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Thread: How to make Kubuntu (KDE) blazing fast and optimise it for performance

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    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Kubuntu Development Release

    How to make Kubuntu (KDE) blazing fast and optimise it for performance

    I've been seeing a lot of comments criticizing KDE and Kubuntu especially concerning performance and decided to write this thread.

    1. Don't be scared from a previous experience with it
    2. Updates
    3. Graphic drivers
    4. Optimising KDE settings
    1) Reducing shader quality and CPU usage
    2) Configuring Desktop Effects
    3) Speeding up KDE start up
    4) Removing unwanted animations
    5) Disable unwanted krunner plugins
    6) Don't keep to many plasmoids (desktop or dashboard widgets)

    1) Install the kubuntu-low-fat-settings package
    2) Reset KDE to defaults

    Common stereotypes/thoughts about Kubuntu
    1) Kubuntu is Ubuntu with plain KDE on it.
    2) Kubuntu should include a branded wallpaper

    Useful tip


    1. Don't be scared from a previous experience with it

    Don't give up on Kubuntu because you tried it months back and didn't like it. I know that this sounds stupid but this is the major mistake people make. KDE has been seeing a lot of performance fixes only recently most notably the kwin port to Open GL 2 and GLES. If you look at Martin Gräßlin's blog, there is a lot of information about performance improvements being done. In fact expect the January release of KDE 4.8 to be a real exceptional improvement in terms of performance with improvements like dolphin 2.0 and QML. When KDE 4.0 was released, it did suffer from lacking features and performance issues. However it was a complex (and necessary) transition because KDE 3 relied on a lot of older things like QT3 which were no longer being supported. Up to KDE 4.5 the main focus was on enriching functionality, now that all the improvements have been made, developers are focusing on performance.

    2. Updates

    As I mentioned early, massive improvements are brought with each update. However not all these updates reach users quickly enough because of Ubuntu's way of dealing with them. To get the latest (stable) version of KDE, keep a regular check on for information about the latest release. You can get latest KDE updates from the kubuntu backports ppa.

    Note: This is an official ppa maintained by the Kubuntu packaging team itself for stable releases of KDE. The packages undergo a lot of testing before being released. First they are tested by KDE uptream then by the Kubuntu team.

    To add this ppa

    1) The command line way

    sudo apt-add-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/ppa
    sudo apt-add-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
    2) The GUI way

    Open Muon Package Manager from the menu (on taskbar). Click Settings and "Configure software sources"

    The following dialogue should show up

    Under the "Other Software" tab add "ppa:kubuntu-ppa/ppa" and "ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports" (without quotes) and update the system in Muon.

    3. Graphic drivers
    Note: I would not recommend messing too much with drivers do this only if you think you have faulty drivers.

    KDE relies a lot of graphic drivers and it is common to see drivers getting fixes specifically to support functionality in KDE

    Nvidia Users and Intel users can get updates from this ppa of stable drivers (Use instructions in previous section to add)

    Ati users should read this article from the Ubuntu Documentation

    Intel Users might want to try experimental SNA support. Intel SNA is a new acceleration method for Intel GPU's. While it is aimed at Sandy Bridge chips, it also helps older GPU's as well. If you know the risks see this to enable SNA

    4. Optimising KDE settings

    There are many tweaks to make KDE run smoothly on your system.

    1) Reducing shader quality and CPU usage

    Although it may sound like I am trying to give you bad quality graphics, I assure you this is not the case. The shader quality change will be completely unnoticeable on your system.

    Open System Settings and click on "Application Appearance"
    Under Style, go to the "fine tuning tab" and set Low display resolution and Low CPU" as shown

    2) Configuring Desktop Effects

    Desktop composition is quite popular on OS GUI's nowadays from Windows 7 to OS X and GNOME however they do demand some GPU power.

    To open the configuration pane, open "Desktop Effects" from system settings

    a. The General Tab

    If your computer is really slow and has a very outdated GPU consider disabling the effects altogether. (For most users, this is not necessary).

    If you chose to keep desktop effects, I would recommend changing animation speed to Fast in the combobox.

    b. The All effects Tab

    Here I would recommend looking into three plugins

    Blur is the most resource hungry effect in KDE although it does look really nice and most systems should handle it just fine. However I would recommend clicking the wrench to configure and and reduce the strength of the effect. According to me a lower strength actually looks slightly better. If you don't want blur or believe that you system cannot handle it, feel free to disable the effect.

