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rollo 10-30-2004 08:09 PM

Shocked newbie discovers... Linux is slower than Windows!
It wasn't supposed to be like this! I migrated from Windows to Linux in order to squeeze some speed out of my system. But my computer has never run slower than now.

Everyone goes on and on about Microsoft's "bloatware", but my clean install of Suse 9.1 is grindingly sluggish compared to Windows XP. Every operation, every window manoeuvre sets the hard drive chugging for long seconds, even minutes. Opening OpenOffice takes an age and makes other programs unusable; the same goes for any other largeish application. If I click on a button by mistake I am reduced to staring at an eggtimer for a small eternity - or going off to make a cup of tea. And I won't even mention boot-up and shut-down.

What am I doing wrong? It's true that my system spec is not exactly light speed (P2 300Mhz 128mb laptop) but the speed in XP was (and is - it is dual-bootable) perfectly decent for internet and word-processing tasks. How can Linux be so much slower? And what can do to speed it up?

qwijibow 10-30-2004 08:37 PM

souds to me like somthing went seriously wrong.....
somthing is definatly wrong.
im not familiar with suSE, does it start services by default ?

make sure only what you want to use is running.
if your using a nividia graphics card, use the accelerated drivers from

When people are babbling on about how fast linux is, there usually talking about Lightning fast Highly optimised distro's like Gentoo or slackware.. or they have atleast recompiled their kernel with specific optimisations for their CPU.

post the output of dmesg, maybe you have incompatable hardware, or somthing.
also what background daemons are you running ?

could be anything without more info.

MS3FGX 10-30-2004 08:52 PM

If you were trying to escape bloated software, you shouldn't have chosen a bloated distro.

The new "newbie friendly" distros are already much more bloated than Windows. They include more software then you could even possibly use.

For your system, something like Slackware (or perhaps the Slackware based Vector Linux) would work wonders, and you would certainly see a speed improvement over Windows XP (assuming everything was properly configured).

ror 10-30-2004 09:06 PM

Are you using KDE or gnome?

If so try fluxbox, that should be damn fast.

I'm using slackware with fluxbox, and with quite a lot open (4-5 browser windows, x-chat, dc-gui, transfer going at 900kbps) I'm not using much more than 120MB of RAM. (constant HD crunching sounds like you're swapping a lot)

qwijibow 10-30-2004 10:08 PM

true.. fluxbox / icewm / xfce4 is lighning, but perhaps too much for a newb to handle.

rollo 10-31-2004 04:48 AM

Thanks for the ideas
I don't think anything went wrong during the install. It's just that, as MS3FGX points out, Suse is crammed with unnecessary features. At the very least the Suse GUI appears to be infinitely more customisable than XP's - there seem to be hundreds of skins, screensavers, themes and thousands of other petty options to tweak. It's all very nice but it must slow the thing down.

My problem is that getting Suse up and running was already pushing the limits of my computing expertise. For newbies it's always the same. If nothing goes wrong it's easy, but it takes just one undecipherable error message to throw everything into confusion. The words "kernel", "daemon" and "recompile" mean something to me, but (as Qwijibow points out) I suspect I would need to understand them far better to successfully install a slimmer version of Linux such as Slackware. I have devoted days and days to troubleshooting just to get this "newbie friendly" system up and running.

It's a pity because, lamentable speed aside, I really like Linux. Even I can see that it is conceptually more elegant, better thought-out, than Windows.

And apart from anything else, I just read that Bill Gates is a republican.

qwijibow 10-31-2004 06:50 AM

if you want to get a high performance linux distro with abolutly no bloat, you need a from source distributon.
(one which you compile yourself from source code)

most distributions are so called binary distribution (like windows) the source code is compiled for you, optimised to work well on a wide range of machines.

for example, lots of people have printers, so most programs are compiled with printer support. great, but if you dont have a printer, (or you are never going to us a certain application to print somthing) then compiling with printer support just makes bigger libraries and slower programs.

in from source distributions, you only compile what you want.
also, instead of being optimised for i686 class of processors (which include all the pentiums since pentium 1, and all the athlons since well.. about the same time as pentium1, and winchips and all the other non anchant processors) you can compile with processor optimiations for your exact CPU, to such a degree even, that the binarys will only run on your processor.

