I'm running KDE neon 5.20 and found two files /etc/locale.conf and /etc/default/locale with similar content. What's the difference between these two files and which one should I edit to change the system locale?

2 Answers 2


Different distributions or versions of Linux employ one or the other. As a case in point, the documentation for Debian 10 refers mainly to /etc/default/locale (e.g. man update-locale). Its systemd-related parts refer also to /etc/locale.conf (e.g. man locale.conf).

A brief test shows that localectl (also part of Debian 10's systemd) reports the contents of /etc/default/locale as system locale, unless /etc/locale.conf exists as well: in this case it apparently takes precedence.

I am using /etc/default/locale exclusively (again, on a current version of Debian). My rational is as follows: this one can be appropriate for Debian, either one is appropriate for system, so in sum it's a clear choice.

  • I still don't understand why there are two files. If I set LC_TIME=en_US.UTF-8 in /etc/default/locale and LC_TIME=en_GB.UTF-8 in /etc/locale.conf, what will the LC_TIME be as a result (I don't have Ubuntu installed at the moment to check this)?
    – popov895
    Apr 14, 2021 at 18:15
  • @popov895 Well I guess there are two different lineages. An older one that employs /etc/locale.conf and a newer one that employs /etc/default/locale.
    – rookie099
    Apr 15, 2021 at 7:43

After some experiments, I've determined that KDE neon respects the locale settings in /etc/default/locale, but ignores the locale settings in /etc/locale.conf. I still don't understand why Ubuntu uses a different location for the locale file, but I came to the conclusion that on Ubuntu based distributions it's necessary to use /etc/default/locale to set the locale. Also, I just replaced /etc/default/locale with a symlink to the /etc/locale.conf, and everything works fine, but now I have only one file with the locale settings.

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