Posted by: reformedmusings | April 25, 2009

Enabling Ctrl-Alt-Backspace in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty

The ability to restart the x-server in most Linux distributions has been disabled by default in the latest releases. Explanations offered say that a few people found ctlr-alt-backspace to be some sort of a problem for people. I have never activated that odd key combination by accident, but I have used it quite a bit. Disabling it by default made a few people happy but hosed the rest of us since restarting the x-server is no long an option from the login screen.

The Jaunty release notes say that you can execute “dontzap –disable” (without the quotes) in the terminal, but I got an error saying that the program “dontzap” wasn’t installed. It turns out that you need to install the application DontZap (you can find it in Synaptic), which isn’t clear from the release notes. Although it involves the installation of a one-time use program, that’s the easiest way to restore the ctrl-alt-backspace capability. I generally avoid installing one-time use programs. Even after removal, they sometimes leave detris behind that garbages up a system over time.

You can manually restore the functionality of ctrl-alt-backspace (HT: Barry’s Blog). Just add the following lines to your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file (edit the file as root):

Section “ServerFlags”
Option “DontZap” “false”

After saving xorg.conf, restart Ubuntu. After that, ctrl-alt-backspace works fine. You might hang on to the info, because you’ll have to use it again after every version upgrade.

Lastly one can restart the x-server manually from the terminal using:

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm restart

for Gnome or:

sudo /etc/init.d/kdm restart

for KDE. But newbies won’t find that easily and it’s hardly a substitute for ctrl-alt-backspace.



  1. Great tip, thanks! It looks like WordPress inserted smart quotes in place of plain double quotes…don’t know if that would cause a problem.

  2. You’re welcome! I didn’t notice the smart quotes. That’s one more WordPress “feature” for which I need to find a workaround.

  3. […] […]

  4. Yep, without thinking (or reading the comments), I just copied and pasted – smart quotes and all. Well at least I know how to perform an xorg.conf recovery from a LiveCD now! 🙂

    It would be nice if you put a little notice in front, or fix the smart quotes. Try finding the ASCII code for the ” character and putting a & in front of it.

  5. […] and calendar were ready and waiting. Firefox has performed flawlessly so far. I also fixed the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace issue that is new to Jaunty, which isn’t […]

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