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From XDM manual page:

Xdm manages a collection of X displays, which may be on the local host or remote servers. The design of xdm was guided by the needs of X terminals as well as The Open Group standard XDMCP, the X Display Manager Control Protocol. Xdm provides services similar to those provided by init, getty and login on character terminals: prompting for login name and password, authenticating the user, and running a "session."

XDM provides a simple and straightforward graphical login prompt.


Install the xorg-xdm package. Then enable xdm.service.

If you would like to use an Arch Linux theme for XDM, you can optionally install the xdm-archlinux package. If installing the latter package, then do not enable xdm.service, but instead enable xdm-archlinux.service.


Defining the session

Unlike many more modern display managers such as GDM or LightDM, XDM does not source available sessions from .desktop files located in the /usr/share/xsessions directory. As such, XDM does not have a 'session menu.' Instead, XDM will execute the .xinitrc file in the home directory. See Xinitrc#Configuration for details.

Ensure that the .xinitrc file in your home directory is executable. To do this use the following command:

$ chmod 700 ~/.xinitrc


For the exact meanings of the options discussed below, see the manual page of xdm. The configuration file is located in /etc/X11/xdm/Xresources, notice that if you installed xdm-archlinux the configuration file will instead be located in /etc/X11/archlinux/xdm/Xresources.

Background wallpaper

You can use a program such as qiv to set the background in XDM:

  • Make a directory to store background images, e.g. /root/backgrounds or /usr/local/share/backgrounds
  • Place your images in the directory.
  • Edit /etc/X11/xdm/Xsetup_0. Change the xconsole command to:
 /usr/bin/qiv -zr /root/backgrounds/*


  • Edit /etc/X11/xdm/Xresources. Add/replace the following defines:
 xlogingreetFont:  -adobe-helvetica-bold-o-normal--20------iso8859-1
 xloginfont:       -adobe-helvetica-medium-r-normal--14------iso8859-1
 xloginpromptFont: -adobe-helvetica-bold-r-normal--14------iso8859-1
 xloginfailFont:   -adobe-helvetica-bold-r-normal--14------iso8859-1

Login dialog positioning

This configuration will move the login dialog to the bottom right of the screen.

 xlogin*frameWidth: 1
 xlogin*innerFramesWidth: 1
 xlogin*logoPadding: 0
 xlogin*geometry:    300x175-0-0

Comment out the logo defines:

 #xlogin*logoFileName: /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xdm/pixmaps/xorg.xpm
 #xlogin*logoFileName: /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xdm/pixmaps/xorg-bw.xpm

Multiple X sessions & Login in the window

With the Xdmcp enable, you can easily run multiple X sessions simultaneously on the same machine.

# X -query ip_xdmcp_server :2

This will launch the second session, in window you need xorg-server-xephyr

# Xephyr -query this_machine_ip :2

Passwordless login

In order to enable passwordless login for XDM, add the line below to /etc/X11/xdm/Xresources:

xlogin*allowNullPasswd: true