Display manager

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Summary help replacing me
Covers installation, configuration, and troubleshooting of common display managers.
Related articles
Start X at boot

A display manager, or login manager, is a graphical interface screen that is displayed at the end of the boot process in place of the default shell. There are various types of display managers, just as there are various types of window and desktop managers. There is usually a certain amount of customization and themeability available with these managers.


Choose and install a preferred display manager:

Note: It is best practice, but not required, to choose the display manager that corresponds to your desktop environment. Typically SLiM is preferred if there is not a corresponding desktop environment.

XDM: X Display Manager

# pacman -S xorg-xdm

GDM: GNOME Display Manager

# pacman -S gdm

KDM: KDE Display Manager

# pacman -S kdebase kdebase-workspace

SLiM: Simple Login Manager

# pacman -S slim

Qingy: DirectFB getty replacement (the Arch theme package is optional)

# pacman -S qingy qingy-theme-arch

CDM: Console Display Manager (package available in the AUR: Template:Package AUR)

Loading the display manager

You have two easy methods to make the system load the display manager:

Template:Filename method 
The display manager will load automatically after start-up and will respawn in the event of a crash.
Daemon method 
The display manager will load automatically during the start-up as a daemon (currently only works with Entrance, GDM, KDM and SLiM).

The Template:Filename method is recommended for various reasons, one being that it will allow you to boot directly into framebuffer mode from GRUB. This is an advantage should the graphics driver crash in X, for example, you would not be forced to fix your system from a live CD or through other needlessly complex means.

With the Template:Filename method all you would have to do is to press 'e' for edit at the GRUB prompt and just add the number of the run-level you prefer, such as run-level 3, to the end of the 'kernel' line to boot directly into framebuffer mode in order to fix your system/X (this described in detail below.)

When using the daemon method you can simply boot into runlevel 1/S which will prevent any daemons, including the login manager, from being started. Then you can fix your system/X and switch into the runlevel 3. Both methods are equally easy.

Template:Filename method (recommended)

Warning: You may get problems if you use KMS with your video driver. It can freeze your display output.

The run-levels are:

0    Halt
1(S) Single-user
2    Not used
3    Multi-user (default)
4    Not used
5    X11
6    Reboot

Modify default run-level

Edit Template:Filename and find the line that looks like this:


Modify the '3' to '5' for X11:


The next time you reboot, the 'X display manager' should run. For other display managers see below:

Modify default display manager

Edit Template:Filename and find the line that looks like similar to this one (near the end):

x:5:respawn:/usr/bin/xdm -nodaemon

Modify it so it points to the display manager of your choice:


x:5:respawn:/usr/sbin/gdm -nodaemon


x:5:respawn:/usr/bin/kdm -nodaemon


x:5:respawn:/usr/bin/slim >& /dev/null

The next time you reboot, the display manager of your choice should run.

Daemon method

You simply need to add the daemon name to your daemons array in Template:Filename

Near the end of the file you will see a line that looks similar to the following:

DAEMONS=(syslogd klogd !pcmcia network netfs crond) # this is the daemons array

Append the daemon name for the display manager of your choice (Template:Codeline, Template:Codeline, Template:Codeline, or Template:Codeline):

DAEMONS=(syslogd klogd !pcmcia network netfs crond entranced)

Ensure you start the display manager last in the DAEMONS array, otherwise X will later allocate a tty device which was previously claimed by getty (see Template:Filename). Not placing the display manager at the end can cause X crashes, and is therefore unsupported.

The next time you reboot, the display manager should run. In the event that it does not, be certain that you typed in the name correctly, and that the manager you selected is installed. It also helps to ensure that Template:Codeline is not stopping with errors.

Note: If you use this method and your display manager hangs while loading, or X does not recognize any input device, you will need to boot into single user mode (run-level 1) using the examples above and remove the display manager daemon from Template:Filename.


Switching run-levels

Command prompt

If you want to test out the display manager without rebooting, or you want to change the X configuration and that pesky display manager keeps respawning, use this command:

/sbin/telinit <run-level>

To switch to run-level 3 (Multi-user):

/sbin/telinit 3

To switch to run-level 5 (X11):

/sbin/telinit 5

By switching you can avoid restarting the system during your testing.


You can add a menu item in GRUB to allow you to boot with or without X11,

In Template:Filename find the first kernel entry you have (the default is '# (0) Arch Linux')

# (0)  Arch Linux
title  Arch Linux
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda3 ro
initrd /kernel26.img

You can duplicate it and modify both like so:

# (0)  Arch Linux Multi-user
title  Arch Linux Multi-user
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda3 ro 3
initrd /kernel26.img
# (1)  Arch Linux X11
title  Arch Linux X11
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda3 ro 5
initrd /kernel26.img

The run-level was appended to the end so the kernel knows what run-level to start with.


You can start-up with the run-level of your choice by just selecting or typing in the kernel name and then appending the desired run-level in the LILO boot screen like so:

: Arch 5

GDM fails on logout

If GDM starts up properly on boot, but fails after repeated attempts on logout, try adding this line to the daemon section of Template:Filename:


GDM root login

It is not advised to login as root, but if necessary you can edit Template:Filename and add:


You should be able to login as root after restarting GDM.

GDM always use default US-keyboard

Keyboard layout switch always to us, layout is reseted after new Keyboard pluged in.

Solution: edit ~/.dmrc

Language=de_DE.UTF-8 #change to your default lang
Layout=de   nodeadkeys #change to your keyboard layout