Desktop manager memory footprint

KDE and Gnome are often concidered as too big in memory for old (less than 512MB of RAM) computers. I checked to other desktop manager to find something smaller. Here are the 3 compared configuration:

KDE 3.5.9

  • Login manager: kdm
  • Session manager: startkde
  • Window manager: kwin
  • Terminal: konsole
  • Other: kweather applet, knetstat applet,  system monitor kicker applet.

XFCE 4.4.2

  • Login manager: slim
  • Session manager: xfce4-session
  • Window manager: xfwm4
  • Terminal: xfce4-terminal
  • Other: I don’t know, I just did apt-get install xfce4


  • Login manager: slim
  • Session manager: startlxde
  • Window manager: openbox
  • Terminal: lxterminal
  • Other: Standard Debian LXDE (xscreensaver, lxpanel …)

How I mesured memory:

The best way to mesure memory on Linux is to use exmap. Unfortunnatly it’s broken on Linux 2.6.26. So here is the method I used:

  • Reboot and login
  • start a terminal
  • cat /proc/meminfo
  • Result = <MemTotal> - <MemFree> - <Buffers> - <Cached>

I did the tests with Debian Sid x86 packages (updated on 2008-12-21). Unfortunnatly, my test description is probably not precise enough, so I could compare with test made with different PCs and configuration.


  • KDE: 72MB
  • XFCE: 71MB
  • LXDE: 62MB

#kde, #lxde, #xfce