    This plugin by default makes your windows translucent when dragged. I find that this is rather unnecessary and wastes resources for no reason. I would recommend disabling it

    Resize Window
    Enabling this effect actually speed up resizing Windows. Under the configuration options you will find that you can use either the outline or a scaled texture.

    c. The Advanced Tab

    Here, I would recommend you set scale method to "Crisp" for best results. The visual difference between these options is really negligible.

    Note: Changing Compositing type to "Xrender" uses the CPU for effects, although many effects will get disabled this is a very good idea on old graphic cards that are not supposed to be doing compositing. (Similar to disabling all effects in a way)

    On some Intel Chips I have noticed better performance with vsync on

    3) Speeding up KDE start up

    In "System Settings" under "system administration" launch the "Startup and Shutdown" settings and enter the service manager section. Disable services that you do not need E.g If you do not need bluetooth, uncheck "BlueDevil"

    Note: By default KDE restarts all applications that have not been closed on shutdown when it starts up. If you like this behavior, I find that it is faster to Hibernate (Suspend to Disk) rather than shutdown the system.

    You can change KDE's autostart behavior in the Session Management section in this same configuration dialogue.

    4) Removing unwanted animations

    The default oxygen style comes with many unwanted animations that can be disabled without significantly reducing the user experience.

    Press "Alt + F2" and type "oxygen-settings"

    Under the "Animations" tab disable the unwanted animations. I would recommend disabling all of them as none of them are actually useful or significantly noticeable. They also use a considerable amount of resources.

    5) Disable unwanted krunner plugins

    Krunner is an extremely powerful tool in KDE. However not everybody uses all the features that it offers. (Some people merely use it to run commands) Disabling the plugins that you do not use will reduce resource usage

    Press "Alt + F2" and press the wrench on the left side. Disable all the plugins that you do not need.

    6) Don't keep to many plasmoids (desktop or dashboard widgets)

    To many plasmoids can significantly reduce performance especially CPU usage monitors and such. Don't keep too many plasmoids.


    If KDE is still running slow there are two things you can do.

    1) Install the kubuntu-low-fat-settings package

    This package is intended for slow computers and allowed me (with some more tweaks) to run Kubuntu on a 600 Mhz Pentium 3 with 768 Mb RAM. More details can be found here.

    2) Reset KDE to defaults

    If you feel that you have messed up KDE too much and want to revert to defaults, you can delete all its settings and have KDE recreate them.

    Note: You will lose all settings (Desktop, Documents, Pictures etc remain).

    Login to a console session or in recovery mode do

    You may explore the .kde folder for a particular config file that you wish to reset instead of deleting the whole thing.

    cd /home/MyUsername
    rm -rf .kde
    3) Removing Ubuntu/Lubuntu/Xubuntu packages for a pure Kubuntu system

    Since Aysiu has a perfect tutorial on his website I will redirect you there. His blog also has a lot of other valuable information e.g how to chose between DE's

    Common stereotypes about Kubuntu

    1) Kubuntu is Ubuntu with plain KDE on it.

    This is quite untrue. While the Kubuntu development team is extremely small they have made muon, the message notifier and some other small things. Many of them also do a lot of upstream work on KDE which obviously reaches all distros. This is the spirit of Open Source, we do not want things to be Kubuntu. Fedora and OpenSuSe specific, we share each other's contributions.

    2) Kubuntu should include a branded wallpaper

    As some of you may recall in the KDE3 days Kubuntu did indeed have its own wallpaper. However nowadays, Kubuntu's ISO reaches 699 Mb, so including a wallpaper makes it by pass the cd limit. CD size is a major constraint for Kubuntu. However you can install the kubuntu-full package for more things (This package may give a lot of unwanted things beware). kdegames and all popular packages are available in the repos.

    Useful tip
    By default when installed on a small screen device, Kubuntu uses a different interface. If you want to use the normal interface on a device like a netbook, go to system settings > Workspace Behaviour > Workspace and change it to desktop

    Thanks for reading, I hope you liked this post. Feel free to contribute tips of your own. If your KDE system is slow, I can try to help you if you provide your hardware information and the list of processes running with CPU and memory usage.
    Last edited by kio_http; March 11th, 2012 at 02:07 PM.


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