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Lately, I've been trying to run multiple monitors on Xubuntu without having them cloned. On the internet, I found some instructions to do that which basically required me to add a PPA in order to upgrade XFCE to 4.12. I added the PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xubuntu-dev/xfce-4.12

then upgraded:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

However, after a reboot, I noticed that my desktop background went completely gray and when I move windows it changes (clearly some kind of an UI glitch). Now, I instantly ppa-purge'd the PPA, but the problem remains. My current XFCE version is 4.8 (at least that's what xfce4-about says). By the way, during the installation of the PPA I saw the nvidia driver is also being reloaded, so I'm not sure, could that be the problem, and if so: how do I fix it? Thanks in advance.

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I spent hours trying to upgrade and downgrade packages, but the solution appears to have been a lot simpler than that. While researching, I found this question. The specific answer that helped is this one. All I did was:

sudo apt-get install xfdesktop4

and after a reboot, the icons and wallpaper appeared on my desktop. I hope this will be helpful for users experiencing the same problem in the future. Cheers.

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I had this happen to me just a few days ago on xenial (16.04). Background was black though. No icons anywhere and some applications didn't at all (I tested Evince and Synaptic). Probably after a upgrade?

Anyways, I did try to clean session cache but it didn't help. but then i reinstalled xfdesktop4 and I got it back. A bit simpler than the whole upgrading business. Though of course that applied to a different version.

sudo apt install --reinstall xfdesktop4

Did the trick for me. After reboot.

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