LinuxPlanet: KDE 3.1 Shines on Low End Hardware

In a recent article featured on LinuxPlanet, senior technology consultant Rob Reilly ran KDE 3.1 through its paces using a low-end 133MHz PC with 128 MB RAM. According to the story, despite a number of new features and aesthetic
improvements, KDE 3.1 reverses the general desktop trend of increased
resource usage:
"Even though KDE took about two and 1/2 minutes to load, most of the programs, menus, icons and animations seemed to appear almost instantly
and ran without a hitch. [. . .] For the average
office or home user, the combination of an older PC and KDE 3.1
would work perfectly well for their needs."

Dot Categories: 


by Bryan Feeney (not verified)

I remember when I got my 133Mhz PC, it had 32MB, and that was pretty high end, it was recommended for workstations only! A modern Linux/KDE/OOo setup would crawl on that. Memory is the big problem with modern Linux apps, you start up KDE, Mozilla and OpenOffice on that kind of hardware and you're looking at a painful user-experience

by ian reinhart geiser (not verified)

Yes it is, my PowerCenter 132 was midrange in 1996, and that had 64mb of ram. Granted the box before that I had was a Quadra 880AV now that was top of the line 10 years ago... 60Mhz with 48mb of ram!

Hardware has moved quickly in the last 5 years. Its amazing to see win2k and KDE run side by side on the same 150Mhz/128mb box... Win2k starts up faster than linux, but quickly slows down to a halt, where KDE/Linux takes 4x longer to startup, it runs smoothly once you are going... Really id rather get a cup of coffie while im loggin in, than sit there in frustration waiting for spellcheck to start.

Just my 2c though.
-ian reinhart geiser

by jmk (not verified)

> Win2k starts up faster than linux,

No linux elitism here, but nevertheless i have to say that i have hard time believing this. XP maybe, but not W2k. We've even done some (half) serious benchmarking regarding this between debian, suse, redhat and w2k with their *default* setup. Debian is usually fastest with suse being number two, but W2k doesn't really shine in bootup times no matter what way you look at it.

by chillin (not verified)

I think you're mistaken on this one dude. Windows 2000 beat my RedHat installation everytime, and win2k has been repeately faster than Windows XP. But like the previous poster said, that's only boot up time. Once started it gradually slows down.

by Brandon (not verified)

Actually... Win2K was known for having horrible bootup times. Even on the fastest systems with lots of tweaking it would take a very long time to load.
Luckily, once you got in 2000 you would very rarely need to reboot (certainly less often than my linux machines). And unlike WinDOS (9x/Me), it would not detiorate the longer the system was up. Godbless that unix foundation :)

WinXP on the other hand, boots up about 100X faster than any linux, OS X, or win2K install I've ever seen (only winMe could come close.... but we're only talking about real OS's here)

by Ladislav Strojil (not verified)

Actually... Win2k has very variable startup times. On my machine it can starts pretty fast (when it does, most of the time it just says "STOP"), on my brother-in-law's machine (both 1.8 GHz), it takes several minutes.

Anyway, I have not seen my Linux crash for more than two years (it was close when my Konqueror claimed 1 GB+ of memory, but it recovered).
I have crashed WinXP by moving the mouse while loading a DVD (yes, the whole thing went down with a BSOD, not just one application). :-)
But your mileage may vary. :-)

by phutureboy (not verified)

Anyway, I have not seen my Linux crash for more than two years (it was close when my Konqueror claimed 1 GB+ of memory, but it recovered).
I have crashed WinXP by moving the mouse while loading a DVD (yes, the whole thing went down with a BSOD, not just one application). :-)
But your mileage may vary. :-)

I ran a Linux desktop for over 4 years. The GUI crashed *all the time*. X would freeze or die, or some process (zombie Netscape 4 processes usually) would slow the machine down so much I couldn't even ssh in to kill it.

My last attempt was with Mandrake 9. It ran for a while but eventually something caused X to fail on startup. So I said screw it and got a 2GHz WinXP box - my first Windows machine ever. It's a POS too (slowdowns and 2-minute freezes) but is slightly more tolerable.

