This one is really strange. Two days ago the wallpaper on Ubuntu 13.10 simply went black. I have repeatedly tried to change it in the Appearance menu back to an image, or one of the default wallpapers, but it remains persistently black. I have no clue of what to do. Thanks.

Update I: some things I have tried that did not work:

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

  • Purging the gnome3 PPA

  • Setting the wallpaper with Firefox

I have desktop icons, thus I don't think that could be a cause.

Update II: I captured a video of this strange desktop behaviour.

Update III: other fixes that are reported to work on Ubuntu 13.04, but are unsuccessful on Ubuntu 13.10:

  • Resetting configurations

  • Unticking the "show desktop icons" option (it doesn't exist in Ubuntu 13.10)

  • Unticking "Have file manager handle the desktop" in Gnome Tweak Tool

  • Changing the GTK theme to Adwaita

Update IV: Logging in to a Gnome Flashback session I get the same behaviour with the wallpaper.

  • possible duplicate of Desktop shows a white or black background instead of wallpapers
    – guntbert
    Dec 3, 2013 at 21:02
  • That's on Ubuntu 13.04, but I'll give it a try. Dec 4, 2013 at 9:22
  • So far the fixes for 13.04 have proven unsuccessful, please do not close this question. Dec 4, 2013 at 18:44
  • In the video you posted I never see the wallpaper getting set, let alone suddenly going blank. Also you seem to have a lot of lag while minimizing windows. Are you having your display drivers installed properly(in case you have proprietary graphics cards)?
    – jobin
    Jan 4, 2014 at 17:01
  • 1
    Did you install different desktop environment such as mint?
    – kenn
    Jan 8, 2014 at 14:27

4 Answers 4


Make sure Nemo is set to 'NOT handle the desktop'.

Run this command: gsettings set org.nemo.desktop show-desktop-icons false

  • Welcome to AskUbuntu. You can see in the answer below a symbol with a green tick, this means the answer has been accepted as a solution to the question. Please take a site tour for more details. Mar 12, 2014 at 19:31
  • There can be multiple answers, what's the problem?
    – nafg
    Nov 11, 2014 at 1:13
     gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.background active true


     sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak-tool

try this hope will work

  • I already tried the first solution (please read the question). The package you suggest is not available from the official repos for 13.10, would you suggest a PPA? What am I then supposed to do with that tool? Jan 4, 2014 at 17:12
  • kindly update your machine first
    – Artemis
    Jan 4, 2014 at 18:50
  • Artemis, how will an update register a PPA? Jan 4, 2014 at 19:03
  • Ok, so I found the tualatrix PPA and installed the tool from there. This tool has a menu called Love Wallpaper HD that allows the selection of a wallpaper from the web. If you are referring to this, it has no impact on my desktop wallpaper. Jan 4, 2014 at 19:28
  • Actually this helped me escape the black desktop on Ubuntu 16.04 May 28, 2016 at 6:19

Following the hint by kenn, I verified that my problems are caused by Cinnamon. I never installed it myself, but I use Nemo. The package catalogue does not list any Cinnamon packages as dependencies for Nemo, but somehow it got fully installed. The solution to bring the wallpaper back to functioning order is thus:

sudo apt-get remove cinnamon*
sudo apt-get autoremove

And afterwards log out and log back in.

Weird thing is: this actually removed Nemo and now I don't have a graphical file manager.


I have the same problem as you with the black desktop. I'm running unity on ubuntu 13.10 with cinnamon and nemo installed. I've found that if I log out of unity to the login screen the desktop background appears. I wait about 15 secs and then log back into unity and then the desktop background works as normal.

Obviously this is not the ideal solution but it does work for me anyway, hope it works for you!

  • I can confirm the above answer from Picard (setting gsettings set org.nemo.desktop show-desktop-icons false) worked for me. I also set:- gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.background active true The Unity desktop background now works as normal and I can still use nemo.
    – Derek
    Mar 16, 2014 at 22:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.