. As result old data may appear in files after a crash and journal recovery.

tune2fs -o journal_data_writeback /dev/sdXX

# Check fs options
dumpe2fs /dev/sdXX |more

Documentation from

In data=writeback mode, ext4 does not journal data at all. This mode provides a similar level of journaling as that of XFS, JFS, and ReiserFS in its default mode - metadata journaling. A crash+recovery can cause incorrect data to appear in files which were written shortly before the crash. This mode will typically provide the best ext4 performance.

Even more smoke

To squeeze even more performance add fstab options: data=writeback,noatime,nodiratime

i.e., edit your /etc/fstab find the UUID for your drives and add/replace existing options

/dev/sdXX /opt ext4 defaults,data=writeback,noatime,nodiratime 0 0

Ensure you have used tune2fs to turn on writeback mode BEFORE you edit your fstab file and BEFORE you reboot. I say BEFORE because I rebooted after I altered my fstab but before I turned on writeback mode and borked my boot. Nothing lost but I had to use a live CD to gain access and change my fstab. Safer if you enable on a non boot drive to test first.

Massive improvement in speed in both boot and shutdown and day to day use.

You can also turn off Journal mode that will give an added boost, for added safety make sure you have a UPS connected and working because with these features turned off your data isn't as safe, having said that my system doesn't have a UPS and it's power has been interrupted at least three times and I've suffered no data loss, but your mileage may vary.

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nodiratime is not needed here because noatime implies it – Shnatsel Jul 21 '12 at 10:35
One could throw in disabling device barriers if you're looking for data-eating tweaks. That can increase performance several times, but in case of power outage your files are screwed. – Shnatsel Jul 21 '12 at 10:39

One desktop that I would definitely recommend over Unity, or even XFCE, is i3. There's a website for it here. I have seen major improvements in performance, even on my netbook with 1GB of RAM.

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The other answers say a lot, already. However, make sure you're using the optimal video card driver for your system. Using the wrong one can really slow it down. The best one for my system on Xubuntu 15.04 is the legacy Nvidia one. The newest version and the open source one are either slower with certain applications (such as Tkinter apps and SciTE), or they crash my computer.

I might recommend not using lightdm for locking your screen and such, because unless they've fixed it in this new release, it's a lot slower going to sleep and waking up than what they used to use. That might seem program-specific, but it really does go a long way toward a faster computer, practically speaking, in my opinion.

I would recommend looking at hardware instead of software tweaks, after you've done all the software tweaks you can handle. You might consider a solid state hard drive.

You also might consider using a different window manager.

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Unity tends to be a bit resource-hungry, though I am surprised to hear that you experienced similarly poor performance even under Unity2D. One possible solution would be to play around with other more lightweight Desktop Environments such as Lubuntu (LXDE) or Xubuntu (XFCE). I think you will see a substantial difference in overall responsiveness and performance.

Additionally, you can try going into the Startup Applications manager and unchecking applications and processes that you don't need Ubuntu to automatically start for you at login (e.g. Bluetooth Manager if you don't have bluetooth, UbuntuOne if you don't use it, programs you simply don't use, etc.) Before doing this, first make hidden startup applications visible in startup manager:

sudo sed -i 's/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g' /etc/xdg/autostart/*.desktop
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Come on, Unity is more than capable of running perfectly on a machine with 4Gb of RAM and a dual-core processor. Suggesting to try LXDE would make sense on a netbook with 1Gb of RAM and an Atom processor. Surely the OP's problem is caused by some misconfiguration or hardware incompatibility, not by the fact that Unity can't run on that hardware. – Sergey Aug 29 '12 at 21:23
You may be completely right about the cause of Christian's problems, and you are certainly right in thinking that Unity should (theoretically) be running perfectly smoothly on his machine. However, neither of these facts in any way negate my statement that Unity is resource-hungry (regardless of machine specs) and that using LXDE or XFCE would undoubtedly yield significant performance improvements. It may not be the ideal solution in this situation (hence my designation of the suggestion as "one possible solution"), but my hope was that it might at least improve his experience. – mblasco Aug 30 '12 at 3:13

Decrease your boot loader menu timeout

Sounds trivial, but I found the default 10 seconds in Ubuntu is too long for my tastes. Say my screen takes a bit to auto-adjust the res, I see the counter reads 8 seconds at first sight.

