Speed up Linux (Part 1)

6/2/2012 3:07:50 PM

We have a look the almost impossible task of trying to speed up Linux

Linux, by its very nature, is quite a slender beast. Although there are some distros that are somewhat over-bloadted, it is by no means a resource hog. Even with only a couple of gigabytes of RAM installed in the system, you’ll never likely use more than 60% of the available system resources.

Description: Speed up Linux (Part 1)

Nevertheless, there are ways to improve on the already rapid response time of a Linux distro. As with most operating systems, there are elements and processes that could do with trimming down a little, or perhaps removing altogether. The boot times could be always have a few seconds shaved off them, and the applications could launch a little faster, plus that shutdown could be done a bit quicker as well.

A lot of people use Linux on netbooks, and after several months of good use, they tend to slow down a tad. Nowhere near as much as a Windows installation would do after the same amount of time or use, but enough to make significant difference to the day-to-day operation. After all, you most likely use a netbook for quick browsing or other such tasks. Wouldn’t it be nice to regain even a small fraction of that initial OS installation speed?

With that in mind, we decided it was time to run through a few options that will help get your Linux distro back into shape.

Back up before you go on

As with all tweaks and tinkering, it’s always best to make sure you have a working and very recent backup of your work before you go ahead and do anything. The tips and tricks in these next few pages have been selected to minimise and chance of out and out failure. We know that, because we broke our test Linux installation a few times with various tweaks. Luckily, we were using the test environment inside VirtualBox, with a couple of snapshots, so the damage was minimal. If it’s possible, you should do the same, or at the very least take a snapshot of your drive before the tinkering commences. That way you can always revert back to a working state should things go a little foul.

Let’s not dwell on such doom and gloom, though. Instead, let’s see if we can speed things up a little.

Test machine

While we can’t offer tweaks for every distro, we decided that it would be best to go with the most popular version of Linux, Ubuntu or use another Linux may complain, but you have to admit, that by at least using Ubuntu we can include Mint and a whole host of other special guest appearances.

Either way, we tested the tweaks on a dual-core AMD, with 2GB RAM and a 40GB HDD. It’s not a bad machine, so it was already pretty fit, but we wanted to see just how much quicker we could get things running.


Linux is pretty good when it comes to dishing out updates. Instead of making a bulky application even more bloated, the developer genuinely tries its best to fix any bugs and wipe out the problems that may be causing the Linux-using public a headache. So in most cases, the best way to speed things up, and make sure that your system is in tip top condition, is by making sure you have all the latest updates.

Usually this can be accomplished via the resident update manager, depending on what particular Linux distro you’re using, but generally you can check for updates and upgrades by typing the following into a the terminal:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt get upgrade

Should Linux pick up anything new, it will ask you if you want to download/apply the update, in which case you should answer ‘Y’, for yes. While this may seem very simplistic to Linux gurus, you’d be surprised just how many people ignore the updates that pop up. For those of you that do ignore those updates, you could be missing out on some radical changes to the kernel, the very heart of the OS. These include better power management, improved resource allocation, better file access and read times, and speed increases due to enhanced handling of the core code.

Description: Running an update will yield good performance results

Running an update will yield good performance results

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