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Thread: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

  1. #1
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    Exclamation How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    How can I successfully set my Xubuntu 8.04 to use a swap file residing on a USB key ?

    At the office, they gave me a laptop that was in a drawer but they didn't botter checking it. It only has 256Mb of memory. That is the only way that I can have a laptop at the office: take an old one and that is the only one left.

    I installed Xubuntyu 8.04 on it. It has only one HD so I had originally created 1 partiton for the O/S and 1 partition for the swap. But it doesn't go fast enough.

    So I thought, I have this 8Gb USB key that I do not use. Why not create 2 partitions on it: 1 4gb swap and 4gb Ext3. I removed the swap file on the laptop (formatted it as ext3 with the Xubuntu install CD).

    But even with the USB key plugged in, it seams to go even slower then before and the USB key doesn't flash often (light).

    How can I make sure my laptop is using the swap from the USB key ?

    Will it go faster then with a 2nd partitioned Swap ?

    USB key is an 8Gb, OCZ Rally-2 480Kb/s
    Desktop: I5-2500 on a Z77 MB, 16Gb memory, GTX-570
    Windows-7 (trying to add Ubuntu 12.04 LTS)

  2. #2
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    Using your usb device will not make the computer any faster when using it a a swap partition. Are you sure you are even using swap. What is the output of:

    Code:
    free -m
    This will show us home much ram and swap is being used.

    Jim

  3. #3
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    with 256mb ram you just need to trim the desktop, swap on the disk is fine. ubuntu is not light, debian is faster.
    i'm running debian etch on a 450mhz 256mb ram laptop right now.
    you can setup gnome for lower resource or try a window manager.
    it really depends on your needs, theres tons of ways to make it work.

    gnome net install:
    http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/...sinesscard.iso

    xfce4:
    http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/...-xfce-CD-1.iso

    dsl:
    http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/
    Last edited by kerry_s; October 16th, 2008 at 09:23 PM.

  4. #4
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    Using the System Monitor and constantly opening new applications, I could see the amount of memory rising but the swap amount stayed at zero at all times. I eventualy winded up freezing the whole thing as all local memory was used but swap was still = 0

    So I guess it really was not using any swap at all.

    Should I set up the USB as swap on re-installation time ?
    Desktop: I5-2500 on a Z77 MB, 16Gb memory, GTX-570
    Windows-7 (trying to add Ubuntu 12.04 LTS)

  5. #5
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    I could be wrong, but for /swap or /tmp on a usb you might get better performance with ext2. If it crashes or power goes out and battery is out, etc., etc., then you probably don't need the journaling of ext3.

    Of course, as previously noted, you might not need much swap.

    Etch, sounds good. Possibly the oldest supported LTS of Ubuntu or Kubuntu would be sufficient, it is an older laptop, and then there is always Xubuntu. Enjoy.

  6. #6
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    Ubuntulight is another option. If it makes you feel better I am running Xubuntu on an old Compaq Presario 1246 with 128MB of ram with 8MB used for onboard graphics!!!
    It works fine if you use common sense on what apps you use. I use opera for browsing. I still use OOo though, but it does run slow. If you manage to get your swap on usb issue working and you notice a difference please post and let us know.

    Have a look here for some info and instruction :-

    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.p...ght=readyboost

  7. #7
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    On old computers, USB read/write is painfully slow. Putting your /swap on a usb device will definitely not make your computer any faster. For that matter, using swap in general will not speed your computer up, since swapping to/from a drive of any sort is about a thousand times slower than using ram. For optimum performance, you should use as little swap as possible by not exceeding your total ram.

    I think what you're experiencing is simply that Xubuntu is not the "fast, lightweight OS for old computers" that it's claimed to be. Try installing a truly lightweight windows manager (Openbox, Fluxbox, IceWM) and/or being selective about which applications you use (and not having lots of apps open at the same time). If all else fails, there are non-Ubuntu distros such as DSL or SliTaz that are much, much faster on old hardware.

  8. #8
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    The problem is thhat on some old laptops (mine) the amount of ram you can put in is limited. My old presarion can only handle 128M in total. Therefore any other way of speeding up swap, and possibly freeing some disk space is an advantage (only got 4G)

  9. #9
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    I have debian on an old old desktop with only 128mb ram. Debian works a lot faster than XP(Whistler) that came on the box. Ice Weasel(the debian version of Firefox) is not Firefox. And there is no flash player available for Ice Weasel, but for all other surfing Ice Weasel is fine.
    Last edited by jheaton5; October 13th, 2008 at 05:52 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: How2: use USB key as swap for low mem laptop ^

    I concur with previous posts - you're better off choosing another window manager / lighter distro on you laptop.

    Did you consider moving the data to the USB drive instead of putting the swap there? Even a slow hard drive will be faster than a thumb drive, and you can read/write as many times as you want on a HDD...

    You could format to have a / and swap partition on the HDD and simply move all your data to the thumb drive (maybe even encrypted?)

    Just a thought...

    - Trib'

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