Would a small SSD used for swap improve performance on a 64bit rig that is limited to 4 gb of ram?

Asked by Harold Hein

The rig I have for Ubuntu maxes out at 4 GB RAM. IF performance on Win7 is any indication, 4 GB really isn't enough for a 64 bit system. If this is also true for Ubuntu, can a small SSD be used to improve performance? I recall that, on WIn 7 64bit, there is a way to use a usb pendrive for additional RAM, albeit somewhat slower. Can Ubuntu do this using an SSD? If not, Would it be worth using an SSD for swap or any other way?


Question information

English Edit question
Ubuntu gnome-disk-utility Edit question
No assignee Edit question
Solved by:
Harold Hein
Last query:
Last reply:
Revision history for this message
actionparsnip (andrew-woodhead666) said :

What do you use the system for?

4Gb RAM is a lot for most Linux uses.

Revision history for this message
Anton Kanishchev (ak12-deactivatedaccount) said :

It really does depend what you do with your system. For example i am running 32bit (ubuntu 12.04) with PAE enabled, allowing the OS to see up to 64 GB of ram if I recall correctly. I also have 4gb of ram on my system. If you are finding that you are constantly filling your ram (look in system monitor, there will be a breakdown of ram and swap usage in resources tab) and filling up the swap space , then yes an ssd may increase your performance, but not by much , if at all.

   On the other hand if you are using most of your ram then it may be more beneficial to upgrade your system entirely than spend money on an ssd. Small ssd drives are still not cheap ( at least 40£ on a 32/64gb ssd with fairly limited performance increases,compared to a couple of GB of ram extra).

 The ram in your computer is many times (200?) faster than a harddrive or an ssd for that matter. The only advantage of an SSD is very low seek times, but read and write times are comparable to an hdd.

Another "problem" is that ubuntu generally manages memory very well. For example, at the moment I have 2.3/4Gb of data in ram and only 10MB in swap. So for every 2000 data requests, one of them will reside in swap. From what i can see on my system (i know mine is 32bit and not 64 bit) i am running quite a few programs and have not yet filled up ram (i.e. about 30 tabs in chrome , and a dozen programs, including blender, sciDav, a couple of IDE's).

A quick explanation of why my set up could be similar to an ssd with swap.
I have an SSHD, 4gb solid state with a 500gb hdd hybrid drive (seagate), meaning that most used data gets stored on the 4gb ssd and everything else is on the hdd part, i.e. 4gb of swap space essentially.

Conclusion: if you are suffering perfomance issues upgrading to a more powerfull rig (8gb ram + better cpu etc etc) may be better in the long run than to drop money on an ssd , with potentially marginal (cost/performance increase) improvement .

Revision history for this message
Harold Hein (halhein) said :

The current plan is to use as a headless File Server. That is, if I can access from another computer that runs Ubuntu or Win7.
I assume that there is something akin to webview or remote desktop for access to Ubuntu. If not I guess I'll have to pickup another monitor. Use in future; who knows? If I am successful in weening off of windows, I might want to use for web development. In Windows I've been using DotNetNuke. I don't know yet what there is to use in a Linux environment.

I had the ram and I picked up the mboard & CPU for a song, What real money I had I put into the WD RE4 1TB HDD's. So, I'm not inclined or able to throw any more money into this project right now.

It sounds like 4gb of memory will do just fine. At least for now.

Thanks to both for your responses.

Revision history for this message
actionparsnip (andrew-woodhead666) said :

If its a simple file server then you could use 512Mb RAM and be fine.