How to install KDE desktop environment on Ubuntu [Guide]

Are you a fan of the KDE desktop environment for Linux? Are you running Ubuntu and wish you could get the latest release, but you’re tired of waiting for it to hit the main Ubuntu repositories? This how-to will show you exactly how you can get the latest KDE software compilation right away!


The purpose of this guide is to show you exactly how to install the latest version of the KDE Software compilation for Ubuntu Linux 13.04. This guide will cover KDE 4.11 software compilation, but as this software is being installed by using a software repository (a server that holds software sources for your Linux Distribution), this guide applies for all future versions of KDE. Plus, you will get KDE updates after installation, as long as you have this software repository enabled on your PC. In Ubuntu Linux, these software repositories are known as PPAs.

Although we wrote this guide specifically for Ubuntu 13.04, it should work on later versions of Ubuntu as well.


  • First we need to enable the software PPA on your PC. You will need to do this using the terminal. If you’re using Unity, open up the dash (by pressing the windows key) and search for ‘Terminal‘. It should show up and you’ll be able to click on it to launch it. If you’re on any other desktop environment, simply press ctrl + shift + t and a terminal will appear.


  • To enable this software repository on your Ubuntu-powered PC, you’ll need to enter some simple terminal commands. Don’t be afraid, this is not as hard as you think.
  • In the terminal window enter this command. The command below (when entered correctly) will enable the software repository in which the more up-to-date version of the KDE Software Compilation is located. We do this because Canonical (owner/maintainers of Ubuntu) do not put out updates as frequently as people would like them to.
    • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports


  • Once you have entered this command (it will ask you for your password), you will see a message appear in your terminal. It should say something like this:

You are about to add the following PPA to your system:

Backports of new versions of KDE and major KDE apps for Kubuntu which are either too large a change or not yet tested enough to go to Ubuntu Backports

More info:

Press [ENTER] to continue or ctrl-c to cancel adding it

  • The second thing we need to do is to update your software sources. By updating your software sources you check for any updates you may be in need of, and Ubuntu will refresh its software list and see your newly-added PPA. You can update your software sources by entering the command below.
    • sudo apt-get update


  • The third thing we need to do is to install the software. This is the last terminal command we’ll be entering. This command (when entered correctly) will tell Ubuntu to install a complete KDE desktop. This includes everything from KDE itself, to all of the KDE apps that come with it. You can do this by entering the command below in your terminal.
    • sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop


Be Warned: This may take a little bit. While KDE 4.11 is being downloaded you might want to get up and take a short walk.

  • Lastly, we need to  to log out of our current session. Once you’ve logged out of your current session on Ubuntu, you need to find the option (on the logout screen) that says sessions. Click the Ubuntu logo on the right of your user name. This will allow you to chose from different desktop environments (Unity, KDE, Gnome Shell and etc). Select the option that says KDE Plasma Workspace, move your mouse over to the arrow pointing to the left and click it to return to the user login area.


  • Enter your password, once you have your password entered, press the enter key, and wait for KDE 4.11 to log in.



Sometimes getting up to date software on Ubuntu is tough, since it is not a ‘bleeding edge’ distribution. Luckily, with this guide you’ve learned how PPAs work, and are now able to enjoy the latest, most newest version of KDE! Using your new-found knowledge, you can now install just about anything from a PPA. Enjoy!

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  • Seamus McSeamus

    I appreciate the article. I have Fedora installed on an old laptop and that’s my usual Linux flavor, but I like to play around with others as well. I actually kind of like Netrunner right now…

  • [@J.L.] As I stated in the guide, Canonical has not released the lastest versions. KDE 4.11 has only been out for a week. Just installing this from the lastest Canonical/Kubuntu repos would do nothing. This is why this guide exists.

    [@J.L.] The beauty of Linux is choice. Feel like using KDE for a while? Install it. Get bored of KDE? Install Gnome Shell.

    I apologize for not going over how to uninstall the KDE session, but as it stands, this guide is meant for users that want a more bleeding edge session of KDE, and not the older and more stable version in stock repositories.

    Any user that wishes to remove this installation of KDE follow these steps.

    sudo apt-get install -y ppa-purge
    sudo ppa-purge ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
    sudo apt-get autoremove

  • Emrys

    I thank you all for the timely and helpful input. I did learn a lot and now have a new laptop to properly partition for Linux. It is my intention to learn more about it.

  • J.L.

    [@vandamme] I’ve noticed that, but this article is not marked as such. It serves no practical purpose other than a learning tool, no backup was mentioned for this potentially irreversible process, and no (better) alternatives such as Kubuntu was mentioned, making newbies think that’s the only way to install KDE on Ubuntu.

  • Some people just like to try out stuff. Every new Linux user goes through that phase.

  • jfrazee


    kde tutorial can be found here. . check out this website also.

  • J.L.

    Why would you want to do this instead of just installing Kubuntu?

    Working with 2 GUI interfaces? Who does that?

    More programs? Unnecessary bloat, go for native apps. If you really need it, they’ll download necessary components automatically.

    Already installed Ubuntu and want to switch? It’s more painless starting from scratch after backing up your data and programs:

  • Emrys

    HP Pavilion dv7 (w/HD about to fail) 4GB RAM Ubuntu 13.04
    No trouble installing (I am a new Linux user). My Win7 only booted in safe mode, so I switched.
    Beautiful desktop. Big learning curve though, and it’s native browser woundn’t render Flash right.
    Finally found Chrome, and it rendered, but jumpy. KDE must use alot more system rescources.
    Audio not as loud either. The original 13.04 desktop is easier for a Windows user to transition to.
    At last the KDE desktop crashed (the mouse disappeared) and I rebooted, having then to reselect the original desktop. I learned a lot, but will stick to the original; it’s faster.
    Finally, can you point me to a useful tutorial on this OS? Google was not much help. Thanks.

  • Seamus McSeamus

    I think I’ll give this a try. I haven’t used Ubuntu very much, but I’ve recently installed Mint with KDE and am enjoying playing around with it. Maybe Ubuntu with KDE will entertain me as well. :)