I just installed elementary and the theme is totally broken! Check out the screenshot.

I have a home directory that has been used in a number of past OS installs including old versions of elementary, ubuntu, mint, and mate-flavored mint.

I figured this is probably the cause, but I can't find a way to reset the theme to the OS defaults.


  • missing app icons (video, music)
  • ugly title bar
  • weird colors
  • weird status bar icons enter image description here
  • 1
    As you say, it's broken because quite likely you have a million old stuff in your /home dir from older system installs.
    – Gabriel
    Oct 8 '15 at 15:09

Have you tried installing elementary-tweaks and changing the theme from there?

Once you have elementary tweaks installed, goto system settings->tweaks and from there you can change the GTK+ Theme to elementary. You will also need to change the Icon Theme to elementary as well. There's probably a way to change the theme without having to install elementary-tweaks but I wouldn't know how.

  • 1
    Bear in mind that the use of elementary tweaks is highly discouraged by the elementary team. Oct 7 '15 at 9:49

The problem comes (as you guessed and Gabriel confirmed) because you have lots of old config files in your home folder. You are probably going to have this problem with most of the distros you install. The right way to install a new distro (at least is what works for me) is erasing old config folders and files in your home folder before installing.

This is the way I do it:

  1. Boot live session.
  2. Mount your "/home" partition
  3. Open the default file manager using sudo from terminal (e.g sudo pantheon-files). (1)
  4. Toggle the hidden files view (generaly ctrl + h). (1)
  5. Delete all the folders and files starting with a dot (.). If you want to keep some speciffic configurations, you could skip those folders, e.g., I usualy keep .mozilla/ to avoid loosing my bookmarks and configurations. (1)

WARNING!: all the files and folders erased this way, wont go to trash or anithing like that, so be careful when erasing. If you erase something unintentionaly, is posible to recover it but is not simple.

  1. Close file browser.
  2. Unmout partition as you usually do it.
  3. Install as usual taking SPECIAL CARE to use the same user name you have used for the home folder you want to use.

(1): If you feel confident with the terminal, you can use the command rm -r name_of_folder|name_of_file(be carefull, you can erase things and there in so easy way to recover them) instead of steps 3, 4, 5 and 6. WARNING APPLIES IN THIS CASE TOO.

AFTER installing:

  1. Login. It could be a little funky, don't worry. (2)
  2. Open a terminal.
  3. Copy all the files from /etc/skell/ folder into your home folder. I use this command: sudo cp -r /etc/skel/. /home/[user]/
  4. Logout and login again. Everything should be working fine.

(2): If you can't login, use ctrl + alt + f2 to use a tty, login from there and jump to step 3. Then, logout and press ctrl + alt + f7 to go back to the graphical interface. Maybe if still having troubles, restart the computer.

I hope this would be usefull for someone, I learned it by trial and error... XD

Good luck!

PD: Sorry about my english, i'm not a native speaker.


I've just performed a fresh installation of elementaryOS 5.1 (Hera) and had the same problem. The same as the original poster I copied across my old home area. Example below:

Screenshot showing broken icons

Noting that elementary-tweaks was discouraged (and seemingly discontinued) I managed to get the elementary icons and theme back by:

  1. Install gnome-tweaks
  2. On the Appearance tab set the application and icon theme to elementary
  3. Remove gnome-tweaks

I hope this helps someone else.

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