Tech Guide: How to refresh your Linux desktop without rebooting

Most Linux users don’t rely on just the terminal (that would make things too tedious) and also use a desktop environment. In case your desktop starts acting weird the typical solution would be to restart the system. But there’s a quicker alternative that might solve your problem which is to refresh your Linux desktop without rebooting.

Rebooting takes significantly longer than simply refreshing the desktop. The second option also keeps the progress of your currently running apps, plus it’s a simple solution for making updates go into effect.

How to refresh your Linux desktop without rebooting

While it’s not difficult to refresh your Linux desktop without rebooting, the methods differ between various desktop environments. Also, keep in mind that if your desktop is acting weird due to tweaks, you won’t be able to fix the issues with a simple restart.


Cinnamon lets you quickly refresh your desktop since this is one of its stock options. You just need to click on one of Cinnamon’s desktop panels without selecting any applets and a drop down menu should appear. There, select Troubleshoot -> Restart Cinnamon. Alternatively, you can use the Ctrl + Alt + Esc keyboard shortcut to refresh your desktop (this is a Cinnamon-exclusive shortcut which doesn’t work for other desktop environments).

“Troubleshoot -> Restore all settings to default” is another option you might want to use, if you’ve been tweaking Cinnamon’s applets since those might be causing your desktop issues.


OK, so there might not be any default Ubuntu releases using the Unity desktop but my guess is people will still be using it for a long time from now.  To restart the Unity desktop you will need to open the terminal. Once you’ve done that type in the command below:


That’s it!

If you plan on using this option a lot it’s probably going to be worth the effort of setting up a keyboard shortcut for it (which you can do from Unity’s system settings).


Gnome’s desktop refresh feature has an additional function. Some of its extensions don’t go into effect until you refresh the desktop. Regardless why you need to refresh the desktop, Gnome allows you to do that from a desktop menu option or from the command line.

The terminal method requires you to type in the following command:

gnome-shell –replace & disown

For the second method, press Alt + F2 and when the input is displayed type in r then hit Enter.

KDE Plasma

KDE Plasma is a highly versatile desktop but not exactly the most user-friendly which is why you will need to use the terminal to refresh it. Once you open the terminal, type in this command:

kquitapp5 plasmashell && kstart5 plasmashell

Then, all you need to do is wait for a couple of seconds for the desktop to refresh.

Also, using numerous Plasma applets might also cause desktop instability issues. In this case, it might be a good idea to reset your settings. to do this, enter the command below:

mv ~/.config/plasma-org.kde.plasma.desktop-appletsrc old-configuration

You will also need to restart the desktop to apply the changes.


Xfce is a practical desktop environment but also very flexible. For this reason, refreshing it comes with two steps: restarting the panels and the windows manager but if you enter the command below both actions will be executed:

xfce4-panel -r && xfwm4 –replace

Nevertheless, you can also type them separately as shown in the image above.


LXDE also lets you refresh it only via the command line.  The method is similar to the one used by Xfce which means the command below will allow you to refresh the panels and the window manager at the same time.

lxpanelctl restart && openbox –restart

This is a bloat-free desktop environment so the refresh process should be almost instant.

Since it’s a lightweight desktop, it should only take a second or so to refresh itself.

Keep in mind that refreshing your desktop may fix some issues but if it doesn’t work you will eventually need to restart the system.

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