May 17, 2009 · General · Email This Post

By default Ctrl + Alt + BackSpace key combination in Ubuntu Jaunty was disabled.This shortcut key is used  to restart X.This tutorial will explain how to enable this key combunation.

Install the “dontzap” package using the following command

sudo apt-get install dontzap

Open Terminal and type

sudo dontzap --enable

or

sudo dontzap --disable

Where “disable” means that Ctrl+Alt+Backspace restarts the xserver while “enable” means that it won’t.

Update :- Some more solutions from our readers

1)You don’t need to install software to enable it. Simply add the following lines to your xorg.conf file, making sure that when you paste it, it is NOT using smart quotes.

sudo gksudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Section “ServerFlags”
Option “DontZap” “false”
EndSection

2) you can use
right alt + printscreen +k
to do the same effect

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34 Comments to “Howto Enable Ctrl + Alt + BackSpace in Ubuntu Jaunty”

  1. Michael Dundee says:

    Thanx for the tip.

    [Reply]

  2. Is it still active when you restart or do you need to add this to auto start on bootup?

    [Reply]

  3. yo says:

    hey, that didn’t work, tho I have dontzap installed (dontzap -h). how come?

    [Reply]

  4. Wiebelhaus says:

    Thanks mate! This is the only one that worked for me.

    [Reply]

  5. Ben says:

    They really have to stop changing how things work between releases.

    [Reply]

  6. You don’t need to install software to enable it. Simply add the following lines to your xorg.conf file, making sure that when you paste it, it is NOT using smart quotes.

    sudo gksudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

    Section “ServerFlags”
    Option “DontZap” “false”
    EndSection

    [Reply]

  7. Rich McA says:

    Uh, Ben, if they “stop changing how things work between releases”, then it will never get any better than it is now, eh?

    [Reply]

  8. Asem says:

    hi,
    Thanks for the tip but you can use
    right alt + printscreen +k
    to do the same effect

    [Reply]

  9. Can’t say that I too often unintentionally hit the ctrl + alt + backspace combination. So I’m definitely missing the feature in 9.04, thanks for the info on how to switch it back on.

    [Reply]

  10. Simon says:

    have to agree that it seems like a needless and annoying change. the frustrating thing is that it makes Ubuntu behave differently from other systems that you would expect to be the same. if it stays in future releases, then I guess re-enabling this key-combo will get added to my list of post-install tasks for Ubuntu…. :(

    [Reply]

  11. The Teacher says:

    sudo gksudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

    Section “ServerFlags”
    Option “DontZap” “false”
    EndSection

    That line of code causes Xserver to crash.

    [Reply]

  12. As I said, make sure you don’t paste in the Smart Quotes in your xorg.conf file, otherwise your Xserver will crash. Copy and paste the code, but then delete all the quotes and re-type them in to put in straight quotes instead of smart quotes.

    [Reply]

  13. Dustie says:

    right alt + printscreen + k crashes Ubuntu on my pc =/

    [Reply]

  14. Camilo says:

    Thanks… I liked the solution editing the xorg

    [Reply]

  15. thanks says:

    Thanks for the tip.

    I just installed this 9.04 on my laptop and it has been a huge step back. Lots of bugs and dumb changes. This will be my last ubuntu and I would uninstall it if I was not leaving for vacation.

    enlightenment e16 was a great stable environment before this fresh install. Now I’m seeing bugs they fixed years ago and interesting new ones.

    I’ve been using unix for over 20 years… like I said, last ubuntu.

    [Reply]

  16. Yaro says:

    Enabling DontZap by default was not an Ubunt decision, but an Xorg decision.

    I really bleeping hate it, too.

    I like ideas for change, but this was a stupid idea. Can anyone tell me a real, citable case where some moron hit the CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE combination on accident? Especially since it’s a three-key combination involving one key NOWHERE NEAR the other two?

    No, this was an idiot change made upstream. As of xorg 1.6, you have to alter xorg.conf to get this useful feature back. This is bad. This means that an unprivileged user had to plead with an administrator to get the traditional method of dealing with runaway X-using processes.

    If we didn’t have the ability to use the Magic Sysrq Keys, we’d be in the same boat as the Windows users, having to hard-reset our boxes every time some runaway GUI app locks up X.

    Unfortunately I’ve seen Ubuntu’s Magic Sysrq Key support blow up in the last two releases (I use Arch now, but I’ve seen in both 8.10 and 9.04 that Ubuntu seems incapable of handling these useful keypresses as well. Which means up X locks up, you’re screwed because you can’t get the keyboard into raw mode.) which is bad.

