How to refresh desktop in Ubuntu without rebooting PC

Got a Frozen desktop? Try restarting Ubuntu instead of rebooting.

Most Linux distributions including Ubuntu uses a desktop environment over the base Linux system. Since no operating system is perfect, it’s just matter of time when you may experience sluggish performance or may be your desktop environment is behaving weird. Usually, rebooting the PC is the first thing that comes to mind which magically fixes the issue somehow.

Why to Refresh the Ubuntu Desktop?

You don’t need to reboot entire PC everytime if you experience sluggish performance or may be if the desktop got non-responsive. Refreshing desktop environment is sometimes equally as effective as reboot. It saves you bunch of time and you don’t need to kill the applications you are running. By refreshing the desktop, you’re only restarting the desktop environment. It’s also useful when you want to see the effects of an software update to the desktop.

How to Refresh Ubuntu desktop?

Now that you know the benefits of refreshing the Ubuntu desktop, let’s take a look at how to do it on various Ubuntu versions.

On Ubuntu GNOME

GNOME is default environment starting from Ubuntu 17.10. So, this segment of article may be the highest referred now and near future!

Method 1: From GUI 

I would first try this quick GUI way to see if restarts GNOME, but in case your desktop is fully frozen and doesn’t respond, you should try method 2.

Step 1) Press ALT and F2 simultaneously. In modern laptop, you may need to additionally press the Fn key too (if it exists) to activate Function keys.

Step 2) Type r in the command box and press enter.

Restarting GNOME Ubuntu 17.10
Restarting GNOME Ubuntu 17.10

GNOME should restart. If not, try Method 2.

Method 2: From Terminal

Step 1) Launch ‘Terminal’.

Step 2) Enter the following command and press enter.

gnome-shell --replace & disown

–replace function resets the running window manager, which is GNOME in this case.

Resetting GNOME from Terminal in Ubuntu 17.10
Resetting GNOME from Terminal in Ubuntu 17.10

On Ubuntu Unity

If you are running older versions of Ubuntu with the Unity desktop environment, the command line is obviously different. Proceed as follows:

Step 1) Press ALT and F2 keys simultaneously.

Step 2) Enter unity command to restart Unity desktop.


That’s it!

Kiran Kumar
Hi there! I'm Kiran Kumar, founder of I'm an avid Linux lover and enjoy hands-on with new promising distros. Currently, I'm using Ubuntu as a daily driver and run several other distros such as Fedora, Solus, Manjaro, Debian, and some new ones on my test PC and virtual machines. I have a day job as an Engineer, and this website is one of my favorite past time activities especially during Winter ;). When I'm not writing for FOSSLinux, I'm seen biking and hiking on scenic trails. Hope you enjoy using this website as much as I do writing for it. Feedback from readers is something that inspires me to do more, and spread Linux love!. If you find a time, drop me an email or feedback from the 'Contact' page. Or simply leave a comment below if you found this article useful. Have a good day!


  1. Totally not helpful. When it’s frozen, it’s frozen. Nothing works. Cannot move the pointer. Neither Alt=F2 nor Ctrl+alt+T nor alt+f4 does anything.

    • This article helps you in restarting the UI portion of the desktop that can sometime get frozen. So, trying this can rescue if that’s the case. If it doesn’t work, the system froze due to some other reason and this guide doesn’t apply for it. Since no one will be sure as to what actually froze the system, it’s the first ‘try’ that might do the trick! If not, the usual ‘restart’ is always there.

  2. This helped me !
    On my desktop ubuntu 16.04 running Unity, got some menu window upon right-mouse click, it didn’t complete thing so it just displayed a translucent rectangular window instead.
    So i just re-run Unity as u described and voila! Previously when this happened, i just had to reboot to clear thing up, which was not that efficient way



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