I'm as much of a Linux fanboy as the next person. The kernel and shell interface are as stable as a very hard rock, and although the GUI has made remarkable progress over the past few years, it still has some way to go before it can be considered more reliable than Windows. Not dissing, just honestly relaying my experience with it.

by ac (not verified)

Linux stability experiences certainly vary. With NVidias X driver, my machine crashed every day. I changed to XFree86 NVidia driver, and the machine never crashes. I guess that's one consequence of the free OS's configurability - you can configure it to be secure or unsecure, stable or unstable. It's up to you.

by Kuba (not verified)

If you're experiencing repeated crashes and unstabilities, usually your hardware is dying or almost dead. I would bet that that's the case with your linux machine.

by TRyP (not verified)

Yes, I have recently experienced that unfortunate problem.
I was running Slackware 10.2 with KDE 3.5.1 on my Pentium III 1 GHz box
with 256MB RAM, after experiencing trouble with Windows freezing more and more often. The first couple days were good, but then I started experiencing the same trouble with Linux.. I went through reinstalls, formats, different OS's, many installs of Slack 10.2, Windows 2000, and Windows NT 4, and it just kept getting worse and worse.. Finally I began troubleshooting my box, I was in denial about the hardware. I pulled RAM, gfx card, net card, wifi card, switched the processor with the old Celeron 800MHz that used to inhabit it, nothing worked. Only explanation is the motherboard >:| Now I'm running Slack 10.2 on my old AMD-K62 350MHz box (also with 256MB RAM) and yeah, KDE is slow as hell.. not as far as the interface goes, but if I try to play a video, more often than not, the video app crashes. (Noatun won't even'll open and just stop.) I know this has nothing to do with the OS, it's just that the box is a POS. but it isn't crashing. I've had it set up for two days now, uptime is 2 days, 2:57. And this is running KDE, multiple instances of Firefox, Xchat, Apache, Opera, Konqueror, video apps, XMMS, mpg123, multiple instances of KEdit, and others, mostly just testing the stability, plus running my webserver of course.

The conclusion here is, don't knock it until you've tried it on more than one machine. Like Kuba said, if it's crashing, it's probably your hardware. And if it's slow, well, it's probably your outdated hardware.

I know one thing for certain though.. I've had this AMD since 1998, when I paid $1500 for it, it's been moved multiple times, banged around, dusty as hell, had components removed, replaced, removed again, and replaced again, and it's still running with no problems....Comparing this 8 year old box with the 4 year old PIII I had, which died for no apparent reason, it hadn't been abused in any way NEAR what this box has been, if at all, I'll never buy another Intel product again.

by chillin (not verified)

Linux needing rebooting a lot more than Windows ? That's odd man. One of Linux's major selling points is the lack of need for a reboot. But one thing that is very true: it depends on your hardware - regardlesss of what OS you're running. I don't know why, but NVidia gives Linux hell. However, as the other poster said, some newer hardware makes Windows 2000 boot up slow as hell also. There have also been numerous reports of XP crashes. It really all just depends. Someone who does a lot of work with pc hardware will quickly tell you that some brands are just more problematic than others vender parts. Just comes with the territory. Personally, I have an Intel PIII 550mhz running on an Intel i810 motherboard, and I've never had an ounce of trouble. The integrated Intel graphics card never gave me any problem on Windows 2000 or Linux. The soundcard however (ESS 19xx, maestro 2, Allegro, or whatever the hell else it is known by) is nothing but a pain in the ass. It gives me problems on both Windows and Linux. As I said before, it really just all depends...

p.s. Where did you get this information about Windows 2000 having a 'Unix Foundation' ?

by eze (not verified)

I have a dual 1.5GHz AMD system dualboot KDE/Linux and winxp. The KDE/Linux starts up way faster, AND stays faster. Winxp dumps a BSOD by just logging out. XP can't finish playing a dvd without crashing. Linux: no problem. I have not had a kernel dump on me since version 2.2.6 on an Apple 8600.

by rob (not verified)

ive never seen xp NOT crash. try gaming with it sometime. everyone i play with crashes/hangs constantly. im not arguing one way or another just making an observation. im into web design running a 1.33 athlon, nforce2, ti4200 and 256mb pc2700. if win98se chokes one more time im personally walking over to billys house and farting in his general direction. im looking into a newbie linux os now. any suggestion? looking at mandrake and redhat but am worried about hardware not working. xp is out (for now). too expensive and from what ive seen, too nosey.

by unknown (not verified)

You aren't capable of configuring your xp system properly (software/hardware). I have uptimes of over 4 weeks without any crash and the system is on heavy load most of the times (gfx, games, net, etc.)

by sm0 (not verified)

4 weeks? we have linux servers at work under serious load that have been up over a year. we have a windows nt 4 machine that's been up atleast 6 months too.. of course its at 0% load most of the time.. but we primarily specialize in linux servers so that's what we use.
given that you have half a clue about the os you're using (how to maintain it, set it up, etc), it can be as stable as you need it to be.

by George Pitts (not verified)

I rarely comment on anything, but I must coment on these falsehoods. I think it is ludicrous to say that "WinXP on the other hand, boots up about 100X faster than any linux" and even funnier to say that "once you got in 2000 you would very rarely need to reboot (certainly less often than my linux machines". In fact I am willing to lay $5000 on the line in a bet that BOTH statements are false.

