I am attempting to run nautilus as root but when I run "sudo nautilus" from the terminal, I get the following error:

error: XDG_RUNTIME_DIR not set in the environment.

(nautilus:9341): Gtk-WARNING **: cannot open display:

The issue does not occur when I attempt to run nautilus as non-root. I am using ubuntu 14.04. Does anyone know how I can fix this?

  • Just for the record, I ended up here after I had the same error come up when trying to do X11Forwarding via ssh. Solution: I had forgotten to use the -X option when starting my ssh session.
    – JW.
    May 15, 2015 at 11:47

5 Answers 5


When you run software as another user you're in fact starting a new minimal isolated environment that doesn't carry on some "excessive" variables (among others variables responsible for injecting libraries or setting privileges). Replace your sudo nautilus call with the following - it will carry on user-specific X server settings from the current session:


This is a one time low level solution but it will work on a misconfigured machine. If you want to permanently "fix your sudo" you need to find the issue with your environment configuration and correct it as described in other answers.


If you are getting this error in Docker ; this is what I do

# sudo xhost +
access control disabled, clients can connect from any host
# export DISPLAY=:0.0
# docker run -it --env DISPLAY=unix$DISPLAY --privileged  --volume /tmp/.X11-unix:/tmp/.X11-unix .. rest of your Docker arugments

To make it easy - more explained the new booting of my system.

After all explanations here I came to the result - and "env" in terminal said already that is right for these session:

These two rows to use the environment variable:
For the tmp behavior I have chosen:

mkdir -pv ~/.cache/xdgr

For setting the environment variable:

export XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=$PATH:~/.cache/xdgr

After closing the terminal and a new open for the recall of env they tells:


Note: it is ok for the user under ubuntu, root needs more (last info by term - with 0700 permissions)


I also had the same problem on Ubuntu 14.04. Open terminal by pressing,

Ctrl + Alt+ T

then sudo visudo and change the line

Defaults        env_keep="https_proxy"


Defaults        env_keep += "https_proxy"

It worked like charm.


Start using sh command instead of bash.


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