I put some files in my "desktop" folder to be displayed on the screen but nothing happens, why?

Example screenshot

  • Are you aware of our Unix & Linux sister site? It's generally a better place to ask Linux questions than here.
    – Mawg
    Jan 4, 2019 at 7:45

7 Answers 7


just install "gnome-tweak-tool" and turn it on. You have to enable "Have file manager handle the desktop".

  • 3
    This does only work with gnome-shell installed, otherwise gnome-tweak-tool will refuse to run at all.
    – drahnr
    Jun 8, 2011 at 14:42
  • 4
    this option is not available in the tweak tool anymore. Extension is the way to go.
    – krivar
    Aug 8, 2019 at 13:38
  • @krivar which extension did you use?
    – nsrCodes
    May 17, 2021 at 5:17

It's easier to set the appropriate gconf key with the following command:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true
  • failed to commit changes to dconf: Failed to execute child process “dbus-launch” (No such file or directory)
    – Sam
    Jan 3, 2020 at 8:17
  • 1
    doesn't work for me, even after restarting nautilus after that command. I'm on Gnome 3.34. Also tried logging out/in. Something else we need to do?
    – trusktr
    Jan 22, 2020 at 4:09

Update Jan 2019

GNOME 3.28 has removed the ability to place files on the desktop (rationale, annoucement).

Install the "Desktop icons" GNOME shell extension (GNOME extensions website, git).

  • Fedora packages this extension: sudo dnf install gnome-shell-extension-desktop-icons
    – vk5tu
    May 14, 2020 at 5:49

First, Gnome 3 is still in beta so don't expect things to work 100%. Next, it seems to me that the new design does not include desktop icons. It's a feature.

  • 1
    Gnome 3 is in RC and will be released on april 6.
    – Caio
    Apr 3, 2011 at 11:19

Thanks to a comment on Desktop Icons extension by this user, the solution was found (all other solutions didn't work for me). It worked for me on Fedora 31 (and also fixed a bug in another extension).

Here is the solution:

  1. Install the Desktop Icons extension, either using Software application (by searching "desktop-icons") or installing it from here.

  2. Run the following command in Terminal:

    sudo setcap -r /usr/bin/gnome-shell
  3. When it prompts for password, enter your password (the password is hidden).

  4. Logout and log back in.

Hooray! You have your desktop icons. Enjoy!

Note: Remember that, as it is mentioned by OP, you should repeat these steps if you upgrade your Gnome Environment. You could also add to as a boot script, see here for that.

Revert Back

This solution may (or may not) affect Gnome performance and stability (although should not). If you are experiencing further problems, do one of the followings to revert changes back (the first one is recommended):

  1. Reinstall Gnome Shell via DNF (or DnfDragora):

    sudo dnf reinstall gnome-shell
  2. Run the following command in Terminal:

    sudo setcap cap_sys_nice+epi /usr/bin/gnome-shell

For Gnome 3.28+

You can do it by using "Desktop Folder" program to restore your desktop icons, it's working on gnome 3.38.

  1. First thing, you need to install "desktopfolder" and "gnome-tweak-tool" in your system, in Debian for example, just type in your terminal:

    sudo apt-get install desktopfolder gnome-tweak-tool
  2. Now, type "gnome-tweaks" in your terminal or search for "tweaks" in applications to open "gnome-tweak-tool".

  3. under "Startup Applications", click on "+" symbol.

  4. search for "Desktop Folder" and select it, then click "Add"

  5. Restart your system.

  • only works on the desktop on which it runs, does not work for multiple destops
    – Aurovrata
    Jun 14, 2021 at 5:08

You can install Desktop Icons: Neo extension. It also works perfectly on Gnome 40 and upwards.

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