I have worked with first DOS from 1980 and later Windows from 1990 till now. I have always been unhappy with the boot speed. Alas, if only I did not have to boot so often with MS operating systems, but it seems the longer a mchine is runing in Windows (any flavor XP, 2000 etc.) the less stable and slower it is. Sooner or later some program kills or locks up the whole system, or machine just slows down to a crawl, requiring a reboot. But with Windows that only solves the problem a limited number of times. As time goes by, all Windows systems just run slower and slower. Tweaks do not help, updates do not help. The only way to speed the machine back up is to reload the operating system from scratch, reinstall, not update. Then it runs fast again.

I have tried Linux since 1996, but never switched to it. I always loaded it along side Windows, a dual boot. After these many years IN January 2006 I finally got sick of the above scenario with MS Windows, especially the unknown slowdowns when some unknown system driver or device took 100% of the CPU, and after all Linux had come a long way in that time. So I re-formatted my hard drive and loaded Mandriva Linux. Not having the crutch of Windows on my hard drive to fall back to if I had any problem with Linux, I had to learn Linux and use it to do my daily computer work.

I admit it took several days to get comfortable with Linux, but I bit the bullet and learned how to use Linux. After all I had no MS Windows on my hard drive. I will not say the Linux transition was totally error and problem free, but Linux does work, it works quite well. Now after three months on Linux, with many pleasant surprises along the way, I am very happy. I will never go back to Windows. It does not matter is XP does boot slightly faster than Linux (not 100X), as I do not have to reboot Linux, practically ever. It just runs and runs with no slowdowns.

AND when it is running it is faster than Windows. Everthing is faster, my DSL line, for example, would never downlaod faster that about 280KPS with Windows, now it does 400-500KPS regularly with Linux. Especially great under Linux is the use of the internet. I could not believe how smooth Linux handles it. I can use my new web page as if it is on my local drive. I can edit files directly using editors on my local machine. "I" am surprisied and happy with my results of swwitching to Linux.

But before I finish this rather long comment, let me end with this note. Under Windows I had Adaware, Spybot, various spyware programs, Zone Alarm Security, firewall, anti-virus etc. I had to clean up my system practically daily, including updating the literally hundreds of security updates from Microsoft. Before reformatting my hard drive ZoneAlarm showed over 439,000 attempts to breach my secrity. NONE of this with Linux. Oh I have the antivirus and firewall programs installed, but they appear to not be needed as a virus has never been found, and the only activity the firewall ever sees is a ping or two.

My parting comment is this. Windows works, but it has its problems that require regular maintenance, and it COSTS. Linux works too, and it has some problems too, but fewer than Windows, but it is FREE. I think if anybody would take the time to learn how to use Linux, he (or she) would soon come to be very comfortable with it and NEVER go back to Windows.

Oh, and guess what?????? For the first time in YEARS, my system is completely legal!!!!

by KDE User (not verified)

Why start up mozilla when you have Konqueror?
There's one thing to save memory on.

by NetPig (not verified)

To use it's very advanced security token
plugins what KDE lacks?

by Datschge (not verified)

"very advanced security token plugins"? Please elaborate.

by Thore (not verified)

Online banking and some other sites force me to start Mozilla regularly.
How much I like Konq, the real world still is Explorer oriented... and a bit Mozilla. I hope Konq will reach a higher point of compatibility with the Mozilla specs in KDE3.2

by Masato (not verified)

My 133MHz had 32 MB too. Maybe a KDE light for older computers ...
Removing the multimedia & game stuff. (those old computers usually used as servers and basically needs a simple GUI and good configuration apps)


DevCounter ( - An open, free & independent developer pool
created to help developers find other developers, help, testers and new project members

by not me (not verified)

Simple, just don't install kdemultimedia and kdegames, and you've removed the multimedia and game stuff from KDE!

by Masato (not verified)

Does the bindings to those categories also disappear, so KDE hasn't running so much at once ??


