After the upgrade from 12.10 to 13.04 my desktop background turns black after I try to set a image for that. How to fix it?

This is my desktop screen:
My desktop screen after upgrade to 13.04

  • 1
    The purge method in the following link helped me. askubuntu.com/questions/204506/…
    – Sripad
    Apr 27, 2013 at 3:47
  • Can you right-click on the desktop to change the background to something else? Apr 29, 2013 at 0:53
  • I already do that but it not work. I find the solution behind and it work> thank for support
    – giaosudau
    Apr 29, 2013 at 0:56
  • Switching to Adwaita (default) worked. Odd all other GTK themes are broken and cause the odd all white background.
    – user153870
    Apr 30, 2013 at 0:13
  • @Sripad: The purge method relates to Gnome3 and Nautilus. Seems like a Red Herring (false trail) ..
    – david6
    May 19, 2013 at 5:58

11 Answers 11


I tried this and it worked!

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.background active true

update 2021 with ubuntu 21.10

if the above dosen't work you might need to follow this

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/shemgp/gnome-40/ubuntu/ hirsute main

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-gnome-desktop --reinstall
  • 10
    This is Gnome specific, and may not apply for normal setup.
    – david6
    May 19, 2013 at 6:31
  • 1
    Well this one worked! but after this if set 'desktop icons' to off in Ubuntu tweak, will this error repeat? or now i can freely set them to off?
    – Nirmik
    Jun 6, 2013 at 9:25
  • 1
    worked perfect!! Oct 17, 2013 at 4:29
  • 1
    This fix does not work on Ubuntu 13.10. Dec 4, 2013 at 19:01
  • 1
    Has the same problem here with gnome+ubuntu desktop. This fixed it immediately. Thanks!
    – Aras
    Jan 13, 2014 at 3:56

Having the same problem.

A workaround I've found through random clicking is to turn on desktop icons.

This can be done with dconf-editor or ubuntu-tweak-tool. The second is the easiest:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak-tool

Then launch it from the menu.

Under System/Desktop Icons you'll find a toggle to enable icons on the desktop. Switch this on, and suddenly -- wallpaper! This stays there if you turn off desktop icons but disappears again on login.

I've just allowed desktop icons to stay enabled, but simply any from my desktop.

  • 1
    This works but why? Is it a bug for Unit Tweak Tool?
    – Shyam K
    Apr 28, 2013 at 14:02
  • I believe it is a bug in Nautilus (the file manager), but I haven't been able to find a launchpad bug yet. Apr 29, 2013 at 13:17
  • Couldn't find ubuntu-tweak-tool. I found unity-tweak-tool. Is that what you meant? It has the System/Desktop Icons tab, but switching it on (and off) didn't bring the wallpaper back.-(
    – Chelmite
    May 3, 2013 at 22:13
  • Perhaps: Unity Tweak Tool Use with caution, still bug fiklled.
    – david6
    May 19, 2013 at 5:49
  • 1
    using 13.04, only that answer worked for me. this should be the accepted answer. way to go! Jun 15, 2013 at 12:02

Right click isn't working for me either...cause the desktop is not handled by file manager now.

Try doing reset of dconf/unity --reset... but it makes lose all your settings...I've found one link:


Maybe this can help.

SOME DETAILS: (from link, with minor edit for clarity)

.. you can reset the settings from terminal. (CTRL+ALT+T).

or just Ctrl+Alt+F1.

"You will lose all of your settings .. even the background. .. apply the commands below one at time."

