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You can install/uninstall Xfce and other desktop options via [[tasksel|tasksel]] (you may need to install tasksel first). The following describes step by step installation via the CLI.

Note that you do not need to uninstall other desktop options for using Xfce4. You can always pick the desktop session you want from the "wrench" icon the login screen before logging in. See [[http://www.parrotsandopenbsd.org/images/a-selectWm-debian.png|here]] for an example screenshot. Or use one of the other mechanisms described below in running Xfce, if this does not work.

Optional: If you want to uninstall GNOME and its dependencies first, do:
aptitude purge `dpkg --get-selections | grep gnome | cut -f 1`
aptitude -f install
aptitude purge `dpkg --get-selections | grep deinstall | cut -f 1`
aptitude -f install

Be aware that this can leave you with a broken system. Use caution.
You can install Xfce as the only desktop environment on your computer, or alongside another desktop environment. Your [[DisplayManger|display manager]] should allow you to select a the appropriate desktop before logging in.

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Xfce Logo (GPLv2)

Xfce Logo (GPLv2


Xfce is a lightweight DesktopEnvironmentdesktop environment]] for Unix-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and lightweight, while still being visually appealing and easy to use.

Xfce is based on GTK+ version 2 (like Gnome 2). One of Xfce's priorities is adherence to standards, specifically those defined at freedesktop.org. This allows Xfce to seamlessly interoperate with programs written for other desktop environments, if those programs follow the specified standards.

Xfce consists of a number of components that together provide the full functionality of a desktop environment. They are packaged separately and you can pick and choose from the available packages to create the best personal working environment.


Install a new Debian system with Xfce

During Debian installation, select Xfce desktop environment at the Selecting and Installing Software installation step.

Alternatively, at the Debian Installer boot prompt, press the Tab key to edit the command line, then add desktop=xfce.

For a complete rundown refer to the Debian Desktop Howto.

Debian Live with Xfce

A Debian live system with Xfce is available at https://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/current-live/amd64/iso-hybrid/

Install Xfce in an already installed system

You can install Xfce as the only desktop environment on your computer, or alongside another desktop environment. Your ?display manager should allow you to select a the appropriate desktop before logging in.

To install Xfce, do the following:

apt-get install xfce4

This will install a metapackage, which will install the core Xfce modules and scripts to get it to work.

There are many useful utilities that come with Xfce, to install these:

apt-get install xfce4-goodies

In some Debian 8 minimal version installations (for example Google Compute Engine VMs), the following issue may occur after installing Xfce:

  • The icons for applications and files in file browser do not appear.

The above issue could indicate some Xfce dependencies are missing. One solution to this is to install "task-xfce-desktop" (task-xfce-desktop):

sudo apt-get install task-xfce-desktop

The above installs the needed dependencies and resolves the issue. Please note: task-xfce-desktop will also install the desktop environment, display manager and other programs (such as LibreOffice) if not yet present on the system.

Run Xfce

With a display manager

For GDM, KDM and LightDM choose xfce4-session.

For slim boot session in /etc/slim.conf:

login_cmd exec ck-launch-session /bin/bash -login /etc/X11/Xsession %session

You also can install xdm to login in start Xfce.

From the console

If you don't use a login manager but start Xfce from console, you need to take care of few stuff in order to get a complete Xfce session with full permission (mount, suspend/shutdown/hibernate etc.) This is because Debian now uses ?PolicyKit/ConsoleKit to manage policies for things like device and power management.

  • only use startx, without any argument
  • don't use a .xinitrc, add in file ~/.xsession:

exec ck-launch-session startxfce4

This is because ?ConsoleKit ships an init script (/etc/X11/Xsession.d/90consolekit), but the /etc/X11/Xsession.d/ scripts are only executed if you don't use any .xinitrc. See startx (1) for more information.

Then you need to fine-tune your pam installation so ?ConsoleKit can be sure that your user is correctly authenticated. For that, you need to install libpam-ck-connector and put before pam_ck_connector.so in /etc/pam.d/common-session.

session   optional  pam_loginuid.so

Other Packages

Other packages that can be found with:

apt-cache search xfce4

To install all xfce4 packages do:

apt-get install `apt-cache search xfce | cut -d ' ' -f1`

Please think twice before using this option because it causes installation of a large amount of software that may impact your overall system stability.


I see screen tearing: Try disabling compositing in Window manager settings.


CategoryDesktopEnvironment | CategorySoftware