I'm a Linux and KDE user, and recently I started to use also Enlightenment as a substitute Desktop environment when I need a lighter resource consumption.

I use KDM as a display manager, and I need to find a way to correctly set the default desktop environment to my preferences.

I wish to be able to set KDE as the default choice because I use it on a daily basis, and manually pick a different one just when I need it.

Currently it is set to boot the last used DE, and I can't find how to change this behaviour. The KDM control module in KDE System Settings does not seem to offer me this option.

Any clues on how can I do it?

  • Can't you chose a DE before logging in? There should be a session menu or similar that allows you to chose the session you want to run.
    – terdon
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 15:59
  • Yes, but I've set it up to automatically login with my account, without asking for a specific user (I'm the only user of the computer).
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:43
  • I don't think there is a way to both log in automatically and be able to chose a session.
    – terdon
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:47
  • 1
    I understand. But if it automatically logins in the last used environment, there should be some place where the system is told to behave like this, where it must check what was the last used and then to select it.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:52
  • And, in your experience, is this behaviour specifically related to my display manager (KDM) or it's a setting that has nothing to do with it? Should I expect to have the same situation also with, in example, LightDM?
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:55

5 Answers 5


You should be able to set this up by editing your $HOME/.dmrc file. The sessions available to your display manager (whichever one you use) are .desktop files normally located in /usr/share/xsessions. In my case, this directory contains:

$ ls /usr/share/xsessions
cinnamon2d.desktop  gnome-fallback.desktop  openbox-gnome.desktop  xfce.desktop
cinnamon.desktop    mate.desktop            openbox-kde.desktop
gnome.desktop       openbox.desktop         ssh.desktop

Any of those files is a possible session that my display manager can choose. Which one is controlled by the $HOME/.dmrc file. So, to make KDE the default, you would have to edit that file and make it look like this:


That assumes that you have a kde.desktop file in the xsessions directory, I don't use KDE so I can't check but it works for me using cinnamon or xfce. Once you have made that change, you should be logged in to KDE by default every time.

  • 1
    Thank you. You like many different environments yourself, don't you? :) Anyway, in my system, in the /usr/share/xsessions, the KDE entry is named kde-plasma.desktop; I suppose that this is because KDE also provides other environments (i.e. the Active for mobile devices) besides Plasma, the standard for desktops. Since I haven't modified anything here, I'm quite sure that it's the standard name; you might want to upgrade your answer to reflect this. I will try out this procedure and see if it works.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:34
  • @Sekhemty thanks, answer edited. It should work, I installed kdm just for you :) and tested by switching between cinnamon and xfce, it logged me into the default each time.
    – terdon
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 17:45
  • Already done, at least for me it is shown as accepted. Maybe the server has not yet updated the status?
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 20:33
  • 3
    does not work for me.I'm using CentOS 7. having gnome-classic.desktop, gnome.desktop, mate.desktop. set Session=mate but does not work
    – vee
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 14:30
  • 1
    @Pandya yes, see the answer by yrHeTaTeJlb, it looks like it works differently these days.
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 9:23

In GNOME 2, the .dmrc file in the user home directory was used to create default sessions. This .dmrc file is no longer used.

To specify a default session for a user, update the user’s account service in the /var/lib/AccountsService/users/*username* file:



  • My /var/lib/AccountsService/users/*username* contains "Session=" and "XSession=" variables. Should I set them both? Commented Feb 12, 2021 at 11:45
  • This did not work for me on Centos 7.9 :(
    – ionescu77
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 15:19
  • So I went nano /var/lib/AccountsService/users/root and put Session=plasma meaning the account service or whatever points to /usr/share/xsessions/plasma.desktop yeah? my filenames are a little different.
    – Tomachi
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 23:23

Works for Centos 7/RHEL If $HOME/.dmrc doesn't exists:

  1. From dir /usr/share/xsessions move all *.desktop file to another directory(unnecessary_env, for example) and leave only one you need(in my case - xfce.desktop):

    $ ls /usr/share/xsessions xfce.desktop unnecessary_env/

  2. After logout/reboot XFCE will be loaded by default

Note! You won't be able to choose between GUI

  • My default desktop environment is not under /usr/share/xsessions. I'm on kali Linux and see System X11 Default and gnome-classic as options. But in xsessions, only gnome-classic.desktop exists. Any tips..?
    – borizzzzz
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 15:24
  • 1
    Whatever I tried, Kali would keep using GNOME as default, moving the unnecessary *.desktop files out of /usr/share/xsessions was the only reliable method to force Kali to use Cinnamon by default. Thanks!
    – Tox
    Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 12:54
  • Same for me, it was the unique way to switch from budgie to cinnamon as default desktop in Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
    – serfer2
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 14:58

For RHEL/CentOS 7 you can set the file /etc/sysconfig/desktop to contain DESKTOP=KDE which will default it to KDE.

This also works for VNC.


I tried many options. The worker turned out to be the following:


echo "exec /usr/bin/mate-session" >> ~/.xinitrc


echo "exec /usr/bin/cinnamon-session" >> ~/.xinitrc


echo "exec startkde" >> ~/.xinitrc


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