Here’s a handy command line trick you can use to reset the Ubuntu desktop to default settings.
The command works for Unity and GNOME Shell on Ubuntu 17.04 and up. It will also reset the MATE desktop to its stock settings should you have it installed.
Why reset Ubuntu to default settings?
Perhaps you move between different desktop environments often, extensively tweak your desktop, or have recently run into conflicts or issues. Or perhaps you simply want to return to a fresh, “out of the box” experience without needing to perform a fresh install.
Whatever the reason, using one command you can:
- Reset Ubuntu Unity desktop to default settings
- Reset GNOME desktop to default settings
- Reset MATE desktop to default settings
…all at the same time.
The command to run with caution is this:
dconf reset -f /
Running this command will reset, among other things: the apps pinned to the Unity launcher or Ubuntu Dock; panel applets and/or indicators; monitor resolution and interface scaling; keyboard shortcuts; fonts, GTK and icon theme; window button placement, launcher behavior; and so on.
This command will also reset any application that uses
dconf store its settings. This includes core desktop apps like Rhythmbox, Evince, Shotwell and Nautilus.
This latter point is important to keep in mind as this command may reset library settings, delete accounts, disable plugins, and/or require you to re-authenticate with online services.
On the flip, it means this command is the perfect one to run when you want to reset GNOME 3 settings.
How I Reset Ubuntu Desktop to Default Settings
Here’s my tweaked Ubuntu 17.10 desktop. I’ve moved the Ubuntu Dock and window controls, set a different GTK and icon theme, changed the wallpaper, and adjusted a few other settings:
To change Ubuntu back to default settings I ran the command above. 1.5 seconds and a screen blink later my desktop looked like this:
Everything is back to Ubuntu factory defaults.
So, there you have it. A single command that will reset GNOME Shell settings, the Unity desktop, MATE desktop and more. Handy to know in case things go awry, and it will certainly save you from needing to hose down your home folder or create a new user account.
As the dconf reset command will reset more than just the Unity, GNOME Shell and MATE desktop you should not run it idly — oh, and do make a backup of your existing desktop beforehand, especially if you’ve made extensive customisations and tweaks to any of you the desktops mentioned above.
Keep in mind that this command will only affect applications and desktop settings that are stored using dconf/gsettings. It will not reset other apps (e.g., Thunderbird, Google Chrome, Clementine, and so on), affect low-level settings (e.g., drivers, kernel versions, grub), nor will it reset other desktop environments (e.g., KDE Plasma).