DevCounter ( - An open, free & independent developer pool
created to help developers find other developers, help, testers and new project members

by Janne (not verified)

Yes it is old hardware. It's has just been upgraded with more RAM. It's cheap to add RAM in the machine, so why not do it? Just because it had 32megs several years ago, means that it must have 32megs 'till the end of time? And besides, it was possible to use 128megs on this machine back when it was released.

The point that "in year such and such these machines only had 32megs of RAM, so this is not a valid test!", is irrelevant, since you weren't using KDE3.1 in that year. This is 2003, and it's possible to increase the amount of RAM.

lots of people had machines like that w/ 32 mb
original memory.
One of the first things they did was get some more
memory, so actually it _is_ representative of "older"
hardware setup.

by ian reinhart geiser (not verified)

I know I do all of my testing on a 100Mhz PowerMac 7200 and I found the biggest kicker is RAM. If I have only 48-64 MB of ram in the box things grind to a halt and kswapd takes over the systems load. Once you get over 64 things get better, but again things are tolerable until RAM gets short...

The box only has 96MB of ram in it, but that is enough to use konqi, and koffice. I can even play mp3s but they will skip when i do something wacky like start up 2 konqis at once. Also large session restores will kill login time. I can log in to the box in about 45 seconds without a session restore, kwrited and xmlrpc turned off and most kded services disabled. I can do it in about 15 with only KWin and kded, so really most of that startup is arts and kicker with kicker probibly being the hog there.

The cool thing is that from KDE 2.x -> 3.x its gotten faster and more so on low end HW. I think if we could reduce the RAM usage we could go even further but that will take more of the same auditing that we have been doing in KDE 3.x series.

-ian reinhart geiser

by Caoilte (not verified)

I remember when I couldn't listen to mp3s and browse the internet at the same time. ahhhhh.

by ac (not verified)

I just upgraded from a Celeron 466 with 256MB to a dual athlon 2200+ with 512MB. I can report that KDE3.1 screams on the new hardware as well ;)

by Anon (not verified)

See the comments at:
Still waaay too many people believe KDE is nowhere near usable.
"Konqueror crashes all the time."
"KDE is bloated."
etc. etc.

by ian reinhart geiser (not verified)

Yeah that is the cool thing about trolling, you dont have to know what you are talking about... One would think that if it was bloated and crashed all the time that the developers of KDE would have to be masochistic morons to use it, or we are all rich weirdos with 3Ghz Athlons and 2Gigs of ram... Seeing as (speaking for myself here) this isnt the case in either respect im thinking that they are trolling ;)

No KDE is not perfect, but you know what? I payed for Win2k and MSVC, and not only will MS not support me when I find bugs in their compiler or OS, but they tell me to deal with it... and yes virginia win2k does crash IE on my box far more than Konqi goes down... config issue? maby, hardware issue, doubt it, kde works just fine... either way im thinking there are are more trolls than useful comments anyway... With KDE i got far more than I payed for already...

just my 2c
-ian reinhart geiser

by ac (not verified)

You can see the host/nickname of whoever posts there. There are just one or two dedicated trolls there including those who haven't even used or tried KDE *3.1*.

by Stof (not verified)

I am only stating that the people who posted comments on that link disagree. I didn't say anything about *my* opinion. If you must mark people down as trolls, mark them down. I didn't give an opinion.

by Er-Vin (not verified)

> "Konqueror crashes all the time."

I have some doubt on their KDE deployment... :-)
My konqi works very well...

> "KDE is bloated."

For this point, I think their almost right.
I use KDE as my only desktop environment for some times now, and I follow
its development since its first beta.

I haven't used 3.1 yet, but on an usability aspect I don't think there's a lot
of differences with 3.0

I must admit that KDE is bloated... there's "too many".
Not too many features, but too many buttons and menu options. In front of
Konqueror, I think that most Joe Users are lost (hopefully not every Joe User)...

I hope that the will have more developers, and more issues solved.

In my opinion (but I'm not release coordinator :-D), KDE 3.2 should be focused more on ease of use, and usability in general, than on features.

P.S: If possible, I will post an article on KDE News, as soon as I've tested 3.1, if it's appropriate.

