Full disk encryption performance reduction on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and an older Intel Core i5

I have an older laptop (more of a laptank) that I bought in the summer of 2009 or 2010. About five or six months after upgrading to Windows 10 in Winter 2015/Spring 2016, I started having some serious bugs and decided to just nuke the hard drive and go Ubuntu. I have written about this before.

I was very disappointed with the performance of the machine after switching to Ubuntu, and I finally realized that it was likely due to the full disk encryption (FDE) which I enabled at time of install. After wiping the drive again and reinstalling Ubuntu, this time with only home folder encryption enabled, I have found the performance to be vastly improved. The memory footprint is reduced, program load/launch times are reduced, everything is faster and I am very, very happy to have fixed this problem. Right now I have open about 13 Firefox tabs, IntelliJ IDEA, system monitor, file browser, and terminal, and I am at 2.6/3.8GiB RAM (68%) and 0.464/3.9GiB (11.5%) swap. In my previous setup with FDE enabled the memory would have been maxed out many tabs ago…

My processor is a Core i5-540M @ 2.53GHz (Passmark 2448, see also Notebookcheck.net) and I only have 4GB RAM. I’m also rocking the original 500GB 5400rpm HDD which I actually can’t believe is still spinning. I probably will pop in a SSD and another 4GB RAM at some point to keep this little guy alive for another 5-10 years 😉

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