Fix Ubuntu 20.04 windows not appearing

I have a few old laptops kicking around that I keep running because with an SSD they’re perfectly fine to keep running. My 10 year old (approx) Samsung laptop is one of these.

Recently I did a fresh install of Ubuntu 20.04 onto this laptop and everything just worked – except for the fact that certain windows, including the Gnome Control Center (gnome-control-center) would open (showing the icon on the left bar) but seemed to quickly move off screen to the right.

I puzzled over this for quite some time trying all sorts of things including launching gnome-control-center from a terminal with -v flag set to see if something was wrong.

I stumbled across a few people talking about windows being off screen from 2014, and methods to bring them back so I tried the following:

  1. Open the control centre so that you see the icon on the left bar, and the red dot next to it showing that it’s running.
  2. Press alt-TAB until you see it highlighted so it’s definitely the window in focus
  3. Hold down alt-F7 and keep holding it, and tap the left arrow. Don’t release these keys yet
  4. Your mouse cursor should disappear now
  5. When you move your mouse left, you should see the window appearing into view
  6. Release alt-F7 and click your mouse when the window is in the middle of the screen

So this will bring the window back, but next time you launch it, it will disappear again. So there’s another problem going on here.

I choose to use the open source Nouveau Xorg video card drivers rather than the closed source, and often buggy on older machines, NVidia drivers, and this laptop has an NVidia card in it (Optimus era). It seems there is a problem, on this laptop at least, that it thinks there’s another display connected to the video output port on the card when I haven’t got anything plugged in.

So while we have the control panel on screen, we’ll go to the “Screen Display” section on the left side, and on the right we’ll choose “Single Display” up the top.

You should now no longer get windows launching off screen or seemingly not launching.