Dconf configuration: GNOME 3 Fallback Mode

The Linux GNOME 3 UI assumes you have a beefy 3D GPU and capable driver, which can cause problems when that isn’t the case.

Individual GNOME 3 users can fix this by setting their desktop experience to GNOME 3 “fallback mode” which can avoid the 3D compute burden. Fallback mode is an essential setting for older PCs, VMs, USB graphics, remote desktop, etc. It also provides the (arguably) more familiar GNOME 2 like experience (Applications / Places menus, desktop icons, etc.)

It’s possible to configure fallback mode for all users, plus the login screens, centrally by changing some dconf settings. Here’s how:

First, if you don’t already have a “user” profile, then we create one — specifying a new settings database we’ll call “fallback”. Create a file /etc/dconf/profile/user (as su / sudo) which contains these two lines:


Then we’ll create the settings directories for that new database

sudo mkdir /etc/dconf/db/fallback.d
sudo mkdir /etc/dconf/db/fallback.d/locks

Create a settings file to also use fallback once users are logged in. Create a file called /etc/dconf/db/fallback.d/60-user-fallback with:


show-desktop-icons = true

# This one is useful more for automatic USB multiseat
disable-user-switching = true

And, finally, create a settings file to have login screens themselves use fallback mode. Create a file /etc/dconf/db/gdm.d/60-login-fallback with:


dconf is a binary settings database (very un-unix like), so for any of these changes to take effect, you must run

sudo dconf update

Which will update the binary blobs which are then queried by GNOME to apply these settings. See the dconf admin guide for more.

And that should do it. You should see the fallback look and feel (more like GNOME 2). And if you’re running in a VM, with USB multiseat, or anywhere you don’t access to a beefy 3D processor — you should see a big drop in CPU usage.

Again, these directions have only been tested on Fedora 17. Please feel free to comment on changes (if any) to apply them for other distros.

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