How to Switch Between Xorg and Wayland in Ubuntu

Brief: This quick tutorial shows you how to switch between xorg and Wayland display servers on Ubuntu and hopefully other Linux distributions.

I hope you know what a display server is. It is the underlying technology thanks to which, you can use your computer graphically.

Xorg (or X display server) is the legacy display server whereas Wayland is relatively newer. In 2017, Ubuntu made it the default with version 17.10. The experiment didn’t go well and they reverted to Xorg with Ubuntu 18.04. Now, Wayland becomes default again in version 21.04.

On the surface, you won’t notice any change in the display. But since Wayland is newer, many applications may not work properly with it. For example, there is not a single Linux screen recorder that works flawlessly with Wayland.

Whichever display server may be the default, the other one also remains accessible to you, and you may switch to it. I am going to show you how to switch between Xorg and Wayland display servers on Ubuntu.

Switch to Xorg from Wayland

Switch between Wayland and Xorg in Ubuntu

Remember that I said Wayland is the default display server in Ubuntu 17.10. It also means that there are more than one display servers available. And we can simply switch between them. No need to install anything new.

Restart you Ubuntu system. At the login screen, under the password field, you’ll see a gear icon. Just click on it and you’ll see two options here.

Switch to xorg display server from Wayland

The default Ubuntu means it will be using Wayland while Ubuntu on Xorg obviously means it will use Xorg. You can select Ubuntu on Xorg to use Xorg here.

Similarly, you can switch back to Wayland when you feel like it.

How to know if I am using Wayland or Xorg

Since we are talking about Wayland, Xorg etc, let’s also see how to know which display server is being used. To find that out, open a terminal and use the following command:

echo $XDG_SESSION_TYPE

And then if you see X11, it’s Xorg. If you see Wayland, quite obviously, the display server in use is Wayland.

check if wayland

Quick Tip: Few programs that require root privileges have troubles with Wayland. For example, GParted didn’tt run at all in Ubuntu 17.10 with Wayland. If you don’t want to switch to Xorg, there is still a way to use these applications with sudo.

Use the command below

xhost +si:localuser:root

and then run the troublesome program with sudo like this:

sudo gparted

This tip was suggested by It’s FOSS reader Sean and was found here.

I hope this quick tip helped you to switch between Xorg and Wayland in Ubuntu. Stay tuned for more Ubuntu tips and tricks.

Similar Posts

  • And what do you do when the gear is NOT displayed? For whatever reason my monitor is “overscanned by about 75 pixels (all the way around), until AFTER I get logged on. As a result the gear is NEVER shown. if that icon was displayed farther toward the center of the screen, then it would be accessable.

    • I am not entirely certain but you could try disabling Wayland by changing the value of WaylandEnable to false in /etc/gdm3/custom.conf

      When you log in next, you should only have the Xorg option.

  • Where is the configuration file setting if X or Wayland will be used?

    Is it GDM or SDDM deciding upon login which one to start?

    I have a case where SDDM has no sddm.conf file defined, per man then the defaults should be used. But defaults define paths for both X and Wayland, but not a switch saying which one will be used. :)

    All the “cool” websites tell me to check with commands what DS is used when it is already running. But if I want to know which one should be launched while it is not running yet (e.g. SDDM having issues)?