When I login from gdm3 with 'System Default' selected, my (debian based) system starts gnome. I don't want to choose i3 every time I boot, rather set i3 as 'System Default'. Is there a way to do so?

  • What Distribution?
    – user192526
    Oct 20, 2016 at 8:05
  • @Bahamut based on debian
    – Scriptim
    Oct 20, 2016 at 12:04
  • Try this . update-alternatives --config x-session-manager I am not sure if it works with i3. I have only experience with openbox.
    – user192526
    Oct 20, 2016 at 12:10
  • Another way in $HOME/.dmrc [Desktop] Session=i3
    – user192526
    Oct 20, 2016 at 13:12
  • Edit ~/.xinitrc change the exec gnome3/gdm to exec i3 / or i3wm. (I think dpkg-reconfigure gdm lets you choose the display manager)
    – Michael D.
    Oct 20, 2016 at 21:58

1 Answer 1


Gnome 3 has changed how user defaults are stored (and now direct manipulation appears to require root privileges). Per the Gnome page for Configure a user default session:

To specify a default session for a user, update the user’s account service in the

/var/lib/AccountsService/users/username file:


That should set the username to use the i3 session on the next login.

However, I should note that this is not changing the System Default - a different (new) user logging into the machine will still get gnome. That said, your question really seems to be about changing it for you (versus the system as a whole), and this will do that.

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