I set export UNITY_LOW_GFX_MODE=1 in my ~/.xprofile and it no longer has any effect in 13.04. Is there a way to disable all the eye candy? I'm running in VirtualBox and the Unity 3D mode with all the visual effects is overwhelming for the VM. Unity works and is usable, it's just very slow to render, so I'd rather have it off (is this 2D mode?).

  • There are known issues with virtualbox and unity which does not allow unity 3D to function properly as expected ( when you don't have Graphics card). Try using different Desktop like Cinnamon or Gnome. or just disable 3D from Vbox settings.
    – Nitin
    Aug 3, 2013 at 6:15
  • Sorry Because I can't add comment to above answer. So I add another answer as comments: I tried answer of Takkat. On step: "Do not disable windows decoration above". Because mine "windows decoration" is uncheck. So I check it. But later my Ubuntu windows menu is disappeared. When it restarted, desktop is disappeared. My ubuntu is 14.04. 3D is enabled.
    – Amitabha
    Jul 17, 2014 at 8:27

2 Answers 2


Especially on a low end machine such as mine (Athlon dual core, GForce 210) running Ubuntu with Unity and Compiz enabled is quite a challenge and may result in a rather slow and sluggish experience.

Virtual machine settings

To improve this I gave the following settings to the virtual machine:

  • enable VT-x/AMD-V, Nested Paging

  • 2 CPU (from dual core host) with an execution cap at 90% to ensure host operability

  • 2048 Base Memory

  • 256 MB Video Memory

      VBoxManage modifyvm "Name of VM" --vram 256
  • 3D Acceleration enabled

  • Guest Additions installed

Remove desktop effects

Then I observed a very slow animation for windows and menus. This animations did more harm than use in my virtual machine. Below is three methods how to disable them to get a smoother experience in Virtual Box:

Disable animations with Unity Tweak Tool or Gnome Tweak Tool

With both tools we can disable desktop animations:

enter image description here
GNOME tweak tool

enter image description here
Unity tweak tool

Compiz Config Settings Manager

As this is a virtual machine with the option to make a snapshot before you do harmful things to your OS you may probably safely runs ccsm to disable Compiz effects:

enter image description here

Do not disable windows decoration above

Dconf Editor

Lastly here is how to do it with dconf-editor:

  • Browse to org.compiz.profiles.default.core and remove the following from active profiles:

      'animations' 'fade'
  • Browse to org.compiz.profiles.unity.core and remove the following from active profiles:


Unfortunately I have found no way to disable the Dash animation, which still will be rather slow.

GNOME Session Flashback

In the likely case you are still not happy with the overall speed of the desktop you may consider installing the GNOME Session Flashback, which will let you log into GNOME Flashback (Compiz or Metacity) with a lean and fast desktop reminiscent of 10.04, but with all the upgraded applications, and the recent kernel:

enter image description here

enter image description here
Login 16.04

enter image description here
Login > 17.10

enter image description here

  • 5
    unity tweak tool can be install be typing, in a termianal: "sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool"
    – Tom
    Jul 10, 2013 at 13:37
  • 2
    I was having this issue too, so I did installed the Gnome Flashback (Metacity) and is so much better now! Nov 19, 2014 at 11:20
  • @ValterHenrique: that's often a solution. In the meanwhile I upgraded my motherboard to an Athlon A8 quad-core APU and this turned out to be even better for running Unity with Guest additions and 3D enabled but without need of any further tweaks ;)
    – Takkat
    Nov 19, 2014 at 11:33
  • Heh, wow... It's amazing how many clock cycles are stolen by all that uneeded glitz. On an i7... Going from 12.04LTS to 14.04LTS was like stepping into a tub of warm molasses. Sticky, sweet, noticeable slowness until you needed performance at which point it quickly chilled into annoyance. Nov 24, 2015 at 17:56
  • I found that I didn't even need to disable animations or anything like that after changing the VirtualBox settings. Jul 18, 2016 at 20:40

The Unity interface in my Ubuntu 14.04 guest OS became very sluggish recently, even though my Guest Additions were up-to-date with the VBox version at 4.3.26. I read through this and several other answer pages and contemplated switching from Unity to Gnome and other changes, but I knew nothing significant had changed and I remembered getting perfectly good performance out of Unity in my guest machine previously.

So on a guess, I simply reinstalled the Guest Additions (same process as installing them in the first place; the installer simply removes and reinstalls them) and I regained the excellent visual performance and eliminated the input lag that had been occurring just recently. Try this before you try anything more drastic.

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