Ubuntu Running Slow? 5 Tips to Speed Up Your Linux PC

Danny Stieben 24-11-2015

If you’re using Ubuntu, your computer is probably running at a pretty good speed, allowing you to do what you need to without having to wait around. However, there are some circumstances when it’s still not fast enough, or you’d like to squeeze out as much performance as possible.


No worries! Here are five things you can do to get Ubuntu running at high speed.

Manage Startup Applications

Of course, the first thing we can do is limit which applications start when you boot your computer. This will reduce the amount of time your computer needs to boot, and it frees up RAM that can be used by other applications later on. There are two different places you need to check to disable certain applications from launching at boot. First, open up the Dash and type in “startup”.

This will give you the Startup Applications utility where you can add/remove/enable/disable entries. If the programs you don’t want to launch at boot are in this list, just disable them here. If you don’t see them, you’ll need to open up each individual application and go through the settings there to find the appropriate control. You can also see videos of the Startup Applications utility in various distributions in our look at how to add items How to Start Applications Automatically as Linux Boots Are you manually loading applications each time you turn on your computer? Wouldn't you rather have them automatically load instead? Here's how to Auto-start Applications in Linux. Read More , but it’s easy to see how to disable items too.

Enable Proprietary Graphics Drivers

If certain graphics-related tasks such as desktop effects or games are running slow, and you’re using an AMD or Nvidia graphics card, you should try installing the proprietary drivers for those cards. Open the Dash, search for “drivers”, and open the Additional Drivers utility. It will look at the hardware that’s connected to your computer and then offer compatible, proprietary drivers for you to install. You’ll usually see multiple options for both AMD and Nvidia, so you should do the following:

  • AMD users: Pick the option that has “fglrx-updates” in parenthesis at the end of the description. This one, unlike the other option, will automatically update itself when a newer version comes out.
  • Nvidia users: Pick the option that has the highest version number as it’ll be the newest driver with the most features and best support.

Intel users don’t have to worry about this because Intel’s drivers are automatically open source — there are no better drivers to install. Additionally, this also means that you probably don’t have issues with slow graphics performance (unless your CPU is weak or old).


Switch to a Lighter Desktop Environment

While Ubuntu’s default desktop environment, Unity, isn’t necessarily on the heavy end of the spectrum of Linux desktop environments, there are plenty of others that are a lot lighter and therefore use of less system resources. Lighter options in order of most desktop features to least include: 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 , 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 , Openbox Need A Fresh Desktop Environment for Linux? Try Openbox Or xmonad Read More , and i3. There are many others out there, but these are among the most popular and should be worth a look if you need ideas.

Change “Swappiness”

Another good tip is to reduce the amount of “swappiness” on your system. Swappiness is a value between 0 and 100 that determines how likely the system is to move something from the RAM to the SWAP partition on your hard drive, where 0 is highly unlikely and 100 is highly likely. The SWAP partition What Is a Linux Swap Partition? Everything You Need to Know Most Linux installations suggest you include a swap partition. What is a swap partition for? Here's what you need to know. Read More is simply extra space that the system can use if the RAM is full, or if something has been sitting in RAM for a long time but isn’t being used. The system also dumps the contents of the RAM into the SWAP partition when you hibernate your system.

If you have an SSD, I usually recommend that you don’t have a SWAP partition at all because it will create a lot of read and write operations that will diminish the SSD’s lifespan. For users with traditional hard drives, a SWAP partition is fine.

But it helps to reduce the swappiness value so that the SWAP partition isn’t used as often; continuous reading and writing to/from the SWAP partition will make the rest of the system wait for it to finish.


To change this, open the Terminal and run

sudo bash -c "echo 'vm.swappiness = 10' >> /etc/sysctl.conf"

This will add the line vm.swappiness = 10 to the end of the file, which is safe because it’s the only line in the file that isn’t commented out. Normally, vm.swappiness is not defined in the file and is set to a default value. Restart your computer for the change to take effect.

Clean Out Junk

Finally, it may also help to remove some unneeded files from your computer so that your hard drive doesn’t have to take as long to find files you need or to find free space for new files you want to save. The utility I like to use the most to clean junk from Ubuntu Gain More Control Of Your Ubuntu System With Ubuntu Tweak [Linux] The popular Linux distribution is fun to mess with and work on, no matter what kind of user you are. However, you may be interested in controlling your system even more to get the absolute... Read More  is Ubuntu Tweak, as their janitor tool is quite good and won’t accidentally delete something you might actually need after all.


If you want a few more options, there’s also BleachBit which looks in a lot more places BleachBit - A Utility To Clean Up Your Linux System Read More for junk removal. But you should only choose the options that you need in BleachBit, otherwise it may remove something you’ll need later.

Ubuntu at Top Speed

The above five tips are relatively easy ways in which you can crank up your Ubuntu system’s performance. After trying out all of them, you should be able to realize your computer’s full potential. Out of all of these tips, take a good luck at which desktop environment you want to use, as you’ll see some of the biggest general improvements from there.

In what other ways do you improve your Linux system’s performance? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits:penguin in hardhat helmet by Asfia via Shutterstock


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  1. Glen LeBarr
    November 3, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    I was a long time Mint user, but recently switched to MX Linux and it is by far the best distro I've tried; there's a 32 bit version also for older machines...give it a try, it rocks!
    my laptop is faster, looks great, and works better than ever

  2. Boomer
    March 4, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Update your computer, switch to Windows or MAC and eliminate the troubles of having to understand the complex world known as Linux. ;)

    • Linux User
      January 4, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      Windows is spyware and MAC OSX probably too.

    • Joe
      March 31, 2017 at 5:50 am

      Switching back to Windows would definitely be a backwards step, Linux isn't complicated, don't do it. I recommend Linux Ubuntu, Free open source, fast startup, fast operation no need for anti-virus software. MS Windows is the worst OS out there and you have to pay for it.

  3. Andrew
    January 12, 2016 at 6:37 am

    I go into a TTY (or a terminal window, but if computer is running slow a TTY will be faster) and run as root:

    pstree -p -l | less

    You can then scroll up and down to browse the current processes in tree form, and kill ones that have a million children that are eating up memory. In Ubuntu and Mint (*including* Mint Debian), one of the biggest causes of a slow system is "Console-kit-daemon." I kill the parent process (you have to be root to kill system processes such as this), and it makes a very noticeable difference with performance. Have never had any problems from killing it, either. I'm not quite sure exactly what it's for.. I've read recommendations that X should be killed completely before killing Console-Kit-Daemon, but i never do that, and X runs just fine without it.

  4. jymm
    November 30, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    Switch to Debian.

  5. whorider
    November 25, 2015 at 3:47 am

    No need to search each app preference to disable startup items, to view all startup items enter this command:

    sudo sed -i 's/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g' /etc/xdg/autostart/*.desktop

  6. Anonymous
    November 25, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Just like in Windows, turn off automatic indexing.