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Is your Linux setup not as speedy as you’d like? Here’s how to speed it up.

Many computer users who try Linux do so because they’ve been told that the operating system is a lot more customizable and uses less system resources. However, despite installing Linux on a computer and reaping from those benefits, you might still feel like your system could still use an extra boost to truly get a speed-up – even if you’re using a high-end machine. Here are four ways which you can quickly and easily speed up your system to get the best performance possible out of it.

Change GRUB Timeout

If your computer dual-boots with another operating system, the bootloader GRUB likes to show a menu of boot options for a default value of 10 seconds. As it doesn’t take most people 10 seconds to make a decision, you can alter this value so that it only shows up for say 3 or 5 seconds instead before it automatically chooses the currently highlighted option for you.

If you just care about the timeout value, you can go directly into the configuration file located at /etc/default/grub, and find the line called GRUB_TIMEOUT and change it to however many seconds you want GRUB to wait. I wouldn’t recommend going much lower than 3 seconds, as sometimes GRUB will lag a bit before accepting keyboard input, and if your timeout is set to 1 second, it might continue with the default selection before it recognizes your desire to change it. When you’re done, save the file and run the command sudo update-grub to apply the changes.

Alternatively, if you’re an Ubuntu user, you can also use a software tool called Grub Customizer. It lets you change various parameters of GRUB via a graphical interface. Among these options are the timeout value and a way to easily change the default boot option — whether it be Linux, another operating system, or “last selected”. You can install the program by running these commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:danielrichter2007/grub-customizer
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install grub-customizer


The first command adds the PPA for grub-customizer to your system; the second updates your package manager; the third installs grub-customizer.

When you change values, don’t forget to click the Save button. This saves the changes to the configuration file as well as runs sudo update-grub all in one click.

Startup Applications

If you feel like your system has become more sluggish after you’ve installed a bunch of programs, you may need to look through the list of startup applications. The location of this varies between desktop environments, but Ubuntu users can just open up the Dash and type in “startup” to find the Startup Applications program. Then simply uncheck those applications that don’t absolutely need to be run when you first log in. Again, this only really helps much if you’re already installed a lot of programs – the list should be empty (or nearly empty) after a clean install of the operating system.

Disable Special Effects and Features

A handful of desktop environments (namely KDE and GNOME) like to add some desktop effects pizzazz to your desktop experience. However, if your system has been sluggish since you installed the operating system, you may want to turn some of these off. Ubuntu users should install the CompizConfig Settings Manager How To Change The Settings Of Ubuntu Unity With CompizConfig Settings Manager How To Change The Settings Of Ubuntu Unity With CompizConfig Settings Manager Ubuntu's latest release, version 11.04, brings with it a completely new desktop interface called Unity. Its release has received mixed reviews, though honestly it comes down to taste. There is never a piece of software... Read More to alter desktop effects, GNOME users GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop Read More would need to force the fallback “Classic” mode, and KDE users Enjoy A Clean, Improved Desktop With KDE 4.7 [Linux] Enjoy A Clean, Improved Desktop With KDE 4.7 [Linux] One of Linux's most popular desktop environments, KDE, released their latest series (version 4.7) at the end of July. This version improves on work done in previous releases by adding new features while improving performance... Read More will need to look through their System Settings for desktop effects and turn them off. Another special note to KDE users: turn off Nepomuk. It’s not an essential part of your system, and it takes up a lot of resources. There were times when my laptop fan will spin up to its maximum even though I was just on the desktop and had no applications running.

Use Lightweight Alternatives

Finally, all of the above steps didn’t help, then it’s probably necessary to switch to lighter applications or even entire desktop environments completely. For example, Midori is a lightweight browser Midori: One Of The Most Lightweight Browsers Around [Linux & Windows] Midori: One Of The Most Lightweight Browsers Around [Linux & Windows] We've had browser wars back when Netscape was still the king. Today, it's Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera all battling it out to see who's top dog. However, sometimes we forget that there... Read More alternative to Firefox and Chrome. Abiword and Gnumeric are good lightweight alternatives to LibreOffice.

As for desktop environments, if you’re using KDE, try GNOME instead. If you’re using GNOME, try Xfce XFCE: Your Lightweight, Speedy, Fully-Fledged Linux Desktop XFCE: Your Lightweight, Speedy, Fully-Fledged Linux Desktop As far as Linux goes, customization is king. Not only that, but the customization options are so great it might make your head spin. I have previously mentioned the differences between the major desktop environments... Read More instead. Finally, if you’re on Xfce, then try LXDE Using An Old Computer? Give It New Life With LXDE Using An Old Computer? Give It New Life With LXDE As Linux is arguably the most customizeable operating system between it, Windows, and Mac OS X; there's plenty of room to change just about whatever you please. Proper customizing can potentially lead to massive performance... Read More . This is the progression of heaviest to lightest of “traditional” desktop environments, where it’d be really surprising if LXDE was sluggish on your system. If you’re up for a challenge, you could even try Openbox or xmonad as ultra-lightweight environments.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, these four tips should do the trick for you. Technically speaking there are ways to disable system services or patch the kernel to include third-party performance fixes, but these require a good amount of Linux knowledge to even attempt. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend them to the common masses in fear that it would crash several systems. That said, if you’re still unable to run LXDE on your computer, it may be time for a hardware upgrade – partially or entirely.

Also, note that disk cleanup and defragmentation won’t really help on Linux systems. Disk cleanup can free up disk space, but it won’t actually speed anything up. Also, defragmenting a Linux disk is possible, but almost never necessary. At least, not like it is on Windows systems.

What advice do you have to speed up your Linux system? What seems to help the most? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: kstepanoff

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