4 Ways to Speed Up Your Linux PC

Danny Stieben 22-11-2013

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 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 Read More would need to force the fallback “Classic” mode, and KDE users 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] 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 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 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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  1. HelloWorld
    January 24, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    In Ubuntu, some startup apps are hidden, here is how to see them all :

  2. eee
    April 21, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Just install slitaz. Lubuntu is still a bloat

    • Tyler
      December 12, 2015 at 2:38 am

      slitaz is a boat, just install tinycore

  3. ronnie
    December 19, 2013 at 6:23 am

    The comments were definitley better than the article,
    however if someone is so hurting that any of this could
    help them i doubt they would even find it or read it.
    but there was the one retard but he got nothing from
    it, and probley took it all out on his grandmother who
    is partialy responsable for raising his parents, so oh
    well i hope he dident hurt her anyway.

  4. GeorgeCh
    December 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I would like to recommend for speed up the use of the zram tool which creates a small swap area in the ram and makes the use of programs much faster, the use of preload that logs the use of programs and makes the reading from the disk for the programs faster and finally tune swappiness so the system makes a lesser usage of swap.Also if you are in for some adventure you can optimize the file-system(ext-4, btrfs etc) by reading VERY CAREFULLY the documentation on each distro.All these do not make much of a difference in new systems, it is mostly for old hardware (2 years and more)

  5. Ashwin D
    December 1, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Nice Article ,but anyways My Linux Mint PC boots in 10 sec including 5 startup applications and i dont see a reason to make it faster than this!

  6. Kim L
    November 28, 2013 at 12:30 am

    tweak your harddrive or ssd might be a good idea to speed up your ubuntu system also

  7. gvnmcknz
    November 25, 2013 at 8:20 pm


    Sorry it was 4 ways to speed up!

  8. dragonmouth
    November 23, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    More RAM, faster CPU, SSD will speed up your O/S, not just Linux, much more than tweaking some settings.

    GRUB Timeout and Startup Applications will only speed up the PC on bootup. Since Linux does not require regular re-boots, the speed gain is one time only.

    Lighter Alternatives - IceWM, fvwm or OpenBox are much lighter than even LXDE. For even more speed gain, one could just do away with using a Desktop Environment or a Windows Manager and use command line.

    One thing you did not mention as a way to speed up a PC is to disable or uninstall most of the browser add-ons.

  9. A.Junna
    November 23, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I remember seeing an article just like this (same points and all) on Make Tech Easier. Copy much?

  10. Richard Steven Hack
    November 23, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Tweaking any OS rarely results in a noticeable speedup. Putting in more RAM, a faster hard drive, or an SSD is really the only way to get a speedup you might be able to actually SEE. The exceptions are those situations where you really have overloaded the system with too many background running processes or (more likely) where your mix of antimalware programs are competing with each other (something that rarely happens on Linux because it doesn't really need antimalware programs but is quite common on Windows.)

  11. Shawn
    November 23, 2013 at 4:43 am

    I take issue with this article (And others like it) Choosing a lighter OS will boot faster, but that doesn't fall under "Make Linux Boot Faster"

    Install on SSD = Yes
    Use a different OS = NO

    One way to make Windows XP boot faster is to use Xubuntu!
    Sorry about the Rant!

  12. Zhong J
    November 22, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    If you want speed in expense for power, then you can use the CPU governor and set it to 'performance', it'll fully utilize 100% of the CPU capability.

  13. Peter E
    November 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Dont forget BUM - BootUp Manager :) always worth a mention

  14. amazon
    November 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    i didnt know people still used linux as a desktop os.

    • A.Junna
      November 23, 2013 at 10:40 am

      You're kidding right? If not, go jump off a cliff! Goodbye :)

    November 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Just Try Elementary OS Luna. Lighter than Air.

  16. Man from Mars
    November 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Each time I see an article with a similar title I am curious to read it, hoping to find a few magic tricks to push my Peng-puter a little faster. And yet, each time I find more or less the same bunch of common sense and "best practice" tips.
    I don't mean to disdain your article, I am just saying that Linux generally needs fewer (risky) wanders in parts of the OS where no normal user should fiddle.

    • Fangzhen
      November 23, 2013 at 2:58 am

      I agree with you. When I saw this title, I wanted to get some professional advice , but I didn't. And I am a little disappointed.