I have noticed recently that there are always instances of gnome-settings-daemon running as processes, why is this? And is it safe to disable them?

The explanation from the GNOME Wiki is:

[...] need a long-running process in the session. Some of these tasks are essentially just applying settings [...]


They are likely not multiple separate processes exactly, but rather threads which are sharing memory.

However, gnome-settings-daemon is necessary as it is needed for ensuring theme, keybindings, font hinting, and various other settings are handled properly. This process is also used under Unity 7, but under Unity was forked as unity-settings-daemon due to some changes.

  • Thank you, this seems to be a good overview of WHAT gsd does, however the question was more like about "WHY is does it in a such a weird way". Those are real separate processes, and sometimes it is unclear why an entire process is used to hold one bit (!) of information (e.g. gsm-wacom, why it needs to be started on a box which has no wacom tablet and will never have one).
    – James B
    Mar 19 '18 at 17:32
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    It is not "weird" at all. That is a personal opinion of yours. Answers here can only tell you what it's doing, not specific reasons that upstream developers may have chosen for certain features. It is then up to you how you want to break your own system. I mean, how few resources do you actually have that this is a real concern for you personally?
    – dobey
    Mar 19 '18 at 18:19
  • 1
    I agree with @dobey: if you're worried about excess resource use by multiple gsd instances you should not use Gnome Shell or equally resource-heavy alternatives as your desktop manager (unless of course gsd leaks memory or is caught spinning in an infinite loop which would be actual bugs). Mar 19 '18 at 20:09

This is due to the desire for centralisation and (probably) security through having a separate process applying settings and changes to disk, rather than having each program do it itself. So when you make a change, for instance even to the tab you are in in the System Monitor, it will contact the running process (gnome-settings-daemon) and ask it to write the changes to disk, it will probably also read the changes to disk via this process.

This might seem strange to you, however from a programmer's perspective (of especially modular programming) this is very good for security, as there is just one authenticated program running to make changes to disk, rather than having each and every program doing this separately. It also means that if there is a change in this process (of how the data is read to and from the disk, and perhaps even the format) that then the changes only really have be made in one place, the gnome-settings-daemon, rather than in every single application. Again, from a programmer's perspective this is very good practice.

Why they have multiple ones running, perhaps multiple ones running for different users (for instance your user account and gdm may have different ones), it's the same thing, just under different permissions and doing it for different user space. It may also be because of something that they (the GNOME developers) just decided to do, and in terms of that, you can either take a look at the source code, or the better option, you can just ask them. But they are likely just to bog you off (depending on complexity and how you put it to them I guess).

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