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My computer is very slow when starting applications. You clearly hear how the hard disk seems to read files from all over the disk. A first idea would be to check for fragmentation (since the drive is 80% full):

sudo e2fsck -fn /dev/sda4

returns as result that it is only 0.6% fragmented. Some further research on the web ( gives me the impression that Linux file systems do not much fragment in the sense of splitting files into pieces, but they spread files in a random order over the disk (to avoid fragmentation).

Is that true?
Is there a way to force the system to place all boot files (or all files of one application etc.) in a linear order?

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What type of applications are you referring to? Some applications use a lot of data / configuration files. – Nathan Osman Jul 29 '11 at 23:26

This is probably not the answer you want to hear, but: buy a faster disk. A SSD, if you can afford it (but do some research first; cheap SSDs used to be slower than HDDs).

Failing that, getting more RAM so it can be used for the disk cache may be an option. Especially if you have a laptop and use suspend instead of shutting down. It won't help for the initial startup, but launching applications you've recently closed will be faster. This assumes that your current speed problems are caused by lack of RAM; if you've got enough, it won't help at all.

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