First then when I get a new computer I go into msconfig and shut down all the extra crap. I can find guides online that will tell me what to do within Linux, but I’m afraid to just go with anything I read. I’m afraid any change I make is likely to break the server.
We don’t do anything special with the site but just want it to be fast, secure, and running as few extra programs/services as possible.
Unless you can see issues with memory or cpu issues on particular processes (you can use the top command and various keys to sort by these criteria), then I’d leave alone, linux is good at managing processes itself and most server distros are pretty clean by default. There’s probably not much to be gained by tinkering, but a lot of annoyance if you knock a critical process offline.
Linux services are always good with documentation, you can use menu-based ways to enable or disable system services. On Red Hat based systems, you can use the utility ‘ntsysv’, which will allow you to enable or disable services.
Worst case scenario, you can always turn services back on. Just don’t kill networking, or SSHD and you’ll be fine.
For what it’s worth, there are a few more ways that you can optimize your Linux server, which are covered in a short article that I wrote:
5 Linux VPS Performance Tips
One thing that few people realize also, is that with running extra unneeded services, you could possibly open up your server to an outside attacker. For instance, if you have SMTP, POP3, and IMAP daemons running, and attacker could use any possible exploits in those services to gain control of your server. If you don’t use these services, you can easily just disable them.