Check your spelling, and/or print this first.

gconftool --shutdown

sudo killall -r -I gconf
sudo killall -r -I dconf

rm -rf .compiz* .gconf* .config/dconf/ .config/compiz*

Restart PC

sudo shutdown -r now
  • Confirm this worked for 13.04; just updated today from 12.04/12.10.
    – david6
    May 19, 2013 at 6:30
  • 1
    Since none of the other fixes presented here work on 13.10 I decided to give this one a try. It neither brings the background back on 13.10, and now I'll have to go through the pain of reconfiguring. Note that one of the things this fix does is to activate data collection by Canonical and Amazon. Jan 4, 2014 at 16:28
  • 1
    Working, but I had to activate that: gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.background active true
    – euDennis
    Feb 4, 2014 at 0:13

Quick fix - install "Gnome Tweak Tool" and in the Desktop section uncheck "Have file manager handle the desktop."

  • I have already tried disabling the file manager from handling the desktop and once i do that, I have no desktop, the whole setup just glitches out. My whole system constantly freezes until i re enable the file manager handling the desktop. And no rebooting does not help.
    – user93768
    Apr 26, 2013 at 21:04
  • 1
    This is Gnome specific, and may not apply for normal setup.
    – david6
    May 19, 2013 at 6:34
  • 1
    This fix does not work on Ubuntu 13.10. Dec 4, 2013 at 19:02

Un-tick "Have file manager handle the desktop" in Gnome Tweak Tool and your wallpaper should show up again.

  • This worked for me and was the quickest and simplest solution. May 25, 2013 at 6:30
  • 1
    This fix does not work on Ubuntu 13.10. Dec 4, 2013 at 19:03

No need to turn off "Have file manager handle the desktop" or reinstall anything.

Just change theme to default, that will work until this is fixed. Ergo, change GTK theme to Adwaita (using a tool like Gnome Tweak Tool).

  • 1
    This has no effect on Ubuntu 13.10. Jan 4, 2014 at 16:47

I got my desktop with these steps

  1. Login to Ubuntu with unity interface
  2. kill gnome-session using terminal (killall -e gnome-session). (Looks like Gnome 3 overrides Unity.)
  3. Step 2 will kill the shell.
  4. login to gnome (u might get a white desktop at this point) and use gnome-tweak tool to turn off "Have file manager handle the desktop". (Tweak Tool > Desktop> Have file manager handle the desktop-OFF).
  5. login back to Unity.

I got my desktop screen back with those steps

  • Didnt work for me :(
    – user93768
    Apr 29, 2013 at 21:32
  • 2
    This is Gnome specific, and may not apply for normal setup.
    – david6
    May 19, 2013 at 6:32
  • Does not work on Ubuntu 13.10. Dec 4, 2013 at 19:09

Right click the desktop and untick "show desktop icons" or "show icons" does that fix the wallpaper display issue? If so, go through Gconf editor to the gnome desktop settings, set draw desktop to off, reboot, set it to on, reboot, and it should work. I had the same issue

  • 2
    None of those options show up if you right click on the Desktop on Ubuntu 13.10. Dec 4, 2013 at 19:03

You need to purge the PPA from GNOME3. This is probably the issue here an update could cause the problem from this PPA.

I had similar issues for 13.04 and purging this solved it.

Open terminal & follow these steps:

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
sudo apt-get update
  • yes, this is the solution that worked for me. there is a bug using gnome 3.8 with unity
    – dodohjk
    May 5, 2013 at 13:49
  • 1
    This is Gnome specific, and may not apply for normal setup. I don't even have that PPA loaded.
    – david6
    May 19, 2013 at 6:33
  • This fix does not work on Ubuntu 13.10. Jan 4, 2014 at 16:03

I had this problem when I installed Ubuntu-Gnome 13.10. For me, in order to use a background, I can not use the settings as they just leave me a white screen. Instead, I choose any screen I want to use with Firefox. I right click on the image and choose to use as background. This actually works with the options for stretch, fit, tile, etc.

  • This fix does not work on Ubuntu 13.10. Jan 4, 2014 at 16:29

Same thing happened to me. To resolve I removed the Nautilus (with purge to remove the configuration files), and then installed again. Problems arose broken packages, but it was enough to remove them all and install again also. I ended the session and everything was normal.

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