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I hear it all the time here @ LQ: My computer is running slow. Why?
I'd like to take this small space on the forum to post a general tip for new users of Linux that have speed and efficiency on their mind: stay away from full installs on a lot of distributions. Go with minimal instead!
Most computer users new to Linux and in the process of switching are unaware of their needs, and that is completely fine . But to those users, please avoid the natural decision to install everything to give you more choices in your runtime environment. Go instead with a minimal install and add software as it enters the zone where you say "I need this" as opposed to "I want this." With advanced software package management available for the majority of distributions (e.g. apt-get, synaptic...) this has become a relatively simple task.
But why should you do this?
Doing so will eliminate a lot of the services (daemons, etc.) that eat up the resources you need to get the most out of your system. You also get the added benefit (albeit a small one) of the added space on your hard drive, and in most cases a faster boot and program load time as well.
For many, an older computer is a prime subject for testing out Linux. I don't want you to be discouraged by some distributions that install a lot of unneeded software by default, slowing down your performance. I just want you to know that there are plenty of options out there for you: window managers like IceWM, fvwm, and BlackBox aim at decreasing resource use, as does the desktop environment Xfce. That being said, even larger DEs such as KDE or Gnome can run smoothly under the proper configuration.
If you want speed and efficiency when you are trying out Linux, make better choices over more choices: go with the minimal install.
Users can choose everything. It is just a matter if they have enough disk space and do not mind at the end of the installation to deselect the services, so they are not running at boot-up. Mandrake gives these option during the installation. I'm not sure about Fedora.
I recommend turning off samba, portmap, ftp (proftp), www (apache), fam, and many others, but do not turn off syslog, alsa, and network.
TIP 1: Make /var about 256 MB as ReiserFS and put in front of the drive for fast logging.
TIP 2: Do not forget to specify notail for ReiserFS partitions if running LILO or else data corruption will occur.
While installing everything may be feasible on a lot of computers, my post was specifically for those who are refurbishing older computers with limited RAM and/or hard drive space, or just for those who want screaming fast performance. I personally went your route and installed everything because I'm curious, but I had the resources to do so. Users come in to Linux thinking that it will be the cureall for problems that they just replicate for themselves when installing all sorts of services and back themselves into a corner when they don't know how to eliminate them. That's all. Thanks for the feedback!
Having hung around LQ for a bit now, I'm going to take a contrarian view about this. Personally, I think a new user should install everything and then work on shutting down unneeded services. While you point out a valid problem, going with too light an install can cause as many issues as installing everything. I don't know how many people I've helped where the initial problem was that they left out basic stuff like gcc because they didn't think they would be programming. Then they were lost when they tried to install something from source. Furthermore, hang around in the wireless forum for a bit. Since all those drivers are kernel modules, you need to have the kernel source code installed and pretty much no distro does that on the initial install. However if they did, a lot of people would have a lot easier time getting their wireless up and running. And if disk space is a problem, go with a full install of a lighter distro. My original Linux rig was a 133MHz pentium with 49MB of RAM and 2 hard drives, one 2GB and another 6GB. A full install of Slackware fit on the 6GB without a problem and in console mode, that box was extremely usable.
But how do new users know what to shutdown and what to leave running. I think making a minimal install i.e a desktop environment and a few apps, then move on from there is better than installing loads of apps that you will probably never use.
When I see the "my computer is too slow" kind of comments, it is usually from people who are brand new to Linux and are struggling with it. Of course there is also the occasional troll, but we won't discuss that......
Anyway, I guess that my experience suggests that a new user is going to have fewer problems if they have extra software laying around than if they don't have enough. Usually what a new user is going to be doing is installing software, just to see what is out there, and if they are working off of a minimal install, then there will be all sorts of frustrations with dependency problems, missing compilers and so on. And while I agree that a new user may not know what to shut off when they first start using Linux, finding those sorts of answers really isn't that hard. To be honest, if a new user isn't interested in learning enough about Linux to know what to use and what to shut down, then they really shouldn't be using it in the first place.