I would edit the timeout to 3 seconds, giving me a second to see the boot menu (accounting for the time my screen adjusts to the res). Plenty of time, as pressing the arrow keys to select another item stops the counter.

Grub (before 9.10 Karmic)

sudo -i gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

Find and edit the "TIMEOUT" line

Grub 2 (new installs of 9.10 Karmic and after)

sudo -i gedit /etc/default/grub

Find and edit the "GRUB_TIMEOUT" line, and run sudo update-grub

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Disable automatic startup of any services that are not needed (or even remove the package completely).

A lot of packages start up services automatically. These services then use memory and CPU even they are hardly ever used. It is better in this case, to stop those services, or take them out of autostart, and start them up only if they are needed.

To remove applications from starting up on 10.04,go to System > Preferences > Startup Applications (may be slightly different on other versions)

On 12.04, you can go select the startup applications by clicking on the Dash Icon. Then, type startup and select "startup applications".

alt text

And just unmark the apps you don't need. But be sure about it, don't just remove apps you don't know. If you are not sure about one, leave it that way. A google search or new question here about specific programs will help.

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Good one! simple and effective. I personally disable bluetooth related stuff, since my notebook doesn't have it. – Decio Lira Aug 13 '10 at 17:14
Could you explain / add a link explaining how to view and disable/enable services under Ubuntu. – Skizz Aug 20 '10 at 23:16

I find strange that no one has mentioned anything about Unity. Unity is definitely something that one should consider removing if the system has to work faster (I shall not discuss whether Unity boost the user's productivity or not since this is quite subjective for many people).

I just got my hands on a virtual appliance created with VirtualBox with Ubuntu 14.04 with Unity in it. The default machine settings were 32MB memory for video, 2GB for RAM and 100% performance cap on the CPU (single one was chosen). Of course my CPU is a bad one (a 5-6 years old i3 from Intel with 1.66GHz and two cores). Because of the huge amount of RAM that was dedicated to the VM and the presence of only 3.8GB physical memory on my host I decided to reduce it to 512MB. It was unbelievable how sluggish the system was.

The recommended minimum system requirements given by Canonical are a joke. I cannot imagine anyone working at all under such conditions. Yes, these are minimum requirements but what is usually understood by that is that the system is still usable to a some non-suicidal degree with the exception of working with applications that require a lot more. The window manager should not put such a huge restriction on the hardware used (Windows Vista anyone?) especially since Canonical removed the Gnome 2 Classic option upon login (currently there are of course alternative, which are however not officially supported by Canonical). Appearance is something important especially if we follow one of the most profound rules in design and usability - "Form follows function". It should not however do what Unity does to the system resources. I strongly recommend starting from reducing the fancy-pancy garbage on your system and the first thing towards that is to replace Unity with for example LXDE, which looks great, offers a lot of room for customization (Unity and customization - pfffff...) and is a beast when it comes to small CPU usage and miniature memory footprint combined with the functionality it provides. My VM is currently flying after a single step of installing vanilla lxde:

$ sudo apt-get install lxde

A much more better way is to go for one of the variations of Ubuntu such as Lubuntu (LXDE) or Xubuntu (XFCE), which profit from the fact they share the same repositories, security updates, patches etc. with Ubuntu yet do not suck the life out of your machine. Installing another window manager on top of Ubuntu (which defaults to Unity) definitely helps a lot but Ubuntu's default installation also comes with a huge amount of resource-hungry services and applications most (all?) of which have more lightweight alternatives.

