The problem:

In X, an old application window (or several), which I closed minutes or hours ago (or even days!), will suddenly appear on top of the currently active window. Sometimes an entire old virtual desktop will overwrite my current open applications.

As I move the mouse over this old overlaid display, the active programs which are actually running will gradually redraw their windows. E.g. if my mouse goes over some widgets such as a text field, a pushbutton, these widgets will get redrawn and overwrite again the old incorrectly drawn framebuffer.

If I switch between two virtual desktops in XFCE, back and forth, the entire screen usually gets redrawn correctly.

Despite this way to resolve it quickly, by switching virtual desktops, the problem can reappear a second later, multiple times. This renders the entire desktop almost completely useless a lot of the time.


I have a Debian 9.8 system running XFCE. I don't have this problem with Windows on the same hardware.

01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation GK208 [GeForce GT 710B] (rev a1)
    Subsystem: Micro-Star International Co., Ltd. [MSI] GK208 [GeForce GT 710B]
    Kernel driver in use: nouveau
    Kernel modules: nouveau

What I've tried:

Switching to nvidia instead of nouveau.

Upgrading the kernel.

Updating the system multiple times (I've had the problem for a long time), reinstalling packages.

Reinstalling the OS.

  • Interesting. Is it always a particular application? Is the application still visible with xlsclients? Can you test with a different window manager (say, fvwm), and see if it shows the same problem? If not, that would point to a bug in XFCE. – dirkt Mar 14 '19 at 8:56
  • @dirkt I thought at first it was related to video playback in Youtube (Firefox). However, the problem persists even after killing all instances of Firefox. I have yet to find anything that correlates with it except video playback. While killing Firefox doesn't stop the problem, perhaps the problem is still somehow connected to video playback. I have not tried a different window manager. I might consider doing that. – AlphaCentauri Mar 14 '19 at 16:40
  • So is what appears the closed video playback window, or does part of the closed application appear? X uses special acceleration for video playback, so if only the video playback window appears, that would narrow down the problem. – dirkt Mar 15 '19 at 6:42
  • @dirkt unfortunately this problem is not specific to hardware overlay or similar video playback schemes. I can get previously closed windows of any kind. – AlphaCentauri Mar 17 '19 at 22:19

Sorry not to provide an answer on this, but maybe the info is helpful nevertheless.

I also have this problem on MX Linux 18.3 (based on Debian 9), especially with Firefox. Using 'htop', I noticed that forks from the main Firefox process appear not properly cleaned up after closing the window. So even if I close the window, the process remains in memory. Of course, without knowing which process belongs to which window, it's not smart to just kill the process until I'm ready to stop the whole application running at all (i.e. closing the last window).

Perhaps Firefox is one of the applications where this phenomenon is most obvious, as it uses much memory and newer versions fork a lot more since the major overhaul to stop errors in tabs crashing the whole application.

In summary, this seems to be related to a memory management issue rather than a graphics driver glitch.

PS: I had an old firefox window with a related print dialog show up at the moment I was about to post, despite this dialog having been used at least days ago.

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