KDE has received a mixed press lately. Though there's no doubting that its good looks and the new plasmoids set it apart from the competition, KDE 4 still can't match KDE 3 (or even Gnome) for speed and performance.

Though this area is in heavy development, a few tweaks can trim valuable seconds off your startup time and make the desktop as a whole much more responsive.

Speed up ext3

You can gain some significant performance benefits by enabling write-back operation in ext3. This tweak isn't restricted to systems running KDE, but it is disabled by default in almost every distro.

This is primarily because older hard drives don't support this feature, though newer hard drives can achieve a minor speed boost.

This won't affect your day-to-day disk operations, so it is not recommended you try this tweak on a typical home system, but you will see an improvement for the high intensity disk operations that are typically the preserve of servers.

After making a back up of the file, open /etc/fstab in a text editor with root permissions and look for a line with the following section of text:

relatime,errors=remount-ro

and replace it with this:

noatime,nodiratime,errors=remount-ro,data=writeback

If there is no text either side of this snippet, you have done it wrong! Save and exit this file then open /boot/grub/menu.lst and find the following two lines:

# defoptions quiet splash
#altoptions=(recoverymode) single

They won't be next to each other, but once you find them append the following at the end of both those lines:

rootflags=data=writeback

then save and exit. Open up a root terminal and run update grub. You then have the option of simply restarting to apply these changes to your file system, or you can apply them on the fly by installing tune2fs from your package manager.

If you choose the latter option you would then type the following into a root terminal:

tune2fs -o journal_data_writeback /dev/hda1

substituting /dev/hda1 with your root partition.

Disable IPv6

Until IPv6 is more implemented, Konqueror has to translate between IPv4 and IPv6 – so if you can get a speed boost by turning off IPv6. The methods are slightly different between distros.

For instance, in Kubuntu you need to edit /etc/environment as root and add the following line to the file:

KDE_NO_IPV6=True

In openSUSE, edit /etc/sysconfig/windowmanager with root permissions and find this line:

KDE_USE_IPV6="yes"

then change the answer to no. In both cases you will need to save the file and exit before restarting the session for the changes to take effect.

Enable automatic login

Gnome isn't the only desktop that can benefit from you setting up an automatic login: KDE 4 users can do much the same thing by heading to System Settings and clicking on the Advanced tab. Here you can run the login manager and enable automatic login from the Convenience tab.

You'll also need to choose the user you want to log in automatically from the drop-down menu below the checkbox. When you reboot you should miss the login screen altogether and launch straight into the KDE 4 splash screen.

Start with an empty session

By default KDE 4 saves volumes of data about your current session, such as which windows are open and which processes were running so that next time you log in your session is exactly as you left it. This is very convenient, but it also slows your boot time down as this data has to be reloaded on each boot.

We can avoid this problem by ensuring that we start with a fresh session. Select System Settings (or Configure Desktop in OpenSUSE) from the KDE menu and in the Advanced tab start the session manager. Towards the bottom of the form select the radio button next to Start With An Empty Session then click Apply.

Start Konqueror faster

We can make Konqueror run much faster by enabling preloading. This uses some memory, but means that the next time you fire up Konqueror it will open in around half the time and in the same place you left it.

If you used the previous tweak to start KDE with an empty session then there's no need to panic, as we will configure preloading to run automatically when KDE starts.

To enable Konqueror preloading, open up the browser and head to Settings > Configure Konqueror. In the Performance section check the box next to Preload An Instance After KDE Startup.

You can also set how many instances of Konqueror are preloaded at startup depending on how many Konqueror windows you tend to run at any one given time.