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If you want to have a look at what services are started after booting on Ubuntu 10.04 run "jobs-admin".

sudo apt-get install jobs-admin
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Another good way to boost performance is to install CompizConfig Settings Manager, and disable animation effects, Fading Windows, and Window Decorations. Desktop wall and Expo are an option, too.

enter image description here

Also, use fast texture filter under OpenGL

enter image description here

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Use EXT4 file system

Adding noatime and nodiratime Edit fstab file

# nano /etc/fstab

Add discard to your ssd drives or partitions, after ext4

UUID=bef10b86-494d-41c6-aa46-af72cfba90fd / ext4 discard,noatime,nodiratime,errors=remount-ro 0 1

Disable hibernation Edit

# nano /usr/share/polkit-1/actions/org.freedesktop.upower.policy

Look for


Change from “yes” to “no”, there are two, one for hibernation, and another one for suspend. If you have to disable them both, make sure to replace them both from yes to no.



Edit fstab file

# nano /etc/fstab

Add the line to the end of fstab file

tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=1777 0 0

If logs aren’t important for you (laptop or desktop), you can also mount /var/log to

tmpfs. Add the line to the end of fstab file
tmpfs /var/log tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=0755 0 0

Preload To install preload on Ubuntu, Linux Mint or debian based distributions

# apt-get update && apt-get install preload

To install preload on Fedora, Centos or Redhat based distributions

# yum install preload

Swap and Swapiness To change swappiness setting:

$ su -
# nano /etc/sysctl.conf

And add this line into sysctl.conf file.

vm.swappiness = 10

You can read more at nam huy linux blog How to tweak and optimize SSD for Ubuntu, Linux Mint

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Using localhost as the the host name

This method could improve the speed of start the application .

nano /etc/hosts          localhost Ubuntu          Ubuntu

In the end of the first line, add the host name, which is the name of the second line.

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That doesn't answer the question and I didn't ask because I don't believe it. I wanted technical details. Thanks for your reply though. – FuzzyQ Jun 28 '12 at 14:28

[Disclaimer] Administer the following at your own risk.

Tushar Neupaney gives this advices here:

1. Use lighter applications (Replace your default applications with them)

  • Gedit >> Mousepad
  • Picture viewer (EOG …) >> Gpicview
  • Network Manager >> Wicd
  • Evince >> epdfview

2. Decrease Swappiness

  • sudo vim /etc/sysctl.conf

    Edit: vm.swappiness=10

3. For dual cores (Use Concurrency)

  • sudo vim /etc/init.d/rc

    Edit: CONCURRENCY=shell

    shell option is now obsolete. Default value is makefile and shell is by 2010-05-14 an alias for makefile.

4. Clean up apt cache at /var/cache/apt/archives and unneccessary apt-sources list in /etc/apt/sources.list

  • sudo apt-get autoclean

5. Install BUM (Boot Up manager)

  • sudo apt-get install bum

    Remove unnecessary applications and services from startup

6. Remove some unnecessary TTY’s

  • sudo vim /etc/default/console-setup

    Edit: ACTIVE_CONSOLES=”/dev/tty[1-3]“

    Note: goto /etc/init/ and change the tty’s files that you DO NOT want. Edit them and comment lines starting with “start on runlevel”. So, in this case, you’ll comment the start line in "tty4.conf" to "tty6.conf" files.

7. Install Prelink

  • sudo apt-get install prelink
  • sudo vim /etc/default/prelink

    Edit: PRELINKING=Yes

  • sudo /etc/cron.daily/prelink

    Actually, Prelink is useless since Feisty Fawn (because Ubuntu uses a very effective runtime linker now). In addition, it's intrusive - it directly modifies the executables and ultimately can break them. DO NOT do it.

8. Install Preload

  • sudo apt-get install preload

9. Get rid of kinit if you don’t use hibernate and sleep functions.

  • sudo vim /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume

    Edit: Comment (Put # in front of) RESUME=XXXX…………………….