    My uber-awesome xorg.conf now has this serverflag setting in it, because I don’t want to suffer without a way of killing X should things go wrong.

    Common sense would have told these devs to have simply made the X-killing combo behavior different as opposed to disabling it altogether. Holding it for a few seconds or hitting it TWICE. Disabling it? Stupid move.

    Of course, I already forsee a lot fo apologists for this idiotic behavior on the Ubuntu Forums, just like there were apologists for the terrible Pulse Audio decision, but that’s a different rant.

    [Reply]

  17. Jed says:

    Its ironic that they added another esoteric key combination that re-enables the one they took away specifically to avoid stumbling into esoteric key combinations.

    So now users will use there system for a while, accidentally enable ctr + alt + bksp, and then be perplexed when X starts to randomly restart every one in a while.

    [Reply]

  18. Jed-is-right says:

    that’s hilarious. Aptly put, Jed. I had recently had the roof leak onto my keyboard some months back, and thought perhaps it just didn’t like using more than two keys at once, and didnt think much of it.

    You would think if it were for noobs’ sake, that even the dumb person could deduce that if they hit those keys it (oh my gosh!!!) restarts X. just horrible. A complete cataclysmic loss there.

    [Reply]

  19. Steve says:

    First KDE turns their world upside down and makes everything look like Vista. That and drove me to the land of the Gnomes (not a bad thing) and now xorg is making random changes that have great potential to negatively impact the end-user. Wonderful.

    To Rich McA; Change does not (as a rule) equal Improvement, it only equals change.

    I’m 100% with Yaro on this,
    I just had Wine take-over X and I pressed Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to kill the server. Nothing hapened. I thought I hit the wrong keys so did it again. Agsin nothing. WTF?! I can’t kill the X session? Switching to another box I find out about this “improvement” made by xorg (thanks for the warning guys).
    Eventually I managed to get a console up and running, and, flying blind (the Wine app was consuming the entire screen) performed a reboot. It was NOT pretty and I am NOT happy.

    [Reply]

  20. Ron says:

    @Yaro
    “Can anyone tell me a real, citable case where some moron hit the CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE combination on accident?”

    Ever heard of a virtual Windows client on VMWare?
    If you need to press you have too press these great combination.

    I can’t think why you would use x11 on an VMWare server but you never know…

    [Reply]

  21. Anson says:

    it has probably been stated already, but with the alternative right-alt + Sysreq + k , you might have to add the shift key for some older full keyboards, because the sysreq key also has the printscreen function assigned to it.

    [Reply]

  22. Max says:

    I didn’t know Ctrl-Alt-Backspace was disabled in Jaunty! I was wondering why it wasn’t working until I read it here.
    This modification is so moronic and idiot. At this pace Ubuntu will become so similar to Windows that then I would rather use the ORIGINAL Windows, not a fake “look-and-feel-like-windows” linux distro. Dont you have SELF-RESPECT? Linux is different! And all lame idiot f*cking windows users uncapable to use linux should stay with windows. Its the same for car owners: 95-98% take their cars to the garage, the rest (2-5%) are like linux users, do-it-yourselves, who are not affraid of learning and get their hands “dirty”. C’mon, gimme a break. This is also why only 5% of computer users are linux users. Stop making it windows like. Those window users will never change. those efforts to “dumb’ down linux are futile.

    [Reply]

  23. Anonymous says:

    “I didn’t know Ctrl-Alt-Backspace was disabled in Jaunty! I was wondering why it wasn’t working until I read it here.
    This modification is so moronic and idiot. At this pace Ubuntu will become so similar to Windows that then I would rather use the ORIGINAL Windows, not a fake “look-and-feel-like-windows” linux distro. Dont you have SELF-RESPECT? Linux is different! And all lame idiot f*cking windows users uncapable to use linux should stay with windows. Its the same for car owners: 95-98% take their cars to the garage, the rest (2-5%) are like linux users, do-it-yourselves, who are not affraid of learning and get their hands “dirty”. C’mon, gimme a break. This is also why only 5% of computer users are linux users. Stop making it windows like. Those window users will never change. those efforts to “dumb’ down linux are futile.”

    +1. Absolutely agree.

    One of the reasons I *left* Ubuntu for Arch was I was watching, terrified, as the Ubuntu devs kept raping Ubuntu to make it more “idiot friendly.”

