How to Fix Screen Tearing in Linux XFCE and LXDE

Do your videos in VLC have a tearing/lagging issue? Does scrolling in your web browser look like ugly laggy tearing? If you are running a linux distro with XFCE, I have the solution for you. Compton is an opengl compositor with vsync that is a replacement for the compositor that comes with XFCE. It provides much smoother video playback, flash animations, web scrolling, and more.

The first thing you will want to do is install compton. To add the ppa to your system and install compton, open the terminal and enter the following commands:

For Ubuntu Based Distros 14.10 and Older
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:richardgv/compton
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install compton

For Ubuntu Based Distros 15.04 and Newer
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install compton

Next you will want to create your compton config file. Save the file as .compton.conf in your home directory. Here is the config file I use, I’ve added a few detailed comments explaining the most important things:


#################################
#
# Backend
#
#################################

# Backend to use: "xrender" or "glx".
# GLX backend is typically much faster but depends on a sane driver.
backend = "glx";

#################################
#
# GLX backend
#
#################################

glx-no-stencil = true;

# GLX backend: Copy unmodified regions from front buffer instead of redrawing them all.
# My tests with nvidia-drivers show a 10% decrease in performance when the whole screen is modified,
# but a 20% increase when only 1/4 is.
# My tests on nouveau show terrible slowdown.
# Useful with --glx-swap-method, as well.
glx-copy-from-front = false;

# GLX backend: Use MESA_copy_sub_buffer to do partial screen update.
# My tests on nouveau shows a 200% performance boost when only 1/4 of the screen is updated.
# May break VSync and is not available on some drivers.
# Overrides --glx-copy-from-front.
# glx-use-copysubbuffermesa = true;

# GLX backend: Avoid rebinding pixmap on window damage.
# Probably could improve performance on rapid window content changes, but is known to break things on some drivers (LLVMpipe).
# Recommended if it works.
# glx-no-rebind-pixmap = true;

# GLX backend: GLX buffer swap method we assume.
# Could be undefined (0), copy (1), exchange (2), 3-6, or buffer-age (-1).
# undefined is the slowest and the safest, and the default value.
# copy is fastest, but may fail on some drivers,
# 2-6 are gradually slower but safer (6 is still faster than 0).
# Usually, double buffer means 2, triple buffer means 3.
# buffer-age means auto-detect using GLX_EXT_buffer_age, supported by some drivers.
# Useless with --glx-use-copysubbuffermesa.
# Partially breaks --resize-damage.
# Defaults to undefined.
glx-swap-method = "undefined";

#################################
#
# Shadows
#
#################################

# Enabled client-side shadows on windows.
shadow = false;
# Don't draw shadows on DND windows.
no-dnd-shadow = true;
# Avoid drawing shadows on dock/panel windows.
no-dock-shadow = true;

#################################
#
# Opacity
#
#################################

menu-opacity = 1;
inactive-opacity = 1;
active-opacity = 1;
frame-opacity = 1;
inactive-opacity-override = false;
alpha-step = 0.06;

# Dim inactive windows. (0.0 - 1.0)
# inactive-dim = 0.2;
# Do not let dimness adjust based on window opacity.
# inactive-dim-fixed = true;
# Blur background of transparent windows. Bad performance with X Render backend. GLX backend is preferred.
# blur-background = true;
# Blur background of opaque windows with transparent frames as well.
# blur-background-frame = true;
# Do not let blur radius adjust based on window opacity.
blur-background-fixed = false;
blur-background-exclude = [
"window_type = 'dock'",
"window_type = 'desktop'"
];

#################################
#
# Fading
#
#################################

# Fade windows during opacity changes.
fading = true;
# The time between steps in a fade in milliseconds. (default 10).
fade-delta = 4;
# Opacity change between steps while fading in. (default 0.028).
fade-in-step = 0.03;
# Opacity change between steps while fading out. (default 0.03).
fade-out-step = 0.03;
# Fade windows in/out when opening/closing
# no-fading-openclose = true;

# Specify a list of conditions of windows that should not be faded.
fade-exclude = [ ];

#################################
#
# Other
#
#################################

# Try to detect WM windows and mark them as active.
mark-wmwin-focused = true;
# Mark all non-WM but override-redirect windows active (e.g. menus).
mark-ovredir-focused = true;
# Use EWMH _NET_WM_ACTIVE_WINDOW to determine which window is focused instead of using FocusIn/Out events.
# Usually more reliable but depends on a EWMH-compliant WM.
use-ewmh-active-win = true;
# Detect rounded corners and treat them as rectangular when --shadow-ignore-shaped is on.
detect-rounded-corners = true;

# Detect _NET_WM_OPACITY on client windows, useful for window managers not passing _NET_WM_OPACITY of client windows to frame windows.
# This prevents opacity being ignored for some apps.
# For example without this enabled my xfce4-notifyd is 100% opacity no matter what.
detect-client-opacity = true;

# Specify refresh rate of the screen.
# If not specified or 0, compton will try detecting this with X RandR extension.
refresh-rate = 0;