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This provides no information as to why we should follow your advice. Some context and benchmarks please. – The Pixel Developer Oct 15 '10 at 2:42
I was trying number 3 and the comments above the line to change listed the valid options and 'shell' was not one of them. Is this answer old? Did the comment not tell me all the options? – John Jun 6 '11 at 18:26
I tried number 3 as well despite that "shell" option was not mentioned as valid one. After edit booting took twice longer than when concurrency was set to "none". So I went back to orginal setting. – Wojciech Sep 1 '11 at 21:09

***Each of the kernel parameters are in a field = value format.

For example, the parameter kernel.threads-max = 16379 sets the maximum number of concurrent processes to 16,379.

This is smaller than the maximum number of unique PIDs (65,536). Lowering the number of PIDs can improve performance on systems with slow CPUs or little RAM since it reduces the number of simultaneous tasks. On high-performance computers with dual processors, this value can be large. As an example, my 350 MHz iMac is set to 2,048, my dual-processor 200 MHz PC is set to 1024, and my 2.8 GHz dual processor PC is set to 16,379.

Tip: The kernel configures the default number of threads based on the available resources. Installing the same Ubuntu version on different hardware may set a different value. If you need an identical system (for testing, critical deployment, or sensitive compatibility), be sure to explicitly set this value.

There are two ways to adjust the kernel parameters.

First, you can do it on the command line. For example, sudo sysctl -w kernel.threads-max=16000. This change takes effect immediately but is not permanent; if you reboot, this change will be lost.

The other way to make a kernel change is to add the parameter to the /etc/sysctl.conf file. Adding the line kernel.threads-max=16000 will make the change take effect on the next reboot.

Usually when tuning, you first use sysctl –w. If you like the change, then you can add it to /etc/sysctl.conf. Using sysctl –w first allows you to test modifications. In the event that everything breaks, you can always reboot to recover before committing the changes to /etc/sysctl.conf.

***I learned that from this extreme tech article.

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How is lowering the total number of threads supposed to make a difference to performance? It's rarely reached on most systems anyway. It could be useful on a server whose main job is to serve http requests, but what evidence do you have that the default setting is not the best? – Gilles Aug 13 '10 at 18:02
There are plenty of people who've found some setting and decided to tweak it, and then posted it to the web with some dodgy explanation of why it would improve performance, without ever checking whether it did make a difference. Sometimes someone bothers to check, and often they discover that the default setting is there for a reason, namely that the original author did test and chose a reasonable default. So my question still stands: can you cite a benchmark that shows that (at least in some circumstances) the default setting is not appropriate? – Gilles Aug 13 '10 at 19:33
@gilles default setting are default for a reason appealing to the most people, those who wish not to tweak can go on with their lives. Although If your among the sticklers (and i am sure you are) then your more than welcome to benchmark it. let me know how it goes :) – myusuf3 Aug 14 '10 at 2:48
  1. Use JFS filesystem. It's rock solid. It has lowest CPU usage and a very good overall performance.

  2. Set vm.vfs_cache_pressure. This is my /etc/sysctl.d/10-desktop-responsiveness

    [prefix the comment lines with a #, this web interface does not like them...]

    These settings increase responsiveness for a typical desktop workload.

vm.swappiness instructs the linux kernel to favour application code over caches when these two compete for RAM.

vm.vfs_cache_pressure controls inode/dentry (i.e. filesystem) cache vs. other caches, i.e. we want to keep filesystem meta-data in RAM if possible.



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You may uninstall some applets you don't use, turn off auto-run command for some programs (or delay their auto-start). Don't forget about pre-load sudo apt-get install preload. This will greatly speed up starting up software you constantly use.

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Change your Mechanical Disk for a SSD

Solid State Drives are much faster and seems to be the most bottleneck in almost every computer nowadays.

I, for one, have experienced decrease in boot time from ~15 seconds to ~3 seconds, and great decrease in first start apps (Firefox, for example, from ~5 seconds to less than a second).

Want some benchmark? Here is one.

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Found what was slowing down my machine: gwibber-service. Maybe because I have an account in twitter that follows a lot of people and when it refreshed the machine went bad.