P.P.S: Sorry for my bad english... needs to be perfected...

by Moritz Moeller-... (not verified)

> I haven't used 3.1 yet, but on an usability aspect I don't think there's a lot
of differences with 3.0

Well check it out! kcontrol and kicker have become much cleaner. There are massive differences also in many other apps, like kaddressbook.

by Er-Vin (not verified)


Well... I really need DSL...
Boring to always ask someone else to download for me! :-/

Nice to read! I hope it will persist in this way!

by KDE User (not verified)

I think an easy improvement of usability would be
to remove some standard icons from Konqueror.

But maybe that's SuSE/Mandrake/etc :s problem

by Stefan Heimers (not verified)

> I haven't used 3.1 yet, but on an usability aspect I don't think
> there's a lot of differences with 3.0

- Konqueror has Tabs now
- Konqueror Windows open much faster

One of my friends complained about how slow konqueror opens new windows, if you middle click on a link in KDE 3.0. He really was amazed when I upgraded to KDE 3.1.

by ac (not verified)

No-one said you have to install it all. That's your choice. All the apps and libraries are cleanly separated in their modules so you can install the portions you like. However, if we don't provide certain tools, then those who need them, don't get them.

by Quintesse (not verified)

"too many buttons and menu options"

That was one of the reasons why I decided to use KDE instead of Gnome: in Gnome too many options were missing or hidden too damn far away from me to find them. Give me KDE anytime, power to the user! :-)

by KDE User (not verified)

Just a question. Is there a default well design media-player
in KDE now (3.1) ??

That would be a good skin for noatun I guess.
Like the windows media player.

by Shift (not verified)

For the moment you have the choice between :
noatun, kplayer, kmplayer, kxine,....

I hope noatun could have video enhancement.
It has now became my default audio player with the Hayes Playlist

by Echo6 (not verified)

yes, I agree w/ you there. Hayes does rock. I do have problems w/ noatun not restoring when starting KDE. and Hayes is not starting with the last song that was playing when noatun shut down.

We need to get it added to KDE.

by Joeri (not verified)

Does kaboodle count? I was positively surprised to see how well it meshes with konqueror in 3.1. (It had been a while since I used KDE)

by SHiFT (not verified)

I remember that even KDE 3.0 on P-166/64MB RAM notebook was running pretty fine the start-up time for KDE was about 1.5 minutes. I had SuSE 8.1 instaled there, and it's 1.5GB hdd was formatted for reiserfs. I think that if i had current KDE 3.1 suse packages installed there -- it would be running even faster!

by Stefan Heimers (not verified)

My main workstation is a PI/133MHz/48MB. It runs KDE 3.1 just fine, but begins swapping like hell as soon as you open some large non-KDE apps, eg. Mozilla. Just having Konqueror, Kmail and Kword open at the same time is no problem.

Before I had 80MB in that box, I could run as many apps as I liked, but I had to remove part of the memory because it was faulty and caused occasional system crashes.

Well, but now for the real fun: My home server ( ). Its motherboard was one of the more advanced i486 models about eight years ago, already equipped with PCI slots. I put in a 33MHz i486, 32MB of FP-RAM, an UDMA-66 controller and a 7200rpm/40GB IDE disk from IBM.

Just for fun I installed KDE 3.1 on it to see how it copes with it. And it works! I export the display to my desktop, start knode or kmail and wait a few minutes. But when the app finally appears, it is really usable without any problems. If you are patient, you can even start a full KDE desktop on an Xvnc server.

So my conclusion: KDE needs lots of RAM and creates a lot of disk activity, but CPU usage is not an issue. Qt is well optimized for low cpu usage, but it eats lots of memory. KDE loads many, large libraries, thus putting heavy load on your hard drive.


by coolvibe (not verified)

Sure, it will trash on the disk somewhat when it's loading, but the main thing that slows KDE (well, anything) down is swapping. Once it's all snug in memory and loaded, it _is_ way fast.

Also, enabling --enable-final while building and stripping binaries will also help a lot.

I used to be a rabid gnome user, but KDE just rocks my world!

by Tristan Tarrant (not verified)

Stripped binaries and unstripped ones take up the same amount of RAM.

by Roberto Alsina (not verified)

But unstripped ones take longer to load if your disk is slow.

by L.Lunak (not verified)

I doubt it. AFAIK the debugging info is not even touched when loading a binary/library for execution, and therefore stripping doesn't affect anything besides the disk space usage.

by Roberto Alsina (not verified)

Could be. I would expect the drive to have to seek more, but maybe it is not even measurable.