anyways, if you dont mind doing a little reading, and spending all day compiling, then go for Gentoo.
it takes forever to install, but you only have to do it once.
and you get a fast customised slim distro.

mikshaw 10-31-2004 09:35 AM

The amount of software installed has little or no impact on how bloated a system is. It only matters if it's all running at once, and if it fills your disk.
So these "unnecessary features" will slow you down only while they are running. KDE likes to run a lot of this bloat, so considering something lighter will help a lot.

trickykid 10-31-2004 09:53 AM

A default install of Suse would be like doing a default install of WinXP. Sure its gonna be slow. Tweak it, remove unnecessary services, get a lighter desktop manager or window manager, use less intensive programs and or just simply upgrade your machine itself. 300mhz is pushing it these days. Though they still make excellent small servers without X.. ;)

qwijibow 10-31-2004 11:01 AM


The amount of software installed has little or no impact on how bloated a system is. It only matters if it's all running at once,
true, but it also matters what libraries your binaries are compiled againsed.
anouther example is the messaging client GAIM.
some of gaims protocols use SSL login, some do not.

pre-compiled versions are always compiled againsed SSL libraries.
if for example you only use protocols which dont use SSL, then you should compile gaim without sll support, and gaim will load and run faster.

in this sence, i would say Gaim compiled with SSL support is MORE bloated than Gaim without SSL support.

SciYro 10-31-2004 11:04 AM

on a 300mhz computer, compiling will take hours , and literally days to compile all the needed software ...

so unless you really want a slim distro, just stick with suse or some other binary distro to save you from the days needed to install gentoo or slackware

Pcghost 10-31-2004 11:07 AM

Go into YaST in the runlevel editor (under system) and turn off the stuff you know you wont need. Things like postfix (the mail server) do not need to be running on a laptop and will free up a lot of resources. And for the record, I run a SuSE 9.1 mail gateway/spam-filter/anti-virus/firewall on a PII-300 with 256 in RAM and after I shut off all the crap I didn't need it is happily processing mail at a good clip. It isn't the distro, it truly is what is running at boot time that makes the difference.

jonr 10-31-2004 11:15 AM

First of all, I've never used Windows XP but I am assuming it isn't much snappier than Windows 98, which I used for several years.

Even with KDE any Mandrake Linux installation I've had so far has been much, much faster in all respects than Windows 98. Version 8 didn't look very good, version 8.2 started looking better, 9 still better, 9.2 looks far better than Windows 98--and all of them are so much faster there's just about no comparison. Most programs load in the blink of an eye, and even a monster like loads in four or five seconds. Operations within the programs are carried out far faster than in the equivalent MS Windows software I used to use.

I don't use KDE because it reminds me too much of Windows! And it does slow things down, but I don't think it should slow things down that much. (I prefer IceWM over all the window managers I've tried, probably close to a dozen by now.)

There must be something else wrong.

apokryphos 10-31-2004 12:00 PM

SuSE is certainly by default much faster and more efficient with memory than XP, regardless of what some people are saying here. The advice of some posts here should probably sort out your problems.

rickg17 10-31-2004 04:43 PM

Guys.... While all of the 'compile your own," "use slackware" etc advice is, I'm sure, well-intentioned, it's not going to fly if we want Linux to penetrate beyond the technical segment of the market. It may come as a shock but most people don't want to learn the guts of Linux or any other OS, they just want to do stuff with their computer.

That said, the above advice about turning off unneeded software in YasT sounds like the place to start. From your description, it sounds like there's too much software running in too little memory, so the system is resorting to swapping things to hard disk which is why there's so much disk activity. Turnning things off will free up memory and alleviate this. Things to turn off if they're on -

Firewall (iptables or shorewall) Yes, I know... security etc but try it...
Proftpd (FTP server)

Then try looking through the configuration of KDE (YasT again) and turn off things that might be taking up memory but are not needed. Shading of menus, etc look pretty but consume resources.

There's one more thing gthat you might do - buy another 128M of RAM so you aren't swapping to disk so much. No, you shouldn't have to, and yes, you should still do the stuff outlined above, but if you can get RAM for $30 or so it might be a better thing to spend the money vs spending hours of your life.

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