I was monitoring the machine with top as said @kmassada and when it was really slow noticed the process. Then executing:

sudo sed -i 's/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g' /etc/xdg/autostart/*.desktop

as @blasmat indicated to go through Startup Applications I could see that the service started automatically and I disabled it. Now my computer is much faster. I think there are still improvements I can make (I don't feel it at it top conditions), but after 20 hours of testing the performance I can say it really goes well.

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If you are short of RAM, use zramswap or zram-config from Ubuntu repos. It's virtual swap that compresses unused RAM contents instead of putting them to disk (which usually freezes the system after you hit the RAM barrier). I experience little to no performance loss with it instead of system freezing every time I run out of RAM.

This works only for Natty and up (because you'll need kernel or newer). For older systems you can use compcache, but you'll have to set it up manually.

For those who never hit the RAM limit it gives some speed boost on HDD systems anyway, but you'd better decrease swappiness to achieve the same effect.

SSD users: most likely you won't experience any speed boost, but zramswap can reduce SSD wear quite a lot.

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Seems like a very useful app to have! – Decio Lira Oct 19 '11 at 0:31

I would check for what processes are running and which ones are using up the most memory. There might be something you are installing that is a memory hogger. use top command or system monitor.

If you are not into eye candy, I even recommend installing the following packages. I noticed a considerable response time between unity and basic gnome

sudo apt-get install gnome-core gnome-session-fallback

I would also check my startup applications to see what runs at start up and what I don't need to run at start up.

And I would also check responsiveness in specific applications.

last thing I would check graphics settings. Maybe you need to compromise battery life for performance.

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Use apt-fast instead of apt-get, and put your apt cache on tmpfs.

You'll need aria or axel for apt-get to work so first either:

apt-get install aria2c


apt-get install axel

I've used aria. Then you need apt-fast itself.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:apt-fast/stable && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install apt-fast

Answer the questions, and from then on apt-fast will act like apt-get in just about every regard except that it downloads packages in parallel. It makes no difference if you are going to install a single application, but lots for larger installs.

In combination, with this, my /etc/fstab has:

tmpfs /var/cache/apt/archives tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=1777 0 0

This has the downside that if the same package is used several times over different boots, it'll have to download it again, but then it may have been updated in the meantime anyway. It has the upsides of faster access of them, automatic clean-up of unused packages on reboot.

Since I've been re-installing a lot over the course of these experiments, it allowed me to do a comparison. After installation of 12.04 one will at the time of writing have about 300 updates including a kernel update available just after installing. I ignored software updater and did the above changes before apt-fast update && apt-fast dist-upgrade and the download part is many times faster (the actual installation takes the same time).

I have an alias of alias apt-get="apt-fast" so I don't even need to change habits (the only differences are different feedback on the download, a confirmation on whether I want to download them, and an implied sudo should I forget it, but the commands to trigger anything is the same).

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RAID for everything!

(I'm experimenting with a lot of tips out there on performance, as the task is teaching me a lot of stuff, and as per the request in the original question, I'll make a separate post for each).

If you've more than one drive, you can set up RAID. The pros and cons of different RAID levels is well documented all over the place, so I won't go into it. Personally I have two drives so I'm really picking between 0 and 1 (though mdadm can do a form of 5 on just two drives, but I haven't tried it). Since there are things that can go wrong with a computer - especially a laptop that has a greater risk of physical mishap - that no RAID level can save you from, and you therefore need a strategy for dealing with risks that doesn't depend on RAID to save your bacon, (it won't save you if you experiment with a performance tweak you read on the internet and it makes things unbootable, for example) I decided to go with RAID 0.

The easiest way to do this for the whole system is to install from the alternate ISO rather than the desktop installer that lets you boot straight off the CD/DVD/USB into Ubuntu.

Select "Manual" paritioning. Divide up your disks so that you've partitions you will use on each disk. E.g. if you've two disks and decided to set aside 100GB for /home then you would set aside 50GB on each if using RAID 0, 100GB on each if using RAID 1.

Select "Configure Software Raid". Select "Create RAID Volume" (or something close to that, I'm not going to boot into the installer to check the wording). Pick those partitions you want in your first RAID volume, the type of RAID, and create it. Repeat until you have all of your volumes set up. (You don't need to put your swap on RAID, just give the two or more swap partitions the same priority in fstab and they'll be used together without RAID).

