I have two situations in which I need to run desktops without any 3D acceleration.

1) I often run Ubuntu and CentOS VMs on a machine who graphic card does not play nicely with VirtualBox's 3D acceleration (bug in the drivers).

2) Accessing remote sessions

This isn't a quick "log in and check something", I could be working at them for hours, and the performance hit from using LLVMpipe really annoys me, so I could really use a Desktop Environment that runs on Modern distros but doesn't require 3D acceleration, but I can't find reliable info easily.


Which currently maintained, mature, DEs don't require 3D acceleration (note, I'm not asking for an opinion on whether they are any good, I just want a list).

  • Which ones do require 3D acceleration, apart from Unity? Oct 20, 2016 at 21:36
  • Out of the box Gnome 3 and Cinnamon definitely do (could be that cinnamon can be configured not to). I think plasma does as well? - i.e. all the major ones. Oct 21, 2016 at 12:49

3 Answers 3


It depends what kind of features you want from a desktop or what you generally expect from it:

  • MATE: fork of Gnome 2, traditional environment with lots of features
  • i3: tiling window manager and easy to configure
  • XFCE
  • dwm: there are many tiling window managers based on or similar to dwm (catwm, monsterwm, ocelot, ..)
  • xmonad
  • awesome
  • herbstluftwm
  • OpenBox
  • icewm: preinstalled on openSUSE/SLES as fallback WM
  • LXDE
  • 1
    I'm makring this as the answer given that it has the most exhaustive list. Thanks. Oct 25, 2016 at 9:28

Personally, I'm using XUbuntu which comes with XFCE by default. This I believe doesn't need 3D acceleration.

See also this related post on the subject.


practically any small VM without compositing.

New on scene is for example LXQt, which are trying create fully capable lightweight desktop.

LXQt Lightweight Desktop Manager

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