8 Ways to Maintain a Clean, Lean Ubuntu Machine

Once in a while, you may want to do some maintenance on your Ubuntu machine and clean up unnecessary files that are chunking up large storage space in your hard disk.

Here are 8 ways that you can use to clean up your Ubuntu:

1) Analyze your disk usage

The first thing that you need to do is to find out which files are consuming the large bulk of the storage space in your hard disk. Go to Applications->Accessories->Disk Usage Analyzer and click on the Scan Filesystem at the top to get it to analyze your disk usage pattern. You will be able to see instantly which files/folders are taking up the bulk.


Once you have determined the files that are taking up large storage space, you can do the following:

  • decide if you have any use of the files. If not, send them to the trash.
  • If you have no immediate use of the file, but will need to reference to it in the future, either backup to a CD/DVD or to an external hard disk. If the file is too big, you may want to compress and split it to several small files for easier storage.

2) Clear duplicate files and broken symlinks

Over the time, you could have dozen copy of the same file lying in different corners of your system. The best place is to hunt them down and eliminate them before they take control of the hard disk.

FSlint is a utility to find and clean various forms of lint on a filesystem, especially duplicate files and broken symlinks.

Install fslint, or via the terminal:

sudo apt-get install fslint

Go to Applications-> System Tools-> FSlint. Add the file path that you want to search. On the left, click on the Duplicate tab and click Find at the bottom.


Other than finding duplicate files, FSlint can also find broken symlinks, empty directories, bad IDs and even redundant temp files, all of which you can delete and recover back your precious disk space.

3) Clean up your package installation

If you have installed and uninstalled a lot of applications, chances are your system is infected with a lot of dependencies files that you have absolutely no use for. Here are some useful commands to get rid of any partial package and remove any unused dependencies:

Cleaning up of partial package:

sudo apt-get autoclean

Cleaning up of the apt cache:

sudo apt-get clean

Cleaning up of any unused dependencies:

sudo apt-get autoremove

A good practice to avoid any left behind is to use the autoremove command whenever you want to uninstall an application.

sudo apt-get autoremove application-name

4) Get rid of old residual config package

When you upgrade a software to a later version, the package of its previous version will still be left behind in the system. You will be able to free up some space by eliminating the old residual config package

Open up your Synaptic Package Manager (System-> Administration-> Synaptic Package Manager). On the left, click on the Status button. You will see a few options appear on the top left pane. If there is a Not Installed (residual config) option, click on it. This will reveal all the residual config package in the system.

synaptic package manager

Check the box beside the package and select “Mark for complete removal”. Click Apply.

synaptic package manager

5) Remove orphaned package

Other than the dependencies files, packages can also become orphaned when you uninstall an application. To get rid of orphan files, we can make use of gtkorphan, a graphical frontend for deborphan.

Install gtkorphan or via the terminal:

sudo apt-get install gtkorphan

Go to System-> Administration-> Removed Orphaned package


It will analyze the system and show all the orphaned package in the main window. Check those packages that you have no use for and uninstall them.

6) Keep track of what you have installed

Debfoster creates a dependency files to enable you to keep track of what you have installed. When you uninstall an application, it will check for any leave behind dependencies files or orphaned packages and ask you if you want to remove it.

Install debfoster, or via the terminal,

sudo apt-get install debfoster

Creating the initial keeper file:

sudo debfoster -q

Force the system to conform to the keeper file

sudo debfoster -f

If you have some packages that you never want to uninstall and do not want debfoster to handle those packages, you can edit the keeper file and remove those packages from the list.

gksu gedit /var/lib/debfoster/keepers

To see is there is any orphaned package or dependencies files that need to be removed:

sudo debfoster

7) remove locale files

Unless you have a need to switch to various locales all the time, you can uninstall the unused locales and free up some amount of the storage space in your system.

Install localepurge, or via the terminal:

sudo apt-get install localepurge

Once the installation is done, it will remove all locale files from your system that you have no need for.


8) Clean up grub menu (only for those who know what they are doing)

Sometime when you perform an update, you will find that the kernel is being upgraded to new one while the old one still remain. If you don’t like to see a long list of entries in your grub menu when you boot up the computer, here is a simple way to clean up the grub menu.

Go to terminal and type

gksu gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

Search for the following lines:


Remove the entry that you have no need for. Save and exit.

Rather than editing the menu.lst file which can be a scary task for newbies, an easier and better way to cleanup the grub menu is via Startup Manager or SUM in short.

Install SUM or in your terminal:

sudo apt-get install startupmanager

Go to System-> Administration-> Startup-Manager

In the Boot Option tab, under the Default Operating System field, pick the kernel that you want to use.


Click on the Advanced tab, check the box Limit the number of kernel in the boot menu. In the Number of kernels to keep field, enter 1

startup manager screenshot

Close the window.

You should see a cleanup grub menu the next time you boot up.

Is there any ways that I have missed out? How do you clean up your Ubuntu machine?