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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Thu, 21 Jun 2012

Reducing swappiness in Linux for better desktop performance

My Debian Squeeze system has been swapping a lot lately. I think web browsers -- mostly Google Chrome -- are to blame. I'm not sure switching entirely to Firefox will solve the problem. Web browsers eat resources.

To speed things up, I decided to reduce my "swappiness" to see how that affects system performance.

It's been a very long time since I've done it, so I Googled "swappiness in Debian," and came across my own entry from 2010 when I was running Ubuntu 10.04. I got my information from the Ubuntu community Swap FAQ, and you can too.

I followed the recipe on my Debian Squeeze system, changing swappiness from the default of 60 to 10 so the system will use swap less often.

So far, so good.

The next day: This is totally working. After six or so hours of my usual workload, I'm only using 1.2 MB of swap. Nice!

The next week: After a full day of computing, with lots of Google Chrome windows and tabs open all day (I barely used Firefox/Iceweasel today), doing some photo edits but no video editing, I'm using 1.4 GB of RAM and 24.8 MB of swap. I'd say the experiment in changing swappiness is a success.