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You are probably happy with your Linux operating system, but it is good to update things from time to time. One way to do this is to replace some of the standard applications and components. Think of the standard file manager, the text editor, or even the desktop environment or the kernel.

A frequently overlooked switchable component is the Display Manager. But what is this component? How do I switch to a new Display Manager on Linux? Let's find out.

What is a display manager?

A display manager, also known as a "login manager", is responsible for starting the display server and loading the desktop. This happens immediately after you have correctly entered your username and password

Simply put, it controls user sessions and manages user authentication. Most of the magic of the display manager takes place "under the hood". The only visible element is the login window, which is sometimes referred to as a "welcome".

What a display manager is not

You probably already know that your Linux computer has a window manager and a display server.

The Display Manager is an independent software. While all three interact, they have different functions and perform different tasks.

Examples of a window manager are:

Some well-known display servers for Linux are:

(Many Linux distributions use Wayland as their default display server, and a few others are moving in that direction too, so it's a good idea to learn more about using Linux with Wayland

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Linux Display Manager configuration

Some display managers are now:

  • GDM (Gnome Display Manager)
  • LightDM
  • LXDM

A few more display managers are presented below.

Why replace a display manager?

Why would anyone want to replace a display manager, you ask? Well, here are some likely scenarios:

There are several popular display managers for Linux. You will find that they are quite similar in appearance. The main differences are size, complexity and the management of users and sessions.

Six Linux display managers to switch to

When a new Display Manager is installed, you can have fun with topics. MDM is the best choice if customization is your priority as it supports both old GDM and new HTML topics. For example, DeviantART offers many theme collections for different display managers. If you are using SDDM, you will find theme packages for this in the repositories.

But which display manager do you switch to first?

1. KDM

The Display Manager for KDE to KDE Plasma 5, KDM offers numerous customization options. You can easily configure it using the control module in the system settings. There you can choose which KDM theme to use, or switch to the simple greeter that allows you to customize the background, welcome message and font.

Other functions are:

  • Fast user change
  • Show user list
  • Enable the stem shutdown
  • Allow passwordless login
  • Autologist
  • Scanning fingerprints

KDM supports X and Wayland and can also detect installed desktop environments and window managers. They are then offered in list form so that you can choose which one to start when you enter your login information.

While some functions may overwhelm a beginner, KDM is easy to set up thanks to the clear graphical dialog.

2. GDM (GNOME Display Manager)

What KDM is for KDE is GDM3 for GNOME – the standard display manager of a popular Linux desktop environment. Like KDM, it supports X and Wayland and offers:

  • Automatic registration
  • Hide user list
  • Passwordless login
  • Custom sessions
  • Built-in themes
  • Login for multiple users
  • Fast session switching
  • Scanning fingerprints
  • Smart card authentication

GDM3 can be configured either via the corresponding dialog in the system settings or by editing the configuration files.

Note that GDM3 is different from the old GDM. Although they may look similar, GDM3 is not backwards compatible with older GDM topics because options are hidden in configuration files.

3. SDDM (Simple Desktop Display Manager)

SDDM is a comparatively new display manager scene. Originally released in 2013, it has survived as older rivals like SLiM and Mint Display Manager collapse.

With the support of X and Wayland, SDDM focuses on QML topics and replaces KDM as the standard display manager in KDE Plasma 5.

SDDM functions:

  • Automatic registration
  • Num lock on
  • Change Greeter users
  • Support for topics

As with other simple display managers, you can configure SDDM by editing a configuration file (sddm.conf). If you use SDDM under KDE, it has a configuration module in the system settings. Alternatively, you can use the practical sddm-config-editor utility.


LXDM is part of the LXDE environment, but can easily run in other desktop environments because it doesn't have many dependencies. You can set it up using your own configuration utility or edit configuration files in / etc / lxdm (or if you are in Lubuntu, / etc / xdg / lubuntu / lxdm).

