I am using Debian Testing and Gnome Flashback (but it behaves the same in standard Gnome Shell).

It gives me plain white background, and I can't set my own. Also, the settings dialog for background looks funny:

enter image description here

Any ideas?

Edit: I have noticed I got background image back when I turned off "Nautilus controlling desktop". Of course, I no longer see desktop icons this way.

Update: I have installed Ubuntu (with Unity), keeping my /home partition. The same problem appears in Unity! I can't set desktop background.

  • What does gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri print?
    – Joseph R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 9:05
  • 'file:///usr/share/images/desktop-base/joy-inksplat-wallpaper_1920x1080.svg', which seems ok. Look at my edit, the problem exists only when I want to have icons on the desktop. BTW, should this dialog really look like this? Nov 19, 2013 at 11:03
  • The output seems indeed normal. The dialog, however, should not look like the image you posted. You said you get the same behavior in Gnome Shell, but does Gnome Shell actually work correctly: e.g. does moving your mouse to the upper left corner bring up the "Activities" window?
    – Joseph R.
    Nov 19, 2013 at 11:29
  • Yep, Gnome Shell works OK (if one's into that kind of stuff of course), and it shows the background image, unless I check "Have file manager handle the desktop" in the tweak tool. Nov 19, 2013 at 13:05
  • Related: None of the methods in this U&L Q&A work? How to refresh the desktop background in various desktop environments?
    – slm
    Mar 9, 2014 at 18:08

4 Answers 4


Managed to solve the problem, at least in Unity, but I guess it would work in Gnome 3 as well:

This setting was false:

$ gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons

So I changed it:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true

And got my desktop background and icons instantly.

  • Perfect. This worked for me as well. Thanks!
    – Bklyn
    Oct 8, 2014 at 14:59

I had same problem, you can fix it by setting in Tweek_tool/Desktop file manager handler and icons visible - OFF

  • 2
    Can you add a bit more details to this A?
    – slm
    Mar 6, 2014 at 14:27
  • Sure. after some updates (I have Debian Testing and Gnome 3 too), I notice that I don't have my background image on desktop (background became white, changing image didn't help), and I tried to find how to fix it but the only way I found it's to remove icons from desktop, using tweak tool
    – Alex
    Mar 9, 2014 at 17:32

Some people are missing the point, IF you want your icons on the Desktop AND wallpaper. Gnome has decided you can not. It used to work, but now it doesn't.

Of course if you DON'T want icons, it doesn't matter, but if you DO want icons on your desktop AND wallpaper background it has been decided you can no longer have that.

This is one of the reasons Gnome has gone off track, lack of customization of things you might want, and imposition of things you don't want.

  • 3
    Do you have any reference about the fact this is a feature and not a bug?
    – sloriot
    Mar 25, 2014 at 8:28
  • Actually, it seems it is a bug in nautilus (bug report)
    – sloriot
    Jun 18, 2014 at 22:11

Nautilus stops rendering the background because gnome-shell starts drawing it. Debian and Ubuntu are applying a patch to reverse the changes in Nautilus.

See Debian bug report titled: nautilus: White background when nautilus is managing the desktop.


With my machine up to date, nautilus is drawing a white background when it's managing the desktop instead of the expected wallpaper. I can reproduce this with a new empty profile.

I'm not sure this is directly related to nautilus, this might be caused by other libraries in the stack.

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