I appear to have run into a spot of trouble hopping desktop environments.

I was originally on Gnome (or Ubuntu’s variant therein), and wanted to get access to KDEConnect (it occurs to me belatedly I could have likely built it from source), which sadly was outdated and was incompatible with the version on my phone. Regardless, after switching to Plasma (and kubuntu) I ran into issues with black screening when I set any applications to full screen (notably VLC player and browsers), so after getting fed up with that I decided to switch back.

The only issue was that every time I tried to switch from the login screen to anything other than plasma it would crash and leave me back in the login screen.

I thought this would be more related to having multiple DEs installed simultaneously than broken packages as such, so I removed plasma, and auto removed any related files, only to have my DE crash so I restarted my computer, only to find myself unable to boot to a desktop session at all.

A few oddities about my install that may help track down my issue:

  • I do have self compiled Mesa drivers lying around somewhere and I believe an alternate version from the default listed in my repositories. (Long story. I like poking around them for a bit of light reading)
  • I have multiple DEs installed, somehow, though none of them seem “active”. This includes multiple versions and permutations of Ubuntu with different windowing systems.
  • even when I was on Gnome I never got a menu to select multiple DEs in the login screen (maybe related?)
  • I may have legacy files from about the last three years, as this is still my first install from when I was just learning Linux.

What I learned, that it may be of use to someone else:

  • Remove packages when you’re done with them.
  • Buy an AMD Gpu if possible
  • Don’t hop DEs or distros; test in a VM and do a fresh install if you like them.
  • Don’t put off reinstalling your build after you know enough to make fewer beginner mistakes the next time around.
  • Don’t switch DEs for a single application.

A final note: I’m using an rtx2060 with a 4K display I keep at a lower resolution (1080p) for all it may be relevant, and I am willing to reinstall from scratch if needed, though given that involves backing up a boot drive to my hard drive, which I would prefer to do graphically, I would prefer to restore my desktop environment first. I’ve also already followed the guide at google.com/amp/s/ubunlog.com/en/how-to-reinstall-in-graphic-when-the-desktop-won’t-load (you’ll have to forgive me for my berevity in not hand typing the 50 or so random characters that come after that), and numerous other pieces of advice.

Thanks in advance for any advice on the matter.

  • What version of Ubuntu are you using? If you are good with reinstalling that would be my suggestion. You do not seem to know what you may have removed so how could anyone help if you can not say?
    – David
    Apr 8, 2022 at 6:29
  • A number of things confuse me sorry; you mention "switch from the login screen to anything other than plasma it would crash" which shouldn't occur if the other desktop is fully installed. My own system has 4 desktops installed (I'd not recommend adding 4 though to anyone*) and I have much experience with multiple DEs, the most common issues in my experience are incorrect packages added (ie. packages missing from the box thus problems in login) or too many DEs interacting (very likely with 5 or more DEs installed in my experience). You've not excluded user errors in my opinion.
    – guiverc
    Apr 8, 2022 at 6:35
  • Adding KDE Plasma and expecting KDE Connect to operate better was a wrong idea.. If you used the KDE Connect package from Ubuntu repositories, all required (depends) packages would have been installed regardless of desktop you were originally using - thus there no change should have been expected on adding kubuntu-desktop. Also note: packages required can vary from one release to another - why I've opted for everything via kubuntu-desktop when I want KDE Plasma...
    – guiverc
    Apr 8, 2022 at 6:37
  • Seems like quite a mess... It's probably prudent to reinstall. There can be complications when changing DEs on an installed system-- this is the reason that the community puts so much work into releasing several official flavours with different desktop environments. If you just want a few packages that are usually included with another DE, just install that package from the software center or apt. Manual compilation won't resolve dependencies or stay up-to-date and can get you in trouble if you don't know what you're doing
    – Nmath
    Apr 8, 2022 at 6:47

1 Answer 1


To first answer your very relevant question in the title, i.e. "How can one uninstall all desktop environments and reinstall ubuntu’s default?", it is not as such "automatically and atomically" possible after the fact, unless you noted down the packages that were being installed with the new desktop environment.

While one can see the dependencies of a desktop, e.g., ubuntu-desktop with a command apt-cache depends ubuntu-desktop, one cannot see whether these packages are also needed by other packages (e.g. other desktops) or not. It would require a detailed investigation of each package to determine whether it can be removed without breaking the desktop you want to keep.

When installing a desktop-environment, apt lists all packages that are going to be installed. This is where one could take note. With this list, the desktop can be removed precisely by purge all these packages, followed by autopurge.

In your case, where the system is broken, a reinstall without erasing data could return you to a working system where your user data, and system and user configuration are preserved. Many packages from the other desktop environments will remain on the system, though. That will not interfere with the performance of the system. The only practical way to thoroughly clean everything up, if you wished that, would be a fresh reinstall.

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