If you’ve used Windows for any period of time, you’re likely familiar with several maintenance “biggies”: virus and spywaretips_n_tricks scans, defragmenting, and freeing up space. When you first use a Linux distribution, you may wonder how to perform these maintenance tasks in your new operating system. Let’s take a look at these basic maintenance operations in Ubuntu.

Virus and spyware scans
Viruses and spyware are quite rare in Linux. In fact, they’re so rare that many users don’t even bother to run an antivirus program, and I’ve yet to encounter an antispyware program for Linux. However, viruses are a point of contention in the Linux community; some believe that one can never be safe enough when dealing with viruses, and others figure that the risk is, more or less, negligible. That said, the choice to run an antivirus program, such as the popular ClamAV, is entirely up to you and how much risk you’re willing to take. The risk is small, but present. ClamAV can be installed from the Synaptic Package Manager.

A firewall is always a good idea, and Firestarter — which also can be installed from the Synaptic Package Manager — does the job well.

If you’re using Ubuntu, your days of defragmenting are over. Ubuntu uses a different filesystem (ext3 by default) than Windows — one that doesn’t really need to be defragmented.

Freeing up space
You can do several things to free up space in Ubuntu. Perhaps most obviously, you can uninstall programs in much the same way you installed them. Just open up the Synaptic Package Manager, search for the file you’d like to remove, click on the box next to it, then choose “Mark for Complete Removal”, and apply the changes. Of course, you’ll want to be careful, as another program may rely on your deletion candidate to function properly.

If you’d like to see a visual representation of your hard disk usage, you can download and install Filelight from the Synaptic Package Manager.


Fig. 1: Filelight in action

If you’ve installed a lot of programs from Synaptic, you may want to get rid of their installation packages. To delete the installation packages, or .debs, open up a Terminal (Applications->Accessories->Terminal) and enter the following:

sudo rm -f /var/cache/apt/archives/*.deb

And finally, if you’re really itching for more space you can visit this handy post in the Ubuntu Forums, which documents how to free up a few more megabytes (or hey, maybe more). Please do take into consideration the disclaimer given by the author of the post, however. Removing things can, and sometimes does, cause problems — particularly if you aren’t quite sure what you’re doing.

Oh, and this doesn’t exactly relate to freeing up space, but Ubuntu will automatically check your disk for errors after 30 boots, which largely negates the need for you to remember to do it yourself!

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  1. red spye said


  2. val said

    Hi, good to know there is no need in de-fragmentation. What about system files structure, links, consistency and dependency?

  3. peter said

    Hey nice article. Good to know that defrags are over :)

  4. Wendy Scher said

    Is there a way to delete the .deb install files without opening a terminal? Because when I open a terminal lately, it won’t let me leave! I’d rather not have to reboot again….

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