I am using Debian Jessie with the Mate desktop and I would like to remove systemd from my system. I am following these instructions but as soon as I enter

apt-get remove --purge --auto-remove systemd

apt-get lists the mate desktop packages mate-desktop-environment, etc as packages to be removed. I knew that Gnome 3 had a dependency on systemd but I thought Mate hadn't: I got Mate running fine on FreeBSD, obviously without systemd.

Am I doing something wrong, or otherwise are there perhaps alternative Mate packages for Debian that do not rely on systemd?

1 Answer 1


(This answer was accurate when it was written, in 2016, for Jessie. I don’t know what the situation is in current releases of Debian.)

You should be able to run MATE without using systemd as your system's init, but as it stands in Debian currently you need to have the systemd package installed, because mate-desktop-environment ends up depending on libpam-systemd which depends on systemd. To use all this alongside sysvinit (or Upstart) you need to install systemd-shim instead of systemd-sysv.

  • I have already installed systemd-shim, and systemd-sysv is not installed. I wanted to remove systemd to free up some space but it seems it is not possible. Thanks for the useful information.
    – Giorgio
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 21:24
  • As far as I understand, it should be possible to remove this dependency. Mate does not require systemd on other distributions, see e.g. the FAQ at wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/MATE
    – Giorgio
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:26
  • The Gentoo MATE FAQ says you don't need to run systemd to use MATE, which is also the case on Debian. The dependency on the systemd package comes via gvfs, but it's only an installation dependency, not a runtime dependency. You could always rebuild gvfs to drop the libpam-systemd requirement. (This would be equivalent to what you'd go through on Gentoo...) Commented May 10, 2016 at 16:45
  • I had understood that it doesn't need systemd to run. I meant that the indirect dependency can be removed. Thanks a lot for pointing at gvfs.
    – Giorgio
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 18:38
  • It's worth noting that systemd-shim is no longer in Debian unstable. elogind should make the process more bearable but I still think it requires rebuilding the debian package with some tweaks.
    – Wyatt Ward
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 17:45

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