Platform-specific Desktop Tips

All Platforms[edit]

Shut Down Whonix-Gateway (sys-whonix)[edit]

To shut down Whonix-Gateway (sys-whonix), open a terminal and run.

sudo poweroff

Alternatively, use the menu option:

Virtual Consoles[edit]

Virtual consoles is a feature inherited from Debian GNU/Linux. It is noted here because not many users are aware of it. The Debian (not Whonix) feature is activated as follows:

  • For a text console: Press Alt + Crtl + F1
  • For additional text consoles: Press Alt + Crtl + F2 or F3 and so on.
  • For a graphical console: Press Alt + Crtl + F7


The desired virtual console key combination is selected from under the Send Key option in a VM's graphic window.


In dom0, run: sudo xl console vm-name. Replace "vm-name" with the name of the actual VM, for example.

sudo xl console sys-whonix


When the user is inside VirtualBox, the Alt + Ctrl keys are already registered by the host operating system.

Instead of the Alt + Ctrl combination, the VirtualBox Host Key [1] is used. This means the user should press in combination Host Key + F1 (F2,...) for a text console(s), and Host Key + F7 for a graphical console inside VirtualBox.


RAM Adjusted Desktop Starter[edit]

RAM Adjusted Desktop Starter will not start the desktop environment. The terminal-based Whonix-Gateway can be used instead.

When booting up, a prompt will appear offering to prevent KDE from starting. Users can also manually press Ctrl + C for the same effect.

By default, Whonix-Gateway is configured with 768 MB virtual RAM. This can be reduced on systems with low available resources.

  • If total RAM is more than 512 MB, the default desktop environment (KDE) is started.
  • If total RAM is less than 512 MB (for example, the minimum 256 MB RAM requirement), KDE (kdm) is not started. [2]

Users with low RAM resources should find this convenient because Whonix-Gateway RAM can be reduced to 256 MB and still function. Further, if something needs configuring or checking, 512 MB RAM can be assigned to automatically boot into the graphical KDE desktop. Additional settings are available in /etc/rads.d/ to configure this feature: additional RAM can be added (but still not choosing to boot into a desktop environment), different display managers can be used and so on.

For more information, see RAM Adjusted Desktop Starter.

Show Desktop[edit]

In KDE 4, dashboard view replaces the old "Show Desktop" feature. Press Ctrl + F12 to show the dashboard view. This keyboard shortcut can be changed in system settings.

System Settings -> Shortcuts and Gestures -> Global Keyboard Shortcuts -> KDE component = Plasma Desktop Shell -> Show Dashboard

For more information about the KDE 4 desktop, please see:

Single vs Double-click[edit]

By default, launching desktop icons in KDE uses a single-click, instead of a double-click method. Users can change the default launching behavior to a double-click via the following steps.

KDE -> Start menu button -> Applications -> Settings -> System Settings -> input devices -> mouse -> double click -> apply

The procedure is now complete.

Use Full-screen Mode[edit]

It is recommended to work in full-screen; this feature is also inherited from VirtualBox. To activate and deactivate full-screen mode, press the Host Key [1] + F. [3]

Full-screen mode leads to the Whonix (and Debian) default resolution and color depth of 1024x768x24. Having a common value for these identifiers reduces the fingerprinting risk to the user. Full-screen mode also helps to prevent users from accidentally launching applications on the host (such as a clearnet browser), instead of within Whonix.

Whonixcheck Writing to tty1[edit]

whonixcheck wrote its results to tty1

It is difficult to keep users updated with system status information when they are using a terminal instead of a graphical desktop environment. Therefore, the Whonix timesync and whonixcheck applications will very occasionally provide status messages, even if the user is logged into the terminal tty1 and sees a command prompt.

This feature can be useful, for example when the user has configured the Whonix-Gateway to their liking (if this was required at all) and successful status messages are posted about the system. On the other hand, status message output can be a hindrance, particularly if the user is doing something like editing a configuration file when it appears. If the user needs to complete activities without interruption, it is advisable to log into a tty other than tty1, for example tty2:

  • Default-Download-Version users can use the VirtualBox Host Key method: Right Ctrl + F2. [4]
  • Physical isolation users can use the standard feature which comes with Debian: Ctrl + Alt + F2.


Avoid VM Full Screen Mode[edit]

It is unrecommended to allow Qubes-Whonix or other VMs to completely "own" the full screen. Overriding Qubes GUI virtualization daemon restrictions means users will not see colored decorations drawn by each VM window. In this case, a malicious application might not actually release the full screen (while it appears normal), or the full desktop may be emulated so users are tricked into entering sensitive information into false "trusted" domains. [5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 VirtualBox -> Global Settings -> Input -> Host Key. The current Host Key is visible in the bottom right corner of VirtualBox.
  2. Whonix-Gateway can work with as little as 128 MB RAM, but resource intensive operations like kernel package upgrades that rebuild the initrd leave the virtual machine in a frozen state.
  3. The normal VirtualBox default is Right Ctrl + F.
  4. The right Ctrl key is the VirtualBox default.

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