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I just did a Debian install on an old laptop, and I don't need Gnome shell on it. I did it with apt-get remove gnome-shell, and it worked after I restarted.

However, later I did apt-get autoremove, and I was a bit tired and didn't read any of the package names it listed - turned out it removed a whole bunch of important packages from my system, forcing me to re-install Debian from scratch.

Is there another way to disable Gnome shell as the default?

I tried the following command from the Debian wiki, but it didn't work:

$ gconftool -s /desktop/gnome/session/required_components/windowmanager \
       -t string metacity
0

Perhaps the solution to an old machine (underpowered, no 3D) is to switch to a lighter weight DE, like XFCE. That is what I did.

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