If you use your PC professionally on a daily basis you understand how important it is that your computer works as fast as possible. Nobody likes waiting for applications to start or quit, or web pages to load. It is not the value of the time lost, but the frustration the waiting causes that is the actual damage done by slow computers. You could either be rich and throw an insane amount of money at your setup or you can be smart and follow the following 5 tips to speed up your PC setup:
- Get rid of your virus scanner… and Windows.
- Get Linux: Xubuntu is usable and optimized for speed.
- Buy a fast SSD, but disable atime.
- Buy more RAM, but lower swappiness.
- Use Chrome as your browser, that thing is fast!
NB: Be careful with applying the following, because you will get used to this speed and you may not want to work on other computers anymore.
1. Get rid of your virus scanner… and Windows.
On Windows, your virus scanner is constantly scanning every file your system accesses. This is causes your system to slow down significantly. I do not think you should run Windows without a virus scanner, but maybe you should just not run Windows. On other operating systems you may not need a virus scanner. Apple’s OSX or Linux are mostly run without one and this is relatively safe. I honestly do not know why. Maybe because Microsoft Windows has a market share of over 80% while others are below 10% and low market share might cause slow spread (of the virus).
2. Get Linux: Xubuntu is usable and optimized for speed.
So no Windows, but what else can you install on your PC? Linux! NB: If you don’t know what Linux is, then I think you should read this first: Disadvantages of Using Linux. Xubuntu is a Linux distribution that is optimized for speed. Version 12.04 LTS (April 2012 with Long Term Support) has recently been released. It is based on Debian, a distribution that is known for its focus on security. It runs the XFCE window manager, that is lightweight, but also user friendly. Once you start using it you’ll notice it has a nasty bug that makes the Thunar file manager start up very slowly, but this bug has a well documented workaround (on the FAQ it is question #2) and will hopefully get fixed very soon.
3. Buy a fast SSD, but disable atime.
A Solid State Drive is a disk without moving parts. It has no heads to move nor platters to rotate when seeking. This makes access times on these disks a lot lower. Also the throughput is optimized by accessing many storage chips in parallel. Xubuntu is by default using an “ext4″ filesystem which is journaled. One of the features of this file system is that it keeps track of the “last access time” or “atime” in short. This is nice, but it means that every read causes a write as well. Since you in general don’t need this “last access time” you can safely disable it by adding the “noatime” flag (nodiratime is implied) to the partition options of your ext4 partitions in the “/etc/fstab” file (see lifehacker). One of the drawbacks I found is that “Mutt” is not working correctly. But note that whenever you make a backup of your valuable files you will probably also update the atime and confuse Mutt (or any other program that relies on atime).
4. Buy more RAM, but lower swappiness.
More gigabytes of RAM could make your system a lot faster, but only if your system actually uses that memory. By default most Linux systems are configured with a “swappiness” setting of 60. If you have 4 to 8 GB of RAM and you want your system to actually use it as much as it can you might want to reduce the swappiness (I have “vm.swappiness = 0″ in “/etc/sysctl.conf”). If you want to learn more about swap you might want to read “Is it safe to turn swap off permanently? ” and the “SwapFaq“.
5. Use Chrome as your browser, that thing is fast!
I personally still prefer Mozilla Firefox as my primary browser, but whenever I use Google’s Chrome Browser I am blown away by its speed. This might very well be the reason it is worlds most poular browser! It can easily be installed in Xubuntu by typing “sudo apt-get install chromium-browser” in the terminal window. Both Firefox and Chrome support the “Ad Block Plus” addon/extension, that makes your pages a little faster to load (and conveniently removes the ads from almost all pages on the Internet).