Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My current mission is simple - to make arch boot into gnome. First I want to make sure I got this right: gnome is based on the x-server, so I've installed xorg. Then I've installed gonme and gnome-extra. Now this is supposed to be enough, but I read that it is also recommended to install a display manager, so I've installed gdm.

My questions:

1) What is the exact purpose of a display manager?

2) There are many ways that I've read to make arch boot into gnome: inittab, deamons, editing grub to boot into run level 5 and I think I bumped into another one I can't remember. What are the differences? Which one is the best/most simple?

share|improve this question

A display manager's job is to make sure there is an X11 server running on every display (for example, on multi-seat systems you'd have multiple X servers). It also handles user logins - when nobody is logged in, a "greeter" or login screen is displayed.

There are in fact only two ways to start GDM on Arch: inittab and rc.conf. The former tells SysVinit to start GDM immediately after completing the early boot process, and - usually - to restart it on a crash. The same method is used for tty login sessions as well. On a single-user system, GDM might be seen as just a convenience, but it is often necessary for making access to hardware work properly.

The Grub editing instructions you mention are not a separate method, they just ensure that the appropriate inittab configuration is being used. (In the legacy SysVinit, there can be several runlevels with different sets of services. Arch simplifies this somewhat, but the distinction remains if you add something to inittab directly bypassing Arch initscripts.)

(The third method, switching from sysvinit to systemd, is becoming somewhat popular. I'm not in the mood for starting flame wars, however.)

share|improve this answer

Like grawity said, the purpose of a display manager is more than just 'hey man login here', it does several things (including starting X).

The 'best' method as from the Archlinux Wiki is via inittab, which is also 'runlevel 5' (X Window Manager). There is also the daemon method, each have their own pros and cons. The inittab method, for example, will respawn GDM in case of a crash. I do recommend a page from the Archlinux wiki itself. It explains things better than I could.

share|improve this answer

I've just started using Arch myself but with LXDE instead (I've tried gnome, too heavy for my low end laptop). Have you tried installing "xorg-xinit"? Then create a file "~/.xinitrc", and inside of it write "exec gnome-session". That should do the trick. I've never had trouble with this method for any desktop environments. After you get past gdm it'll start a gnome session.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.