Compiling Xfce 4.14, on Debian Buster

To compile Xfce 4.14 start with the build instructions here:

Below are some notes to help build and run on Debian 10 (Buster). This install started with a working basic LXDE desktop with Lightdm.

  • apt install build-essential
  • apt install pkg-config
  • apt install libgudev-1.0 libwnck-3-dev libnotify-dev libupower-glib-dev xinit

Download the fat tarball from

  • export PREFIX=/opt/xfce4

Extract the fat tarball, then extract each tar.bz2 module. Descend into each resulting sub-directory, make and install:

  • ./configure –prefix=${PREFIX} && make
  • sudo make install

The resulting binaries will be built under /opt/xfce4.

At this stage Xfce is unable to start because the binaries are not in the regular PATH. Starting from the display manager or command line will immediately log the user back out or may recieve the message:

Unable to load a failsafe session – Unable to determine failsafe session name. Possible causes: xfconfd isn’t running (D-Bus setup problem); …

Some extra (undocumented) configuration is required to integrate the Xfce session:

  • ln -s /opt/xfce4/share/dbus-1/services/org.xfce.Xfconf.service /usr/share/dbus-1/services/
  • nano /etc/X11/Xsession.d/10xfce_path
    • ./configure –prefix=${PREFIX} && make

Reboot and Xfce should now be functional.