Ubuntu works very well, but sometimes unfixable issues arise. If you’re trying to use your Linux PC to get work done, the last thing you should have to worry about is fiddling with the desktop environment, tinkering, and troubleshooting. Unfortunately, there isn’t a button in Ubuntu that users can click to “reset Ubuntu to default settings like in Windows 10 or Chrome OS. Instead, users looking to completely reset Ubuntu to default settings have to jump through some serious hoops.
SPOILER ALERT: Scroll down and watch the video tutorial at the end of this article.
In this article, we’ll break down two ways to quickly reset Ubuntu to its original state; the Dconf method and the Live Disk method. The Dconf method resets a single user to default though it can be used to reset multiple users. The Live Disk method is more thorough and it will reset your entire Ubuntu installation.
Reset Ubuntu – Dconf
If your Ubuntu Linux desktop is messed up and you’re looking to get it back to the original settings, a great way to do it is to use the built-in Dconf editor. Dconf is an integral tool for all desktop environments built with GTK. Gnome, Cinnamon, XFCE4, and LXDE; they all use it.
To reset Ubunutu, open up a terminal window and run the following command. Please understand that doing a Dconf reset is serious business. It will delete everything on your Desktop environment. This means shortcuts, icons, etc. Only run this if you are absolutely sure.
Note: Dconf reset is done on a per-user basis. It won’t reset the Ubuntu desktop for everyone on the PC. To reset multiple users, run this multiple times.
dconf reset -f /
When Dconf reset finishes, restart your PC. When you log in, everything will look exactly as it did when you first installed Ubuntu. It should also be noted that this command resets settings for many different Dconf-dependent programs (music players, the file manager and etc), so you may have to re-set that up too.
Reset Kubuntu Desktop
The Dconf reset method works very well with versions of Ubuntu that make use of GTK. Kubuntu is not one of those Linux distributions. Since Kubuntu uses KDE, the above method won’t work. Instead, if you’d like to reset the KDE desktop on your Kubuntu PC, follow these instructions.
Note: much like the Dconf reset, removing the Plasma configuration works on a per-user basis. You must re-run this command on every user you want to reset the desktop on.
Open up a terminal window and delete the default Plasma configuration with the following command.
rm -rf .kde/share/config/plasma-*
Additionally, you may want to remove several Plasma files from your own user directory. These Plasma files are in ~/.config and help set the desktop for individual users. Delete them with the rm command.
cd ~/.config rm plasma*
After removing the Plasma configuration files, things are going to start breaking. Click the KDE application icon, find the log out button and click it.
As you log back into the Kubuntu desktop, the desktop should look exactly the way it did when it was first installed.
Reset Ubuntu – Live Disk
Using the Dconf reset method works very well if all you want is to reset the way Ubuntu looks on the surface, and maybe a few GTK programs. However, if your Ubuntu installation is broken beyond repair, Dconf isn’t going to be enough.
The best way to fully reset Ubuntu to stock settings is to re-install the operating system. However, we won’t be doing a traditional re-installation where the hard drive is deleted, and you lose your files. Instead, we’ll be taking advantage of a great Ubuntu feature that allows the user to “re-install” it but keep all their files.
Going this route is a last resort, and will refresh the core components of Ubuntu. To get started, you will need to create a Ubuntu live disk. Plug in the Ubuntu live DVD/USB, and turn off your PC. Open up the BIOS and configure it so that the Ubuntu live installer loads first.
When Ubuntu loads up, click the “Install Ubuntu” button to start the installation process. On the next page, be sure to select “Download updates” and “install third-party software”, if you chose that option for the original installation.
Move through the installer till you get to the “Installation Type” page. This is the most important page of the entire installer, as it is where users set the type of Ubuntu install.
Look through the lists, and find the option that says “Reinstall Ubuntu”. Selecting this option will erase the core operating system files, but keep stuff like Music, Documents, etc on the hard drive.
Once “Reinstall” is selected, click through and finish up the rest of the Ubuntu installation.
Note: be sure to create the same username in the installer that you used before
When Ubuntu finishes the Re-installation process, a pop-up message will appear letting you know that the process is complete. Click “Restart Now” to reboot. When you log in, Ubuntu will be completely reset to the defaults.