I was playing around with the MATE Tweak tool and suddenly a stupid option removed all my panel applets and replaced with a default layout - that thing doesn't even confirm the destructive action first!

However, I do have a backup of my home folder in the old PC... What should I copy over to get my panel back? I tried looking for .mateconf, .config/mate or dconf/user to no avail - both on my new and old computers the DConf Editor didn't show anything useful under org.mate.panel, only default stuff.

  • 1
    puzzling. If I click 'save panel layout' in MATE Tweak, it's saved in /usr/share/mate-panel/layouts but where, indeed, are temporary changes stored locally if I never click that button? +1 and I'm investigating :-S
    – Zanna
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 8:15
  • I've added another answer and that worked for me
    – Anwar
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


If you have backup of your dconf database file, which is usually in ~/.config/dconf/user you can restore settings from that database. But some work needs to be done.

Dconf reads database values from a profile file (See wiki here). And the path of that profile file is read from the DCONF_PROFILE environment variable.

  1. So, first create a file named user2 in your home directory with content like this

  2. Put your old dconf database file in ~/.config/dconf/ directory with name user2. There should be a file with name user already.

  3. Open a terminal and extract the settings from old database

    DCONF_PROFILE=~/user2 dconf dump /org/mate > ~/mate-old

    This will dump the values from old dconf database in key-value format in ~/mate-old file.

  4. Now load the settings back into the current database

    dconf load /org/mate/ < ~/mate-old

This will restore most of the settings of mate.

Extra: If you want you can restore the whole database using / in place of /org/mate. But I'm not recommending this.

  • Unfortunately StackExchange's bizarre anti-edit bias strikes again, so commenting here: the answer contains an error. dconf dump paths must end with slashes. In addition, the author requested to restore panel settings, and there is no need to restore the full /org/mate/ tree to do that - the panel settings are under /org/mate/panel/. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 15:02

These preferences are stored in the dconf database, which is written to when making changes in the GUI, the gsettings CLI (where lots of panel settings can be found) or dconf CLI.

According to /usr/share/doc/dconf-gsettings-backend/README

All preferences are stored in a single large binary file.

I have determined by experiment (changing settings and observing the modification time of the file) that this single large binary file in Ubuntu MATE 16.04 is most definitely


which isn't human readable, of course

$ file ~/.config/dconf/user
: GVariant Database file, version 0

If you don't have this file in your backup, then you probably can't use the backup to restore your panel settings :(

  • It is in the backup, indeed. However, I would not trust simply copying the file over - dconf has probably changed some properties during my new Ubuntu installation, as well as any other application might have done the same during the mean time. Given that it's a solid blob, I won't be able to "copy over" only the panel settings... Well, I did try to access the dconf-editor to find those settings and manually copy over, but didn't find them there :( Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 3:40

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