5 Quick Tips to Improve Ubuntu 11.04 Unity Performance

In my opinion, one area where successive Ubuntu releases continuously under-performed is on the overall system performance front. Every new Ubuntu release feels more and more bloated, especially so with latest Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. I was quite taken aback by fact that, even the so called Ubuntu "derivatives" like Pinguy OS and Elementary OS were a lot slicker than the original Ubuntu. Having said that, Unity is still very young and I believe it will become vastly improved by the time of next Ubuntu LTS release. But what all can we do to significantly improve overall performance of Ubuntu Unity right now? Lets explore.

Disclaimer: There are no guarantees that the following instructions are going to work picture perfect in all hardware. You should know what you are doing AKA use it at your own risk.

Most Important Tip - Update Your System Regularly
  • This may sound trivial, but installing updates regularly might be the most important thing you need to do for optimum performance.
  • You don't need to go anywhere else to know this, just consider Ubuntu 11.04. It was plagued with frequent crashes and many other minor bugs. But since the release, updates started pouring in and Unity is now much more stable and trouble free.
  • Check for updates in Ubuntu regularly.
Install Preload
  • As we have discussed before, installing Preload can drastically improve your overall Ubuntu Unity performance. 
  • Preload monitors applications that users run, and by analyzing this data, predicts what applications users might run, and fetches those binaries and their dependencies into memory for faster startup times.
  • The only downside is that, installing Preload sometimes results in an increase of system boot time. There was a slight increase but nothing significant as far as I am concerned.
Disable Unused Applications from Startup

  • By default, a pretty good number of applications are included in the startup applications list. By removing the unused/unwanted applications from the Startup Applications, you can save significant amount of resources.
  • Just search the term 'startup' in Ubuntu Unity dash and Startup Applications will come up first. Find out the applications you don't use and disable or delete them. 
  • As you can see I have disabled automatic updates and evolution alarm notify among others since I don't want update manager to run automatically(I do check for updates regularly anyway) and I don't use Evolution at all.
  • Warning: Don't disable/delete applications you don't know.
Apt-Fast Accelerates Your Apt-Get Download Speeds
  • Apt-fast is a simple command line utility that can make installation and upgrading of softwares in Ubuntu/Debian much faster. 
  • Apt-fast make use of Axel app which accelerates HTTP/FTP downloads by using multiple sources for one file. Author claims that, apt-fast could make your installations and upgrades up to 26x faster! Do the following in Terminal to install it.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tldm217/tahutek.net
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install apt-fast
  • Done. You have successfully installed Apt-Fast. Close and re-open terminal once again and try to use 'apt-fast' instead of 'apt-get'. You will see the difference.
Try Alternative Desktops
  • If you feel like GNOME and the latest Unity 3D is just too heavy for your liking, may be its time to try something new. 
The article is primarily meant for novice Ubuntu users. You can find more advanced tips here. If you are interested in more such optimization tips for Ubuntu 11.04, check out our collection of top things to do after installing Ubuntu 11.04  and 6 awesome quicklists for Unity.