Speed Up Your Computer with Ubuntu MATE

Published on by Jim Mendenhall

Remember the days when Ubuntu was a fast and light Linux distribution that worked well on low-end and old hardware? One of the big features we talked about to convince people to try Linux used to be that “it is so much faster than Windows!” Well, those days seem to be a distant memory. As desktop environments have matured, adding features and lots of flashy desktop animations, things have become slow again. It is no longer a certainty that Ubuntu will run any faster on any given computer than Windows 8.1 (in fact, it may very well run slower).

I recently inherited a fairly new, but very low-end, Lenovo laptop at work. I was not happy with the performance of Windows 7 on the laptop and upgraded to Windows 8.1. The laptop was still slow, in fact, it was barely usable. Wanting to both rid myself of Windows and speed up the laptop, I decided to install Ubuntu 14.10, because of course this would be faster, right? Wrong!

I really enjoy the Ubuntu desktop, and unlike some others in the community, actually like the Unity interface. However, with Unity, Compiz, and all the fancy new desktop features, Ubuntu no longer seems like a good fit for low-end hardware. In fact, the laptop seemed significantly slower running Ubuntu compared to Windows 8.1!

Enter Ubuntu MATE 14.04! The MATE Desktop Environment is a version of GNOME 2 that is updated “to add support for new technologies while preserving a traditional desktop experience.” Think of it like going back in time to pre-Unity Ubuntu, but still having access to all of the newest Linux software. Having grown accustomed to Unity, going back in time to the old GNOME 2 desktop paradigm was a bit of a shock to me … but the performance improvement made that short-lived discomfort worth it!

Ubuntu MATE

With Ubuntu MATE installed, this laptop is usable again. I have access to all the latest Ubuntu software, but don’t have Unity and Compiz slowing things down. RAM usage is significantly lower and everything “just works.” If you’re looking for a performant Linux distro for low-end hardware, give Ubuntu MATE a try!