I have a machine that I access only via SSH that I just updated to Debian 10 a couple of days ago. Since the update it seems to be going to sleep when it is inactive. This has never happened with previous updates like from 7 to 8 or from 8 to 9. It seems like maybe the sleep settings have reverted to a default state. How can I view and edit the power and sleep settings in the command line? Any guidance much appreciated. Thanks!


I ran into this with gdm3 after upgrading to Debian 10: whenever the computer was left at the initial login screen, it would go to sleep after a while.

To fix this, I had to edit the power settings for GNOME when running the gdm3 session; these are stored in /etc/gdm3/greeter.dconf-defaults, and the lines to edit are those in the “Automatic suspend” section at the end of the file:

# Automatic suspend
# =================
# - Time inactive in seconds before suspending with AC power
#   1200=20 minutes, 0=never
# sleep-inactive-ac-timeout=1200
# - What to do after sleep-inactive-ac-timeout
#   'blank', 'suspend', 'shutdown', 'hibernate', 'interactive' or 'nothing'
# - As above but when on battery
# sleep-inactive-battery-timeout=1200
# sleep-inactive-battery-type='suspend'

Specifically, I changed sleep-inactive-ac-type to 'blank'. Despite its name, this isn’t a template file which should be copied; the change must be made in the /etc/gdm3/greeter.dconf-defaults file itself. The changes are taken into account after restarting the gdm3 service.

I didn’t have to make any changes to the systemd or logind setup; this means that if I want to, I can still suspend the system manually.

  • Did you copy greeter.dconf-defaults to greeter.dconf ? and restart some service? – Roman Oct 8 '19 at 10:19
  • 1
    @Roman the file really is greeter.dconf-defaults, it doesn’t need to be renamed (it’s taken into account because there’s a symlink to it in /usr/share/gdm/dconf). You do need to restart the gdm3 service for the change to be taken into account. – Stephen Kitt Oct 8 '19 at 10:58
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    There seem to be a couple of Debian bug reports for this issue: bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=896083 & bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=893964 . Seems to be quite intentional though, and no sign a reversion to the old non-suspending behaviour is planned: there's a claim that the need for the change came about "to comply with European and American power-saving regulations". – timday Apr 23 '20 at 14:24

you can try the following based on your needs:
Disable suspend and hibernation:

sudo systemctl mask sleep.target suspend.target hibernate.target hybrid-sleep.target

To re-enable hibernate and suspend use the following command:

sudo systemctl unmask sleep.target suspend.target hibernate.target hybrid-sleep.target

If you just want to prevent suspending when the lid is closed you can set the following options in /etc/systemd/logind.conf:


restart the service or reboot your machine

systemctl restart systemd-logind.service

I made the changes in /etc/gdm3/greeter.dconf-defaults and indeed this does stop the sleep while waiting at the GDM screen. However if you do logon to, e.g., gnome, then again after about 20 mins the same sleep reoccurs.

N.B. I have set the gnome desktop (privacy) to NOT lock the screen at idle. This is presumably working as when it awakes from sleep (by tapping keyboard) the screen is not locked and the desktop is "as left" ...

N.B. Running a "long job" at the physical display (via X, not tested on TTY) delays the sleep. Activity on ssh session (as above) does not.


The situation tricky and stupid at the same time. I've tried a lot of variants to guess why it's not working.

The Solution: (**Tested and Works on Debian 10 with GNOME on Laptop HP Elitebook) There are TWO greeter.dconf-defaults files First in /etc/gdm3/greeter.dconf-defaults and second in /usr/share/gdm/greeter.dconf-defaults.

The main idea that TWO this files MUST BE THE SAME! Edit /etc/gdm3/greeter.dconf-defaults from ROOT and UNComment some LINE below!!!


# sleep-inactive-ac-timeout=1200 #--default
sleep-inactive-ac-timeout=0      # new


# - As above but when on battery

Just SAVE IT and copy to PATH /usr/share/gdm/greeter.dconf-defaults and reboot.

Note that these files MUST BE THE SAME!

P.S I think it's a bug because, after you edit /etc/gdm3/greeter.dconf-defaults, dpkg-reconfigure gdm3 --doesn't work proper (Should change /usr/share/gdm/greeter.dconf-defaults).

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