I.e. how can I run xroach on a VM?

A search on RC for xroach didn't turn anything up.

xroach, as I remember it, ran under old versions of X and had a certain number of cockroaches on the root window which would run for cover if you closed, quickly moved, etc. a window they were hiding under.

  • 3
    Is using a VM and an old Linux version a hard requirement? From what I understand, xroach should still work under modern versions of Linux; packages are available here (pkgs.org/download/xroach). If it doesn't, it's probably because xroach tries to paint on the root window, but modern desktop environments tend to obscure that. You can work around that by using a virtual X server like xnest or Xephyr. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 21:04
  • 1
    It there are issues, it would be the X server version, and possibly modern desktops trying to interfere. Did you try with the distro of your choice, but modern desktops not installed (e.g. plain fvwm as WM)?
    – dirkt
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 4:30
  • Also you need to slow it down. They move fast on modern hardware. Commented May 17, 2021 at 16:13

2 Answers 2


I just uploaded a new version of xroach to sourceforge. This version works in Gnome KDE, but also in FVWM and the like:


for the bleeding edge visit:


  • 4
    Username checks out.
    – Leo B.
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 6:18
  • 1
    @Willem welcome to Unix.SE! Let me know if you’d like to get the package sponsored into Debian, I can take care of that for you. Commented May 17, 2021 at 13:39

xroach (at least, this version, fixed for modern compilers) still works on current Linux distributions, as long as the desktop uses X and the root window is visible. Here it is running on Debian 10, with FVWM running the show:

xroach running on Debian 10 with FVWM

(the cockroaches are in the top-left of the screen).

To reproduce this, regardless of your current desktop (assuming all four programs are available):

Xephyr :20 &
DISPLAY=:20 fvwm &
DISPLAY=:20 xterm &
DISPLAY=:20 xroach &

If you want real “old school”, there’s no need for FVWM and XTerm:

DISPLAY=:20 xsetroot -gray

xroach running on Debian 10 on a stippled background

Most “full-blown” desktop environments hide the root window, and there’s not necessarily an easy way to disable this. In any case as desktops move to Wayland, xroach-style programs will stop working, and their replacements will have to be desktop extensions rather than generic X or Wayland clients.

  • The simplest way to get a visible root window on an out-of-the-box desktop would probably be to run an LXDE-based desktop and then run pcmanfm --desktop-off to reveal the root window. (You'll then need a more traditional desktop background setter, like Nitrogen.)
    – ssokolow
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 10:17

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