Modify Ubuntu Swappiness for performance

Sometimes, it is possible to improve the performance of Ubuntu on older hardware by modifying the disk swapping behavior.

Check your current setting:

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

To modify the behavior, just change the value and reboot. Most documentation recommends trying a value of 10.

sudo vi /etc/sysctl.conf

Add (or change):

# Decrease swappiness value (default:60)


Linux/Windows file cleanup

If you make heavy (or even typical) use of your computer, you’ll often notice that it just doesn’t seem as fast as it once was. For a slight increase in performance, disk space and to generally remove some of the ‘temporary’ files/cruft that are routinely written to disk you have a few options.

Here are a few of my current favorites for doing ‘Spring Cleaning’ on my computers… BleachBit and CCleaner

BleachBit is available on all major platforms (Windows, OS/X, Linux).

Windows NTFS Performance

For a very long time I was perplexed as to why my old 900Mhz Pentium-3 server outperformed many of my newer and faster machines, even when they all were running with essentially the same amount of memory and had the same 7200rpm hard-drives.

I recently realized that over the years, I had optimized the WindowsXP NTFS registry settings with a variety of software and manual edits, and thus had essentially changed the way that windows works with the drive itself.

Here are the current settings that these machines utilize, perhaps you can try them for yourselves:

WARNING: You need to be confortable making edits to your registry to do these changes, as such I will not document ‘how’ to open the registry itself, you can easily find that info anyways.  These are all DWORD settings.


  • DisableNTFSLastAccessUpdate  = 1
  • NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation = 1
  • NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate = 1
  • NtfsMftZoneReservation = 2


Free Windows Defragmentation Software

Windows, due to it’s MS-DOS heritage has a lot of problems due to disk fragmentation.  To maintain optimal disk read speed, it is advised to “defrag” on a regular basis.   Whether or not LINUX has similar problems remains a subject of debate.

I’ve used many different defrag utilities over the years,  my current choices are Diskkeeper Lite and Defraggler.

Most of these vendors are free or provide free trials of their software, I’ve noted the versions I’m familiar with.

Here’s the run-down:

  • Windows Defrag – installed with Windows.
    •  this is provided with (I believe) all versions since Windows 98.
  • Diskeeper – retail
    • – this is the commercial version that was licenced to Microsoft for use with Windows.
    • Search for the older free “Diskeeper Lite 7.0.418”
  • Pirisoft Defraggler – free
  • O&O Defrag – retail, search for older version 4 which was free.
  • Norton Speed Disk – retail

I have not used the following, but they appear to be worth a look:

WARNING – if you use hard-drive encryption, defragging may cause your drive to become unreadable.  Defrag with caution.

Happy Defragging!

Mozilla cache folder

Due to my UNIX background,  I’ve found it helpful, for both security and performance reasons to relocate your ‘cache’ or temporary files to a new location (Unix/Linux gurus may prefer /tmp/) here’s the simple process for doing this on a Windows machine using Firefox.

This is useful for several reasons:

* Moving many of your ‘tmp’ files/folders to a single location makes it easier to “clean house”.
* If you move ‘tmp’ to a separate drive or partition (like in UNIX), your primary drive will be less fragmented and may even show increased performance.

Firefox didn’t make this as easy to change as MSIE, but it’s a trivial matter. Find and edit the prefs.js file in your Profile directory and add the following…

user_pref(“browser.cache.disk.parent_directory”, “C:\\temp\\Mozilla”);

Alternately, you can type “about:config” in the URL/address line of the browser and add the String…

browser.cache.disk.parent_directory with a value of “C:\\temp\\Mozilla”

If you want to keep your existing cached files, you can always copy them over from the old location.

For Windows XP with MSIE6/7, the disk cache location is easily changed in the Internet Control Panel, on the General tab, Settings button. Microsoft seems to change that control panel with every new OS/browser version, but it’s generally named similarly on different configurations.

Good luck !