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How to fix screen tearing in XFCE

28 Feb 2019 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'

I'm running Xubuntu (Ubuntu with XFCE) on my desktop(s). My Intel NUC i7 has almost no visible screen tearing when scrolling or when playing YouTube videos. My new Athlon 200GE build (more information) does suffer from visible screen tearing when scrolling web pages or displaying fast moving video. I have found several ways to remove or reduce this ugly video artifact.

What is screen tearing?

I have found the following clear definition:

Screen tearing is a visual artifact in video display where a display device shows information from multiple frames in a single screen draw. (source)

It shows as one or more horizontal lines on your screen while watching video or scrolling a web page.

Options to reduce tearing

These are the options I've found to reduce tearing (source):

  1. There is a "Synchronize drawing to the vertical blank" setting in "Settings Manager >> Window Manager Tweaks >> Compositor tab". Selecting that, and logging out and back in again, could make a difference.
  2. Some have had success using Compton instead of XFWM4 as the window manager when it comes to tearing. Check out this post to see how to use Compton to reduce tearing.
  3. Nvidia users can set the option "nvidiaXXXdrm modeset=1" to enable the VSync as described here and reported here.

My results

The first option is the easiest and it had a very positive effect on my Athlon 200GE build. The second option is also easy to test, but it didn't help much on my hardware (or I was applying the wrong settings in Compton). I didn't try the third option (as I am not running the Nvidia driver), but people report on Reddit that it makes a big difference.