How-To Geek

How to Install the Classic Gnome Desktop in Ubuntu 11.10


By default, Ubuntu 11.10 uses the Unity desktop. If you don’t like Unity, you can go back to the Classic Gnome Desktop from previous versions of Ubuntu, but it’s not included by default and has to be installed.

To install the Classic Gnome Desktop, press Ctrl + Alt + T to open a Terminal window. Type the following command at the prompt and press Enter.

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback

Enter your password when prompted.


The installation starts with an analysis of what packages need to be installed. The new packages that will be installed and the amount of disk space required are listed. When asked if you want to continue, type a “Y” (without the quotes) and press Enter.


When the installation is finished you are returned to the prompt. Type “exit” (again, without the quotes) and press Enter to close the Terminal window.


To use the Classic Gnome Desktop, log out of your session using the power menu in the upper, right corner of the top panel. You don’t need to restart the system to change desktop environments.


On the Log Out confirmation dialog box, click Log Out.


On the logon screen, click the gear button on the Password box and select GNOME Classic from the drop-down menu. If you don’t want any effects, you can select the GNOME Classic (No effects) option. Enter your password and press Enter to log on.


The Classic Gnome Desktop displays with the Applications and Places menus on the top panel and the bottom panel showing currently running programs.


On the Classic Gnome Desktop, there is no power button on the top panel. To log off or shut down, click on your user name and select an option from the drop-down menu.


When logging out, the process is similar but you are logged out automatically after 60 seconds if you don’t click Log Out on the confirmation dialog box.


Now, you can easily switch between the Classic Gnome Desktop and the Unity desktop. This gives you a chance to get used to the Unity desktop, but switch back to the classic desktop when you want a more familiar desktop environment.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 02/17/12

Comments (8)

  1. MJ

    I think I got this installed automatically on my 11.10 with an update recently, because I didn’t install it and I have it already. However I remember that a week ago I didn’t had it (I had to switch to Unity 2D to play Sauerbraten).

  2. Gabe

    It didn’t work for me I got the following error:
    $ sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback
    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    E: Unable to locate package gnome-session-fallback

    Any suggestion are welcome.

  3. tulamba786786
  4. crlnchr

    I understand that Ubuntu is the distro that is trying to reach out to the whole, and i believe that is a good thing. But my personal opinion is that the purpose of using Linux is slowly fading away in Ubuntu.

    And all this gets even more obvious when they started using Unity.

  5. Anatoli Lioultcenko

    Dear Geek} Using this link to seek your assistance in reinstalling classic Google Toolbar as Google recently changed its appearence to the unsatisfection of many PC users.In the new Google face there is no famouse “wrench”,but in supporting sites you may find very good explanation haw to improve your toolbar using the same wrench.Difficult to understand why Google do this and why it did not give the possibility to go back to classic toolbar.Merci.Anatoli.

  6. shark

    I thought you could get rid of the black bars at the top… its not normal

  7. Alen

    i think unity is not that bad.
    due to my old computer i have to use xfce. but i like unity.

  8. Brian

    Sorry, but this is not a true classic desktop. Not even close. It’s like wanting a Prius and getting a Volt.

    Is Bill Gates calling the shots at Ubuntu now, foisting Vistabuntu on us?

    If Ubuntu needs to have a version for tablets, cell phones, et al, fine, but make it a standalone OS and ditch Unity for desktops and latops.

    I’ve run Ubuntu for several years, but Ubuntu is losing touch with what made it an outstanding OS. The people at Ubuntu need to get this corrected before they start winding up with their users going to alternative OSs.

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