# Set VSync method. VSync methods currently available:
# none: No VSync
# drm: VSync with DRM_IOCTL_WAIT_VBLANK. May only work on some drivers.
# opengl: Try to VSync with SGI_video_sync OpenGL extension. Only work on some drivers.
# opengl-oml: Try to VSync with OML_sync_control OpenGL extension. Only work on some drivers.
# opengl-swc: Try to VSync with SGI_swap_control OpenGL extension. Only work on some drivers. Works only with GLX backend. Known to be most effective on many drivers. Does not actually control paint timing, only buffer swap is affected, so it doesn’t have the effect of --sw-opti unlike other methods. Experimental.
# opengl-mswc: Try to VSync with MESA_swap_control OpenGL extension. Basically the same as opengl-swc above, except the extension we use.
# (Note some VSync methods may not be enabled at compile time.)
vsync = "opengl-swc";

# Enable DBE painting mode, intended to use with VSync to (hopefully) eliminate tearing.
# Reported to have no effect, though.
dbe = false;
# Painting on X Composite overlay window. Recommended.
paint-on-overlay = true;

# Limit compton to repaint at most once every 1 / refresh_rate second to boost performance.
# This should not be used with --vsync drm/opengl/opengl-oml as they essentially does --sw-opti's job already,
# unless you wish to specify a lower refresh rate than the actual value.
sw-opti = false;

# Unredirect all windows if a full-screen opaque window is detected, to maximize performance for full-screen windows, like games.
# Known to cause flickering when redirecting/unredirecting windows.
# paint-on-overlay may make the flickering less obvious.
unredir-if-possible = true;

# Specify a list of conditions of windows that should always be considered focused.
focus-exclude = [ ];

# Use WM_TRANSIENT_FOR to group windows, and consider windows in the same group focused at the same time.
detect-transient = true;
# Use WM_CLIENT_LEADER to group windows, and consider windows in the same group focused at the same time.
# WM_TRANSIENT_FOR has higher priority if --detect-transient is enabled, too.
detect-client-leader = true;

#################################
#
# Window type settings
#
#################################

wintypes:
{
tooltip =
{
# fade: Fade the particular type of windows.
fade = true;
# shadow: Give those windows shadow
shadow = false;
# opacity: Default opacity for the type of windows.
opacity = 0.85;
# focus: Whether to always consider windows of this type focused.
focus = true;
};
};

Now you are ready to set compton to start automatically upon login.

Make sure you disable XFWM’s compositing first (Settings Manager > Window Manager Tweaks > Compositor > uncheck “Enable Display Compositing”).

Open the XFCE settings manager: settings manager > session and startup > application autostart > add and add compton

Now compton will start automatically when you login.

Install and Update Graphics Drivers

Also, make sure you have the latest Linux graphics drivers installed whether it is AMD/ATI, Nvidia, or Intel. Sometimes they have tear free or vsync options in their control panels.

Intel Drivers
AMD/ATI Drivers
Nvidia Drivers

I suggest just installing them via Settings Manager > Additional Drivers window. That is safest method.

VLC Settings

If you specifically have tearing in VLC, you can try this method. Go to VLC’s preferences (Tools > Preferences > Video) and change the Output from its default value to “OpenGL GLX video output (XCB)”. Optionally, you can also check “Accelerated video output (Overlay)”. If you get artifacts in your video after enabling “Accelerated video output (Overlay)”, go back to the settings and uncheck it. Sometimes this feature can be buggy.

Forcing VSync in Intel’s Graphics Settings

This method is only if you are using Intel Graphics with an Intel SandyBridge CPU or newer. Open up a terminal window with root privileges, and create the following file:

/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf

Create the requisite folders if they don’t exist. Enter the following in the newly created file and save it:

Section "Device"

Identifier "Intel Graphics"
Driver "intel"
Option "AccelMethod" "sna"
Option "TearFree" "true"

EndSection

If you are experience issues with SNA (e.g. pixelated graphics, corrupt text, etc.), try using UXA instead

3 thoughts on “How to Fix Screen Tearing in Linux XFCE and LXDE”

  1. Psy-Q says:

    On Nvidia drivers, you can also enable ForceCompositionPipeline, either via the nvidia-settings control panel or via the command-line:
    nvidia-settings –assign CurrentMetaMode=”nvidia-auto-select +0+0 { ForceCompositionPipeline = On }”

  2. admin says:

    If you are running Manjaro XFCE, I suggest following this guide, but using my config.
    https://wiki.manjaro.org/index.php?title=Using_Compton_for_a_tear-free_experience_in_Xfce

  3. admin says:

    On a side note, some of you may be running Cinnamon on Linux Mint and not XFCE.

    To fix video tearing in Cinnamon, try this:
    1) Open Terminal

    2) Issue the following command:
    gksu gedit /etc/environment

    3) Add to end of file:
    CLUTTER_PAINT=disable-clipped-redraws:disable-culling
    CLUTTER_VBLANK=True

    4) Reboot and see if that fixes the problem

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