The command for restarting Gnome2 is:

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm restart

What is the equivalent for Unity?

7 Answers 7


The command unity can be used to restart unity. It restarts the window manager, so your open programs will stay intact and you will not be logged out.

If you run the command from a terminal app, you should add & disown to detach it from the terminal. If you don't, then the unity program will become a child process of the terminal app such that when you close the terminal, unity will also close.

It might also be worthwhile to add &> /dev/null (before the disown bit) so that text and error output does not clutter your terminal.

So, the command is:

unity &> /dev/null & disown

If you can't open the terminal application due to the desktop being extremely unresponsive (or any other reason), you can open a purely text-based terminal by hitting alt-ctrl-F1 through F6.

There you will get a text terminal, you have to login first.

Then you can run the command above, then hit alt-ctrl-F7 or alt-ctrl-F8 to come back to the graphical desktop.

This tends to fix "hanging" problems.

As a side note: since Unity is a compiz plugin, you can restart unity by restarting compiz using the command:

compiz --replace

If you run it from the alt-ctrl-F1 terminal, you will need a --display parameter

compiz --display :0 --replace

You'll still need to add & disown

  • Thanks. I think this one is better than the accepted one because it only restarts Unity, not the whole display server. Thanks!
    – kroq-gar78
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 23:41
  • 1
    wow! I've been using Ubuntu for 4 years (maybe not that much, but still...) and wasn't aware of the existence of & disown. Thank you!
    – FRD
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 3:46
  • And another point for Linux over Windows. Restarting your crashed UI without loosing anything: Check! Commented May 15, 2013 at 8:16
  • Just a minor thing. If you are using any shell other than bash (I use fish), use nohup instead if disown. nohup goes at the begining of the command, like this: nohup compiz --display :0 --replace & Commented May 27, 2013 at 2:12
  • If you are using unity-2d, you can do unity-2d-shell &> /dev/null & disown
    – mivk
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 16:23

The Upstart way is

sudo service lightdm restart for newer versions using lightdm

or sudo service gdm restart for older versions using gdm.

Update: Another option, which isn't using the terminal but using a key combination, can be found at How to set keyboard combination to kill the X server?

  • 1
    I found this very practical and functional way, thank you.
    – rjbgbo
    Commented May 1, 2011 at 12:50
  • 1
    The service gdm does not seem to be available in Ubuntu 14.04. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 12:37
  • 1
    nohup compiz --display :0 --replace & seems to restart unity without losing your current session's windows. See askubuntu.com/a/38597/35666
    – Brenden
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 15:32

You don't need to open a tty. In most cases Alt-F2 still works. Just enter "unity". That's it. No & disown needed.

  • It killed some apps, like Chrome, but otherwise just running unity from the panel worked
    – jave.web
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 11:23

In Ubuntu 13.04 you can use the following:

sudo service lightdm restart

In a terminal, run nohup compiz --replace. The nohup command will make sure compiz isn't closed when you close the terminal.


The command to restart GDM is sudo stop gdm followed by sudo start gdm, and should be done from a tty.

If you are trying to restart unity itself just run unity (but remember you need to do this from the run dialog.


I like to change GNOME's font size attribute depending on the monitor. I've been shutting down the programs directly so the window position is saved. I put this in the script which probably does pretty much the same thing:

    nautilus -q && sleep 2 && bgcmd nautilus -n
    pkill unity-panel
    pkill unity-window
    sleep 1
    unity-window-decorator &> /dev/null & disown

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