I'm having problems trying to squeeze a bit more life from my aging desktop to teach my grandson a bit of coding. The machine was drastically slowing down to the point of unusable for 30 seconds at a time with browser(5 tabs doing nothing)/bluefish/a few terminals(ssh,ftp etc which should not be using much resource.)

I've been through the services. I don't think I can cut them any more.

I've set up swap on an SSD and monitoring the activity I see it is being used. There is some improvement in performance.

The problem is that my main hard drive is also spinning almost constantly pretty well in sync with the accesses to the swap disk. Any ideas or should I give up and just invest in more memory or a new machine?

Google Chrome 64.0.3282.167 Ubuntu

me@mymachine:~$ free -h
              total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:           3.9G        3.4G        103M         86M        384M        229M
Swap:           59G        3.2G         56G
me@mymachine:~$ swapon --summary
Filename                Type        Size    Used    Priority
/dev/sdf1                               partition   62521340    3318016 -2
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of I have 16GB RAM. Do I need 32GB swap?
    – Ravexina
    Oct 10, 2018 at 11:35
  • Do you know what is using all the RAM? take a look at top and then hit Shift + m to sort by memory use. Consider posting your findings here.
    – Jeff
    Oct 10, 2018 at 11:44
  • @jeff That was the first thing I did. Chrome is the memory hog with gnome-software in there. Oct 10, 2018 at 12:07
  • 4
    Consider switching to a more lightweight browser and desktop environment.
    – Melebius
    Oct 10, 2018 at 12:15

2 Answers 2


It looks like the swap is being used since 3.2G is written it to it.

Swap info

Swap is useful but the information that is written to swap still needs to be brought back into RAM when an operation needs to be done on that information. What swap does for you is it allows for an overflow of information.

This is most useful when you are running a few programs but you are only accessing one at a time and not switching between them very often. If you do need to switch between them the data written to RAM is loaded back in.

If the main program you are running is very memory heavy than this reading and writing to swap will happen a lot because there is not enough RAM to run one program, the pages (sections of memory) are written in and out of memory just to run that program. This leads to something called memory throttling which will slow down your computer a bunch. If that is happening, no amount of swap is going to save you as you actively need more RAM than you have.


I use Chrome but it is very very memory heavy so I would suggest a different browser. Consider using Firefox Quantum as it has lower memory use.

Also view the output of top to see what is eating all the RAM, press Shift+m to sort by memory use. If you having memory throttling problems and/or if the processes that are using the RAM can't be killed or they are programs you want to have running then yeah I think you may want to look at buying more RAM.

  • 1
    Chrome is a given. For the developer tools. Looks like I might be buying memory, which is the answer I was expecting. :) Thanks for your help. Oct 10, 2018 at 12:12
  • 1
    @davidsinfield If that's the case consider getting the Firefox Developer Edition, have not used it myself but from what I've seen it's quite good. mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/channel/desktop
    – Jeff
    Oct 10, 2018 at 12:17
  • I'll have a look. Oct 10, 2018 at 12:46
  • here are better instructions for installing Firefox Developer Edition, askubuntu.com/questions/548003/…
    – Jeff
    Oct 10, 2018 at 12:54

Your swap is out-ragingly large at 59G. You need to downsize it to around 8G max.

You probably need more RAM. Chrome sucks up lots of memory.

Look at the terminal output of:

sysctl vm.swappiness

it'll probably be 60. Check out the use of this parameter by searching for it here on AU.

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