    I got so tired of voting down “use X feature from Windows in Ubuntu” “ideas” from Brainstorm, too. Sadly, I knew I couldn’t count on them to actually make Ubuntu GOOD… just WORK… sort of.

    Remember, these are the same idiots who actually thought including Pulse Audio in the default install was a good idea.

    My last straw was 8.10. Where they finally emulated the bugginess, instability, and bloat of Windows, probably to make Ubuntu look more appealing to Windows converts. /snark

    I can’t blame Canonical for the lack of our beloved X-restarting three finger salute. That lame decision came from upstream with the Xorg devs themselves.

    If you like “getting your hands dirty” with Linux, then Ubuntu very much is not your distribution. I’d say ARCH is your distribution. It installs ONLY the core. It gives no choice for installing additional packages except from the [core] repository (Unlike Slackware which will allow you to install more.). The packages usually are the “just work” type but the Arch devs like you to also configure as much as possible and they provide a Wiki and a forum that runs circles around the Ubuntu wiki (Which was almost vague in most articles and had a lot of dead links.) and forum (Where you’ll see a lot… a LOT of threads that go unanswered, often not even a single reply to someone actually trying to get help.).

    [Reply]

  24. Franjo says:

    Thanks for tip:
    It works.

    2) you can use
    right alt + printscreen +k
    to do the same effect

    [Reply]

  25. pops says:

    sudo gksudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

    ??????

    Surely no need for both “sudo” & “gksudo” in that command?
    Sudo for terminal app`s/commands with privileges and gksudo for graphical app`s with privileges.

    [Reply]

  26. schmork says:

    probably should note that the right-alt +printscreen+k is a kernel level command that is supoosed to kill “all” processes, not particularly x, which is why some people may perceive it to crash their system.

    [Reply]

  27. annoying says:

    eams like a useless moving things around for no reason change to me. in 9.10 ctrl+printscreen+k be changed to something else?

    good thing ctrl+alt+esc is still there. hope it doesnt get a meaningless change in for safety purposes. (9.10:”the function that was ctrl+alt+esc is now changed to shift+capslock+pause for your safety”)

    [Reply]

  28. Anonymous says:

    “eams like a useless moving things around for no reason change to me. in 9.10 ctrl+printscreen+k be changed to something else?

    good thing ctrl+alt+esc is still there. hope it doesnt get a meaningless change in for safety purposes. (9.10:”the function that was ctrl+alt+esc is now changed to shift+capslock+pause for your safety”)”

    How many times do I have to keep telling you god-damned Ubuntards this? THIS WAS NOT A DECISION MADE BY CANONICAL OR ANY UBUNTU DEV!

    This was done upstream with the Xorg developers who have nothing whatsoever to do with Ubuntu except for receiving no back contribution from the Ubuntu devs like everyone else who developed almost all the stuff you’ll actually see on Ubuntu. (All the so-called “new” features Canonical brags about in Ubuntu are usually developed upstream by people who have nothing to do with Ubuntu, usually the GNOME devs.)

    This WAS a stupid decision on the Xorg developers part, and it strikes me as a way to coddle SPECIFICALLY to the emacs users, as emacs, out of possibly poor design or bad foresight on Richard Stallman’s part, uses CTRL+ALT combos extensively.

    Normally I’m a bit down on Ubuntu for being a lame distribution that shields the user way too much from the system (A crime committed by Windows and OS X.), but at least put blame and credit where blame and credit is due. Ubuntu’s not the only distribution or FOSS developer group in existence.

    [Reply]

  29. Motorhead Kaze says:

    Schucks. I did this, fixed the quotes, saved, closed xorg.conf and nothing happened. Tried the first suggestion and nothing happened. My xorg.conf reads “False” as it should, but ctrl+alt+bksp does nothing.

    Tried to go in and make a keyboard shortcut too… it will accept alt+bksp or ctrl+bksp but not all three… what gives?

    Not broken, I tested the keys, and I just had this working 2 days ago when it was Mint in the box and not Jaunty. Any ideas???

    [Reply]

  30. Motorhead Kaze says:

    Not only did that not work, I followed the advice above to the letter and somehow ended up with everything else in my xorg.conf REPLACED by the code for this fix that didn’t work. You might want to put a disclaimer on this tutorial “Warning: will replace your current xorg.conf with our code”.
    Luckily I have a backup xorg.conf huh?

    [Reply]

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