The assign filesystems and what's mounted where as you would with any installation and away you go.

A lot of stuff out there says you can only have /boot on a RAID 1 or non-RAID partition. I've had it on RAID 0 without any problems, which may be a matter of Ubuntu moves on, linux moves on, or BIOS moves on (and if its the last then your BIOS may not be okay with /boot on RAID 0).

The installer will install grub on all your drives. This gives one the benefit that if something stops booting on your "first" drive stops working, you can go into the boot menu and boot off the second.

hdparm does indeed see things has having been doubled in speed for me, and there's certainly a perceptible increase in speed on a lot of things too. I found in experimenting that the first part of booting (after the grub menu, when you've blank purple) seems to be slower, the second part to be faster (rarely time to show the animation now) and application use is faster - the greatest increase in performance of any of the tips I've tried so far.

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Configure Swap

Part 1. Set swappiness. This may be as per degusa's answer, but it could be the opposite, and it'll have more effect when it is.

One scenario that some of us are happy to be in is when we have plenty of RAM. Generally, we've a small percentage of it being directly used by the kernel and applications, some (maybe a large amount if you've used other tweaks to boost performance such as mounting /tmp in memory) used for ramfs and tmpfs, and gigs and gigs being used as a disk cache to make our file-access faster.

In this scenario once the total used memory including cache becomes high, and an application needs more RAM, linux has to decide whether to take some cache from the file system, or swap out to the swap partition/file.

Since we've tonnes of RAM, and quite possibly only bothered with swap at all so we could enable hibernation, we want it to lean toward taking some of that copious cache, and hence want a low swappiness. If we don't care about being able to hibernate, we might even find that such a high-RAM machine doesn't need swap at all.

Another scenario is someone with low RAM who is switching between a few heavy applications and spending a reasonable amount of time on each. Imagine perhaps a web dev who spends some time on their IDE, some on a graphics editor, some on their browser of choice, a bit on some other browsers to check on compatibility issues, and maybe 5 minutes every hour on their mail client. They're also likely hitting the same files repeatedly with reads and writes and hence benefiting appreciably from file caching. This person could probably benefit from linux being more eager to swap out the memory used by whichever of those heavy applications they're currently not active on, so swappiness should probably be higher for them.

Not only is the best setting for them likely to be higher than the most common advice, but they're probably going to notice it more than the person who always has gigs to spare anyway, too.

Part 2. Priority & number of partitions.

Each swap partition has a priority, and linux will use that with the highest first. If not set in /etc/fstab, it'll be treated as negative starting with -1 (explicit settings are between 0 and 32767 and so -1 is lower than any explicitly set) and continuing in order in fstab to -2, -3 and so on.

The best setting depends upon where the partitions physically are. If you've only one, then it doesn't matter (but maybe you should have more than one, so read on).

If you've two or more on the same physical drive, then they should have different priorities so that it doesn't try to use two partitions that require seeking between them (does anyone know if this is automatically avoided?). The defaults are fine. It's probably not a good idea to have two swaps on the same drive anyway, but it can happen if you created one and then decided you needed more swap later (perhaps when adding more RAM).

If you've two or more on two or more physical drives that are of about equal speed, then setting them to the same priority will mean linux will use them both at the same time, which offers better performance for reasons analogous to why RAID or simply ensuring that there are frequently used files on both drives will - the work gets split between them.

If you've two or more physical drives of equal speed but have swap only on one, maybe you should change that, for the above reasons.

If you've two or more physical drives, of very different speeds, then generally you want the fastest drive to have a higher priority than the slower, so it's used first. You may not even want to have any swap on the slower, though it might make sense if you e.g. have a small swap on a fast but small drive for fast swap, and a larger swap on the slower drive so you've enough space to hibernate.

If the faster of the two is an SSD, then there's two alternatives with different pros and cons:

  1. Highest-priority, or perhaps only, swap on the SSD, for speed.
  2. Only swap on the non-SSD, to reduce writes on the SSD and hence increase its lifetime.

