How did I improve the performance of my Ubuntu 12.04 system?

There are many web pages that outlines steps to be performed to increase the performance of your Ubuntu system. In this post, I would like to outline the steps that I have followed to increase the overall performance of the system. Most of the tweaks listed below were captured from the websites listed in the References section.

Disclaimer: If you do not know what you are doing, then it would be better to leave your working system as is. There is always a possiblity that you may destablize your system by modifying critical system settings. Please use caution when performing the below outlined steps. I have outlined the steps that I had performed; this by no means indicates that your system would perform better than it is. Use the below listed suggestions at your own risk.

  • Remove unwanted services using Boot-Up Manager (bum)1:
    • Install BUM: sudo apt-get install bum
    • Open BUM using: System -> Administration -> BootUP Manager or search for bum in Ubuntu Dash.
    • Or, execute sudo bum from comand line.
    • Disable the services that you do not prefer to auto-start as part of the system start-up sequence.
    • Refer to the reference links2 for more information on usuage of advanced usage of bum.
  • Remove few more services using sysv-rc-conf3:
    • sysv-rc-conf is a terminal GUI for managing services listed in /etc/rc[runlevel].d folder.
    • Install it using sudo apt-get install sysv-rc-conf
    • Start it using sudo sysv-rc-conf
    • Read about the tool using man sysv-rc-conf4
    • Use arrow keys to navigate and press space to enable or disable a service in a particular runlevel.
    • Press q to save and terminate the program.
    • Press r to revert the settings to the previous state (in case you have not yet saved the changes).
  • Disable/remove unused applications that run as ‘Background services’:
    • Use the solution mentioned at ‘Ask Ubuntu’5 to enable listing of services that auto-start along with Unity Desktop in the ‘Startup Applications’ menu. In summary execute the below commands (courtesy to Todd Partridge ‘Gen2ly’ – Ask Ubuntu)
      mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart # If not already created
      cd ~/.config/autostart
      cp /etc/xdg/autostart/*.desktop .
      sed -i "s/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g" *.desktop
    • Click on the ‘Logout/Login’ icon on the ‘top-right’ corner of the Unity screen and select ‘Startup Applications control panel’ and disable the services that you do not use.
  • Remove the ‘indicator-messages’:
    • Its the ‘mail’ icon displayed on the ‘top-right’ corner of the Unity Desktop before the ‘Login/Logout’ and other menu items.
    • If you do not depend on it, you can execute the below commands to uninstall it.
      sudo apt-get autoremove indicator-messages
      sudo apt-get autoremove telepathy-indicator
  • Remove any left-over dependency packages that were not uninstalled when you uninstalled application:
    • Execute sudo apt-get autoremove
  • Use preload6:
    • If you prefer to let the system track the list of most frequently used applications and load them into the RAM before they are demanded, install ‘preload’ by executing sudo apt-get install preload.
    • Read How can I improve overall system performance? for some valuable input on preload.
  • Use BleachBit to unwanted files8:
    • As per the author, ‘BleachBit can be used to free cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, shred temporary files and delete logs.
    • Install it using, sudo apt-get install bleachbit and run it by searching for the ‘BleachBit’ applition in the Unity Dash.
  • Adjust swappiness9:
    • Read the article – Ask Ubuntu – How do I configure swappiness? for some good insight into what swappiness is and how to configure it.
    • In summary, the swappiness value indicates how often the ‘swap’ file in the hard-disk is used.
    • By default, it may be set to 60 (in my system it was pre-set to 60). This implies that the kernel will swap the contents in the RAM to the disk when the RAM is about half full.
    • Check your the swappiness value set in your system using the command: cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness
    • To change the value, open /etc/sysctl.conf (as root) and set/add the line, vm.swappiness = 10.
    • A value of 10 indicates that the swap file will only be used when the RAM is about 80% or 90% full.
  • Disable visual effects:
    • You can switch to a 2D desktop environment by installing: gnome-session-fallback using the command: sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback
    • You can also consider alternative desktop environments such as XFCE, LXDE etc. These are default in Xubuntu and Lubuntu respectively.


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