Elementary has been running very well on my Dell XPS 13 9343 for months, but today I decided to try to scale up the display a bit because it was a little hard to read text. I entered the following command:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 21

Instead of 2.1 (also, scaling with floats didn't work, only integers like 1, 2, 3, etc).

The problem is that now, logging in crashes Pantheon before I can launch a terminal window, let alone enter the commands to reset scaling to 2, and kicks me back to the login screen. Cntl-alt-F1/F2/etc. does not bring up a shell like it does in Ubuntu, which would allow me to edit it without launching Pantheon. Also, going into recovery and getting a root shell won't allow me to change the setting because the system files are read-only in recovery.

Am I missing some easy way to bring up a shell from the login screen? How can I repair this? Also, is it possible to scale the display by %? 2 is too small and 3 is too large.


Edit to clarify: Pantheon launches with the huge menu bar across the top. Super+Space opens the app launcher, then the session crashes. If I don't do anything, the display shows only the wallpaper (properly scaled) and then the whole computer freezes, requiring a hard shutdown.

Update: I can pull up TTY1 with Ctl-Fn-Alt-F1, but setting gsettings from there brings up the error: dconf-WARNING: failed to commit changes to dconf: Cannot autolaunch D-Bus without X11 $DISPLAY

1 Answer 1


After tons of troubleshooting, the following solved it:

  • Log in as normal. Immediately after logging in as the affected user bring up TTY1 with Ctl-Fn-Alt-F1
  • Enter export DISPLAY=:0.0

  • Set gsetting as usual (gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface scaling-factor 2)

  • I couldn't find a way out of TTY1, so I just did sudo service lightdm restart
  • When you are in TTY you can get back to GUI using Ctrl+Alt+F7 (Ctrl+Alt+fn+F7 if fn key is needed to use the function keys) Jan 15, 2016 at 17:12
  • Thanks--that worked in Ubuntu, but for some reason it doesn't for me in Elementary
    – RoboRob
    Jan 16, 2016 at 16:44
  • Well it should... works for me :) Jan 16, 2016 at 17:07
  • If that is not working, then you may need to report a bug.
    – RolandiXor
    Feb 17, 2016 at 19:13

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