I've installed debian and I included desktop environments while installation. I also checked them with tasksel and it shows them installed:

> apt show task-desktop              
Package: task-desktop
Version: 3.68
Priority: optional
Section: tasks
Source: tasksel
Maintainer: Debian Install System Team <[email protected]>
Installed-Size: 6,144 B
Depends: tasksel (= 3.68), xorg, xserver-xorg-video-all, xserver-xorg-input-all, desktop-base
Recommends: task-gnome-desktop | task-xfce-desktop | task-kde-desktop | task-lxde-desktop | task-gnome-flashback-desktop | task-cinnamon-desktop | task-mate-desktop | task-lxqt-desktop, xdg-utils, fonts-symbola, avahi-daemon, libnss-mdns, anacron, eject, iw, alsa-utils, sudo, firefox | firefox-esr
Download-Size: 1,036 B
APT-Manual-Installed: yes
APT-Sources: http://deb.debian.org/debian bullseye/main amd64 Packages
Description: Debian desktop environment
 This task package is used to install the Debian desktop.

I have searched a lot how to switch desktop environment and many say "just press the gear button when logging in." And I don't have it!

enter image description here

like here: enter image description here

Any suggestions? Changing that a "headless way" was unsuccessful.


2 Answers 2


Users can end up with password prompts in a number of situations, and only one of them shows the gear icon leading to a selection of desktop environments.

To be able to choose a desktop environment, you need to start from the user selection list, something like

GNOME user list

Select the user to get the password prompt; then you’ll see the gear icon:

GNOME password entry with gear icon and list of desktop environments

The screenshot in your question shows the lock screen, which is displayed when the user is logged in. In this situation, the password entry screen has a similar layout to the screen shown when logging in, but it usually has a different background, it can show certain notifications, and it shows a “people” icon instead of the gear icon:

GNOME lock screen with password entry

The “people” icon takes the user back to the user list; this allows multiple sessions to be opened in parallel by different users.

This leads to a third variant of the password entry screen. When a user is already logged in, the login password entry screen doesn’t allow changing desktop environments (since the user already has a running session), and the gear icon isn’t displayed:

GNOME password entry screen without the gear icon

To get back to the login screen with gear icon from your lock screen, you need to enter your password to log back in, then log out; that will take you back to the user selection screen, and selecting a user will show you the password entry screen with the gear icon allowing you to choose your desktop environment.

  • Thank you very much, I don't have a user list, but when I typed in the username and hit ENTER, the icon appeared. In my opinion that's a UX bug. May 8, 2023 at 16:21
  • 1
    Each user can have a different DE selected as their default; I think that’s why the DE selection list is only available once a specific user is chosen (either from a list or by entering a login). May 8, 2023 at 17:10

If you're using lightdm then it's up above right (see pic below) lightdm

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