There are many derivatives to Ubuntu, of which Xubuntu is one, using XFCE as a desktop environment. One can install Xubuntu directly from an ISO or install XFCE as an alternative session on Ubuntu.

I am wondering: Is there more difference between installing Xubuntu from ISO and installing XFCE to Ubuntu? - If so which are these difference? - Which of the two do you recommend and why?

  • One of the bigger differences will be that installing XFCE on a standard install will not uninstall any of the default desktop environment files. Dec 29, 2011 at 21:25

3 Answers 3


There is an Xubuntu live (desktop) CD available here at xubuntu.org/getxubuntu/.

Xfce is a desktop environment , see www,xfce.org and www.xwinman.org.

So when you install xfce you get xfce.

Xubuntu, however, is an additional set of packages and customizations to make the xfce experience more rich. xubuntu-desktop is a meta package and you can see the entire list of packages here:


As you can see the list includes xfce + a number of additional packages.

See also help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/LowMemorySystems#XFCE

Use which ever you prefer, from your post I would suggest you stay with Ubuntu (Unity).


Installing XFCE will give you the upstream XFCE desktop environment. The same way that Ubuntu differs from upstream Gnome, Lubuntu differs from upstream LXDE. For instance, Ubuntu uses Firefox instead of Epiphany and Thunderbird instead of Evolution. Installing XFCE or Gnome in Ubuntu will pull in extra applications that are normally used in those environments but isn't installed by default in Ubuntu. Other than that, the software is the same so there's no radical difference.

  • 1
    What does "upstream" mean in this context?
    – User
    Jan 29, 2013 at 0:51
  • 2
    Same as with uploads, really. Upstream is the developer or "sender" and downstream is the recipient. Ubuntu as a downstream can make changes to software created elsewhere. For instance, there are changes made in Ubuntus GTK compared to the upstream GTK. In this case, by upstream, I mean to express that there are little or no differences in Ubuntus packages for Xfce, etc, compared to the official releases. Feb 15, 2013 at 18:10

Xubuntu has Xfce with additional packages and default configurations that differ from Xfce's. You can see the difference by choosing the Xfce session instead of the Xubuntu session, at the login manager screen.

Most likely, you want Xubuntu/xubuntu-desktop; it would be an edge case if you specifically needed Xfce and not xubuntu-desktop.

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