I'm trying to change my screensaver settings in Cinnamon 2.6.13 on Ubuntu 14.04 trusty.

When the system image was fresh, I was able to change the setting /org/cinnamon/desktop/screensaver/ask-for-away-message to whatever I wanted. Now, however, the option seems to be "locked" at false, and using dconf write (even with sudo) gives the following output:

dconf write /org/cinnamon/desktop/screensaver/ask-for-away-message true
error: The operation attempted to modify one or more non-writable keys

The only thing I can think of that could have caused this was when I tried a new screensaver a few weeks ago. I hated it and changed it back to default, but since then I haven't been able to change the setting of ask-for-away-message, and I really want it to true again...

Why is the setting now "non-writable"?

  • @don_crissti Thanks, I just checked that directory but it doesn't seem to exist, so it seems that it isn't. Dec 24, 2016 at 1:23
  • Can you create a new user to check, if the problem is in the system or in your /home?
    – user192526
    Dec 25, 2016 at 16:05
  • @Bahamut Unfortunately, I can not create a new user to check. Dec 27, 2016 at 20:30
  • Long shot. Logout and stop Xorg. Rename following folder. $HOME/.gconf $HOME/..gconfd $HOME/.dbus $HOME/.config/dconf. But this will reset all your approaches.
    – user192526
    Dec 30, 2016 at 10:08
  • Please check the directory permissions in $HOME/.config/*. I had that a couple of times as well. Not sure what caused it, but one of the directories (dconf/?) suddenly was owned by root. After a sudo chown <myUser>:<myGroup> <directory>` things where back to normal. Generally spoken, a sudo chown -R <myUser>:<myGroup> $HOME/.config should not cause any harm, and fix this very issue as well.
    – Izzy
    Jan 12, 2017 at 12:56

3 Answers 3


I'm a little late to the party, but I found the solution to a very similar problem I was having.

Look in /etc/dconf/db/local.d/locks/screensaver and see if your key is listed. Anything listed in this file is locked, and cannot be changed at all.

Also check /etc/dconf/db/local.d/00-screensaver, as that file forces global settings, which might also be affecting it.

More info can be found at https://access.redhat.com/solutions/1201153.


Maybe some program set a lock on the according key. I found this in the Gnome developer documentation, probably works also with your system as it uses dconf.


System databases can contain 'locks' for keys. If a lock for a particular key or subpath is installed into a database then no database listed above that one in the profile will be able to modify any of the affected settings. This can be used to enforce mandatory settings.

To add locks to a database, place text files in the /etc/dconf/db/database.d/locks directory, where database is the name of a system database, as specified in the profile. The files contain list of keys to lock, on per line. Lines starting with a # are ignored. Here is an example:

# prevent changes to the company wallpaper

After changing locks, the database needs to be updated with the dconf(1) tool.

Copied from https://developer.gnome.org/dconf/unstable/dconf-overview.html


I have two ideas:

  1. You are trying to write a VALUE of a wrong type; e.g. write a string into an integer KEY
  2. Try to reset that KEY, prior to write in it
  • I've awarded you the bounty, but neither of these helped fix the problem. Jan 12, 2017 at 14:56

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