From Unity to Mate

I have a separate computer that is dual boot Windoze / Unity. I did went through all the upgrade steps to 17.04. Now I’d want to ‘simply’ use the Mate desktop on that machine too. I.E. something easier then wiping out and replacing by an UM install.
I’ve scanned the web for ways to do it, but ended up with either complicated solutions and/or solutions that date back to 2014 or before.
Is there any instruction out there that is simple and viable in a 17.04 environment ?


You could simply install ubuntu-mate-desktop and that should pull in meta and core, but bear in mind if you’re not using LightDM for your login manager already, it’s probably going to request superseding that.

That, and you’ll have two of everything in your hard drive; one for your current DE and another for MATE. It’s honestly a lot less hassle and significantly less messy to just overwrite your installation. However if you do not have a separate partition dedicated to /home you will need to cp ~ in its entirety to another device. That or use mv instead but cp will prevent potential issues with losing files due to corruption and / or read errors from the device is hosted in.

After, you’ll either had learned your lesson and made another partition for /home or copy everything from your external device back to ~ contained in /. Remember; since all of the Ubuntus are just Debian at their core, it doesn’t matter what system you have installed; /home will not be overwritten with some other nonsense except for stuff required by the system, and most of your configuration files from all the programs you need to reinstall will still be there, making the process of getting back onto your feet with a different flavour of Ubuntu a painless procedure (so long you remember what PPAs you had and the package names of all the software you want to use).

Far as partitioning, you can use gparted first, then use the parts you made there later. Most people only need 32GB for the system, unless they’re doing game stuff; if you intend to use Steam, allocate either another 150-200GB for larger titles, or 1) make a different library for your games at another partition, or 2) symbolically link the default directory with ln after you move it. For Steam it should just be ~/.steam you need to move.

Mind that for Fedora, if you want to move away from Ubuntu for any reason you are at the mercy of Anaconda for partitioning, part of the reason why I dislike Anaconda for Fedora, versus Ubiquity for Ubuntu. Just be sure in Ubiquity that you assign each partition the same type as what’s already there and not to format the existing /home partition, should you already have one. / can eat it since that’s where the system will live. Post-installation, just do everything you did beforehand, with tweaks and adjustments to your workflow as necessary for MATE.


Well… I feel like a guy from sub-Saharian Africa being explained how to play hockey the first time… :slight_smile:

I’m not into games anyways.

Your answer will satisfy way more then me though; so many thanks!

So. I’ll try to get LightDM to work. Otherwise, the way you seem to say it, better try overwrite and install Mate. If that, just hope I won’t create a mess with the dual boot and Windoze on the side.

LightDM is the login manager. In the settings it shows all Ubuntu-mate references. Booting goes through UM splash screen, background is grey, etc. Then the desktop shows…with the Unity layout.

You know… you’re right about that. However Ubuntu uses a special cofiguration file to modify how LightDM appears. When i was writing that my mind was way back when Ubuntu used Gnome Desktop Manager.

Anyway, I hope things turned out for you. I really didn;t knwo your partition setup, otherwise I would had specialized my advice for that. I assumed, since you did say dual-boot you only had one Ext4 partition. But there is something neat you can still do with that;

If you go into gnome-disks post-install of Ubuntu MATE, select the NTFS partition Windows lives on and configure it (by clicking on the gear icon) so the partition mounts itself at boot. (Easiest IMO to use paths with labels, since if you do change the drive for any reason so long the partitions use the same labels the Linux install will function as normal, since no UUIDs will be relied upon.) After restarting, you can handle moving the directories of your home partition in one of two ways;

  • Reassigning where XDG sees your stuff
  • Read this manpage to learn how to use xdg-user-dirs-update, and use it to reconfigure where XDG “Sees” your stuff, so it exists in paths you can access in Windows beginning with %userprofile%
  • Merge existing contents of the old home dir folders into the new home dir folders
  • Delete them, since XDG doesn’t care about those anymore)
  • Using symbolic links
  • Merge the contents from the home folders in your Ext4 partition to paths you can access in Windows beginning with %userprofile%
  • Delete the folders in the home directory which you moved content from
  • Use ln to link from the new intended destination into the directory path XDG is using.

FYI, %userprofile% is a Windows system variable, and is equivalent to ~ in open-source systems like ours. So basically the above is suggesting you to mount on-boot the Windows partition so you can move everything from the home partition / directory in the Linux system to what Windows considers “Home” when you sign into your account on there.