Number 2 is probably the one to go for if you only really have swap to allow for hibernation and otherwise your copious RAM means you don't really need it (and if you're spending money on an SSD, you should spend it on RAM too) unless perhaps you're a boot-up speed fanatic who wants to boot from hibernation at a speed that'll show off your fancy high-spec rig! Otherwise, the balance is all about speed vs SSD lifetime.

If you've a drive existing solely for swap so as not to compete with other file I/O, then you presumably are hard-core about performance and already know about this stuff better than me and are only reading this to see if I got anything wrong!

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If you use a Unity desktop then try a more lightweight interface like LXDE or Xfce.

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Compile your own kernel. It may take quite some time, so do something else while you compile it. Once you're done, install the files and celebrate. Especially if you get huge speed improvements. :D

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Does anyone know if there are any remotely recent benchmarks that substantiate the idea that using a self-configured, self-built kernel is likely to produce significant speed improvements in current Ubuntu desktop systems? (If so, perhaps that information could be added to this answer.) – Eliah Kagan Jun 1 '12 at 22:43

Set vm.swappiness=10 in /etc/sysctl.conf. I get a noticeable speed improvement when I fill memory. Since I use Eclipse most of the time, physical memory can become a sparse commodity.


From the Ubuntu Swap FAQ:

"The default setting in Ubuntu is swappiness=60. Reducing the default value of swappiness will probably improve overall performance for a typical Ubuntu desktop installation. A value of swappiness=10 is recommended, but feel free to experiment. Note: Ubuntu server installations have different performance requirements to desktop systems, and the default value of 60 is likely more suitable."

The FAQ is pretty complete about explaining what swap is, how it is used and how to change it. Recommended reading for anyone thinking of tinkering with swappiness or the size of swap file on disk.

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@Erigami: +1 for mentioning something that actually made a difference to you. – Gilles Aug 13 '10 at 18:04
@DecioLira: No. It pushes the apps I'm not currently using onto disk, meaning that the one I'm currently in has access to more physical memory. – Erigami Aug 13 '10 at 19:40
Do you have any hardcore number that show the difference and in which situation and makes what kind of difference? – txwikinger Aug 13 '10 at 20:02
@Erigami: I played around with swappiness for some time. And at the beginning it felt like it was faster, but with time it all seemed the same. Some real measurements would really be interesting. – txwikinger Aug 13 '10 at 21:12
Various tests I have done prove that vm.swappiness=100 is better than 10. On a slow machine it will help loads, on a fast one it will make no difference (unless you run multiple GB apps pages into ram). It is win-win. – NightwishFan Sep 28 '10 at 22:30

Try the ck patchset:

It is a kernel with experimental patches to improve desktop performance.

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Can you add a warning disclaimer? – hexafraction Jul 17 '12 at 18:35

The following is for experts only. As the name implies, it can and will eat your data, even if you are careful.

eatmydata is a drop in package that will turn off fsync. Fsync is a system operation that ensures that your data is written to disk before continuing. Generally you want this, as it makes recovering from power outages and failures easier, faster, and less data lossy. It comes at a price though; anything calling fsycn will have to wait it's turn in line, rather than simply delivering data to the kernel to write at some later date. And in some, perhaps even many filesystems, fsync will write out all data, not just the stuff you're interested in protecting.

There are some specific situations where fsync isn't worth the cost. Imagine you have a server that number crunches a bunch of data. Rather than pointing this at a live database, it might be faster to dump into a consistent local database, install eatmydata to turn off fsync, and let that go. This can still crash and lose data, but since it's not the only copy of anything, you can just restart the process from scratch. Or, for example, Ubuntu's build servers, where all we care about is the final package produced. Or, on the desktop side, if a program (like Firefox) is syncing so much it's slowing the entire system down. Just be prepared to lose all data associated with using this, or face dire consequences.

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use lighter programs instead of default: gnumeric instead of oo calc, abiword instead of oo write and so on

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