I currently have Unity and Gnome 3.6 installed on my computer and I want to check out the KDE desktop environment. Is there any problem with installing multiple desktop environments on my desktop?


7 Answers 7


You won't have any problems installing multiple desktop environments. Nothing in the system will stop you from installing KDE, GNOME, Unity, Enlightenment, and all the others all at once (except for disk space).

However, desktop environments will often "argue" with each other and overwrite settings. For example, installing KDE on a system will very often break a Unity installation by overwriting GTK or similar properties. Similarly, installing Unity will break KDE most of the time.

Unfortunately for you, these incompatibilities are very hard to repair after they've happened, so this is a risk you must be willing to take with your system. If you want to explore different environments, I'd highly recommend you use VMs until such time as you find one you like. Then, install that one and only that one on your system.

  • 1
    Yep, exactly. Installation isn't the issue, the compatability of each environment can be a problem. A good example is XFCE. It likes to set its own notifications instead of notify-osd , so when you go back to Unity, you're greeted with odd-looking notifications Feb 22, 2017 at 2:03

That is rather difficult to answer depending on what will be considered a problem and on your level of tolerance to what are arguably small or negligible problems. (Some people are very tolerant to errors in Linux just because they haven't payed for it.)

You can install as many desktop environments you want, but... is that reasonable? - Isn't that even crazy? - If the camel's back didn't brake it doesn't mean we have to try to break it.

There are also problems and bugs that can happen, and conflicts are also possible even without multiple desktops.

I think these risks will increase the more DEs are installed on the same system, the greater the difference is between them, and the heavier/complex they are.

The greatest difference I can see is that between KDE/Qt and GTK systems. Unity, Gnome and KDE/Plasma are all rather large and complex (compared to Xfce. LXDE, Openbox, Fluxbox).

As for my own experience, I have always had problems with multiple desktops, usually only in one of them. That is: there may be a big chance to have some problems at least in one of them.

I wouldn't dream installing as many desktops environments as possible, whatever that means.

Want KDE? Go for Kubuntu.

Want Xfce? Go for Xubuntu.

Want LXDE? Go for Lubuntu.

Want GNOME? Go for Ubuntu GNOME.

Want GNOME alongside Unity alternatively?

That seems reasonable, but some say no on that also: https://askubuntu.com/a/491049/47206.

Just to test them on the short term, one could go with a virtual environment (VirtualBox), a bootable live-usb system, or even a separate partition in multi-boot. The latter is more complicated, you have to know how to manipulate partitions and mount points. But it is preferable to mixing installs.

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    +1 :-) I use a system installed as Xubuntu and lubuntu-desktop on top (or was it lubuntu -core?) and it works well for me. But I would not recommend mixing desktop environments except in a separate installation intended for testing. It is almost impossible to get back to a clean single desktop environment (except by reinstalling the whole system).
    – sudodus
    Feb 21, 2017 at 16:13
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    The main problem I have installing multiple desktops is they will tend to install more junk than is actually needed, lubuntu-core being an exception. I wouldn't want to install Evince if I already have Okular or Mate's Atril. Btw, LXDE/Lubuntu work pretty well alongside other DE's.
    – Samuel
    Feb 21, 2017 at 18:21
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    If you want a short term test just use live installer in live mode. For a longer test, you can just allocate another 25GB and do a full install to that. I, in past have installed another DE, and when I wanted to remove it, it did not cleanly remove it, forcing a new re-install.
    – oldfred
    Feb 21, 2017 at 19:13
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    You can install as many desktop environments you want, but... is that reasonable? - Isn't that even crazy? – For a home OS this might be crazy. But in my University the Linux system has lots of DEs, so that the users (tons of students and employees) can choose whichever they want to use. This, I'd say, is reasonable. This system doesn't work perfectly, though :( For example I've experienced problems with Mate. But they've trimmed down the number of DEs recently. I've never experienced issues with LXDE, which was my DE of choice, but they've removed it now :(
    – gaazkam
    Jun 11, 2017 at 10:28
  • @gaazkam Damn, that's sad, LXDE is one of my favourite DEs... and yeah, it gets along well with other DEs.
    – Samuel
    Jun 29, 2019 at 22:54

You can install as many desktop environments you want, but installing anything takes up space which might be something to consider if you have a machine with lesser storage space.

  • Does removing the Unity interface cause any problems? I'm asking this as Unity comes as default in Ubuntu. Mar 10, 2013 at 14:27
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    Avoid removing Unity without having another desktop environment installed. Having no environments is generally bad if you're not familiar with terminal. Mar 10, 2013 at 15:03

You won't have problems installing them, you might even be able to permanently change to a new DE, if you're ready to spend a relatively long time tinkering around and adjusting settings.

But desktop environments are big complex things designed to be usable, not swappable. So if all you want to do is check out another DE, you will get a better idea by running a distro that uses the DE of your choice (either in a VM or booting a live CD/USB)

  • Yes, I’d add another option how to just check out another DE: setup a virtual machine.
    – Melebius
    Feb 23, 2017 at 7:00
  • cheers, edited.
    – pevinkinel
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:20

As long as your system having a lot of RAM and Storage it wont be a big problem. How ever it is better to have less desktop environment. I would suggest you KDE and Gnome because most of the softwares developed on the top of these distros only.


You can install as many desktops you want, but only to test them.

Forget what everyone says.

An open source OS can be used the way you like it, that's why its open source. But to make something work correctly, you have to install it's ppa and all their dependencies too.

If you do that, then all desktop environments will work just fine. If you miss something , then yes you will have many issues.

Also about ram. All desktop environments won't be running at the same time. At login you choose one.

Disk space is the only thing you need. That's all.


There can be problems but depends on the desktop environment you are working on vs which you prefer to install. The main problem comes with the dependencies and default packages as many packages are same for different desktop environments.

I once installed pantheon desktop environment on top of an existing Ubuntu Unity installation, after installing the new pantheon desktop(which was in beta..loki early releases) was full of bugs and glitches and was not pleasant at all to use. So i decided to uninstall my pantheon and return back to unity. As it happens after purging pantheon daily ppa and its packages it broke my unity installation, almost to the point where i had to reinstall Ubuntu itself.

On a similar case i installed budgie-remix stable from ppa and wanted to try out its cool new looks, as it turns out again the experience was not quite upto my expectations so i purged and removed budgie-remix and it did not cause any problems with my desktop at all.

So, As long as the installation environment does not have any problems with the existing environment it's all good!.

P.s: These are my observations, you can do whatever the hell you want if you have some terminal experience up your sleeve.

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