With LXDM you can expect:

  • Configurable user list
  • Autologist
  • Icons for each user
  • Change of user
  • Time-controlled autologist
  • Custom background images

Both in the official documentation and in unofficial testimony in various forums, it is pointed out that LXDM does not end user processes when logging off. To ensure this, change the / etc / lxdm / PostLogout file.

LXDM may be strange, but it is fast. If this is an acceptable compromise for you, give it a try.

5. LightDM

Perhaps the most popular and certainly the most versatile display manager is LightDM. It has replaced older display managers in popular distributions and is customizable and equipped with numerous functions. LightDM is also light and supports X.Org and Mir.

With LightDM you can expect:

  • Greetings for GTK, Qt / KDE, Unity and others
  • Login screen topics
  • User list
  • Custom background image
  • Adjustable window position

Configuration files should be edited to make these changes. The easiest way is the LightDM GTK Greeter Settings tool.

6. XDM

This is the standard display manager for the X Window System and was first published in 1988. It is a minimalistic display manager suitable for systems with low specifications or those with low requirements.

Nevertheless, XDM still offers some functions:

  • subjects
  • Set background image
  • Optimize fonts
  • Adjust the position of the login field
  • Handles multiple X sessions
  • Passwordless login

Most optimizations are applied by editing etc / X11 / xdm / Xresources.

How do I replace a display manager on Linux?

Did you see something you like? You may want to switch the display manager from Ubuntu to LightDM.

Regardless of your preference and distribution, there are only two steps to replace your current Linux display manager:

  1. Install a new Display Manager
  2. Set it up as the default

The first part of the process is easy because all you have to do is find the appropriate package

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for your distribution and install it. You can remove the old display manager if you want. In most cases, however, this is not necessary.

Setting up the new display manager as standard is different for each distribution. It boils down to editing some configuration files or executing a simple one-line command in the terminal.

Use this quick guide to set up the display manager of your choice that you should already have installed.

Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and most Ubuntu derivatives

When installing a new display manager, the dpkg-reconfigure tool should be prompted to start. If not, run it manually:

  • Run Reconfigure sudo dpkg-gdm3
  • In the dialog box that appears, select the default display manager

Change your Linux display manager

You can replace "gdm3" with any of the display managers currently installed on your system. If this fails, edit the / etc / X11 / default-display / manager file with root privileges.

For Arch Linux and Manjaro

Activate the systemd service for your new display manager:

systemctl enable displaymanager.service -f

If this doesn't work, Manjaro users can first try disabling the previous display manager:

sudo systemctl stop gdm
sudo systemctl disable gdm
sudo systemctl enable lightdm.service
sudo systemctl start lightdm

On Arch Linux, you may need to remove the /etc/systemd/system/default.target file and create a display-manager.service file in the / etc / systemd / system directory. This new file should be a symlink to the service file of your new display manager in / usr / lib / systemd / system /.

Change the Display Manager under Fedora

First deactivate the old display manager, activate the newly installed replacement and restart it:

  • Run systemctl disable (old display manager)
  • Follow this with systemctl enable (new display manager)
  • Then Restart

When Fedora restarts, it does so with a new display manager.

For PCLinuxOS

You should be able to choose your new display manager on the desktop.

  • to open Control Center> Boot
  • Find Set up the Display Manager
  • Select the previously installed Display Manager

If the system does not confirm the changes, edit / etc / sysconfig / desktop and set the new display manager.

For openSUSE

To change the Display Manager in openSUSE, first download your replacement and confirm the installation location.

Enter next

sudo update-alternatives – set default-displaymanager (FILEPATH)

Would you rather change the display manager with a desktop tool?

  • Install yast2-alternatives
  • Open that control center
  • Navigate to Screen manager
  • Set the new display manager

Your new Display Manager should be activated the next time you restart.

Change your Linux Display Manager today

As you've seen, replacing a display manager isn't as difficult as it sounds. Once you read more about their features, you might be tempted to test out a few different display managers looking for the best – and I recommend you do so.

You don't have to wait for the software to "break" to try something new or to experiment with a new Linux desktop environment

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