I have an Ubuntu 14.04 server that has no external monitor connected. I use NoMachine to remote control the machine. When I do so, the Unity/Gnome interface doesn't see any monitors connected, so I can only use 800x600 when connecting with NoMachine. If I plug in a monitor, I can set the resolution to whatever size the NoMachine window is on the remote computer.

Is there a way to create a "fake" monitor device on Ubuntu so I can set a desktop resolution in Unity/Gnome?


Found a way to do it without requiring a dummy plug: Ubuntu Headless VNC VESA 800x600 Resolution Fix ~ Andy Hawkins @ June 12, 2011

Basically install a dummy driver:

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-dummy

Then write it in the /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/xorg.conf (or possibly /etc/X11/xorg.conf) file (create one, if it does not exist):

Section "Device"
    Identifier  "Configured Video Device"
    Driver      "dummy"

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier  "Configured Monitor"
    HorizSync 31.5-48.5
    VertRefresh 50-70

Section "Screen"
    Identifier  "Default Screen"
    Monitor     "Configured Monitor"
    Device      "Configured Video Device"
    DefaultDepth 24
    SubSection "Display"
    Depth 24
    Modes "1024x800"

Then restart the computer.

  • 3
    Please edit the answer, the package is being updated. Try sudo apt-cache search video-dummy. – cctan Aug 12 '15 at 9:56
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    Creating the file /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/xorg.conf with this content, or the one from xpra.org/xorg.conf, my Ubuntu does not boot anymore (it gets stuck with the Ubuntu logo screen before the login screen). What can be the problem? – David Portabella Aug 23 '16 at 21:40
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    Link in the answer appears to be broken. – rsethc Aug 12 '17 at 9:15
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    Also broke my os. Did not boot. Its remote and now I need to get in a car and drive 1hr. Risky stuff :-) – Derek Apr 7 '18 at 17:49
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    This should no longer be accepted solution. It's bricking too many OS's for people. including mine :) – Darius Dec 30 '19 at 10:38

Specify the resolution on a Ubuntu 14.04 desktop without a monitor connected:

From the xrandr man page:

--fb widthxheight
   Reconfigures the screen to the specified size. All configured 
   monitors must fit within this size. When this option is not 
   provided, xrandr computes the smallest screen size that will 
   hold the set of configured outputs; this option provides a 
   way to override that behaviour.

Therefore use the command after connecting:

xrandr --fb 1280x1024
  • Cool, it's work! – burtsevyg Sep 26 '16 at 10:02
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    For me it say's: Can't open display – ar2015 Jun 2 '17 at 7:05
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    @ar2015 Run the command as xrandr --fb 1280x1024 -display :0 – Terrance Oct 29 '17 at 23:45
  • @Terrance I am getting No protocol specified Can't open display :0 – Rufus Jan 22 '19 at 6:57
  • @Woofas Are you logged in to the system in Wayland? As far as I know, xrandr only works with X.Org. I just ran my command on an 18.04 system again and it works fine, but I am using Xubuntu which is defaulted to X.Org. – Terrance Jan 22 '19 at 14:25

Hardware Solution

This is a hardware solution/workaround which may work for some graphics hardware/driver. Also could be better, if you need to plug physical monitor frequently, so you don't have to restart X Server like with dummy/vesa/fb driver (static configuration).

  • Either you buy a Dummy VGA (or DVI analog) plug or some calling it Dummy Dongle.

  • Or just build it, use 3 resistors of around 75 Ohm (a standard) at the VGA output: 1→6, 2→7, 3→8.

    +/- 10 Ohm may work without any problem. Some cards work with just one resistor. (Like my Intel, 2→7 or 3→8, will detected as a monitor). By the way, this is standard impedance which implemented in the VGA monitors.

Reference: How to create dummy plugs for your graphics cards.

Users who are curious to read more about monitor & its resolution detection, I would recommend reading about VESA DDC & EDID too.

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    Sounds like an interesting idea. I'll give it a shot. – John Chapman Apr 27 '14 at 19:10
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    Honestly, this is the simplest way to go. There are plenty of tutorials out there for workarounds, but this just plain works and will save you a lot of time. The DIY option seems solid, but dummy plugs on Amazon are $20. Just make sure you get a good one to support your resolution. – Jason Capriotti Feb 22 '17 at 21:19

Consider Xvfb which is probably least likely to mess up the display when you actually plug in a real monitor

The following commands will start lightdm on a fake display with ID 1 and resolution 1024x76

export DISPLAY=:1
Xvfb :1 -screen 0 1024x768x16 &
sleep 1

#exec gnome-session & # use gnome-session instead of lightdm
exec lightdm-session &
  • 1
    Thanks, this helped me to run chrome on Debian without display. – DedaDev Nov 2 '19 at 12:37
  • Thanks, with this I was able to start a xfreerdp client open a rpd session at boot without user interaction (in order to start a X program at startup) – Jako Sep 25 '20 at 6:16

I'm on Ubuntu 18.04, this is how I solved it:

I've created the virtual display using the answer to this question: https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/378373/add-virtual-output-to-xorg

Create a 20-intel.conf file:

sudo vi /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf

Add the following configuration information into the file:

Section "Device"
    Identifier "intelgpu0"
    Driver "intel"
    Option "VirtualHeads" "2"

This tells the Intel GPU to create 2 virtual displays. You can change the number of VirtualHeads to your needs.

Then I made a shell script (don't forget to set executable) and put that in Startup Applications:

#! /bin/bash

/usr/bin/xrandr -d :0 --output VIRTUAL1 --primary --auto
/usr/bin/xrandr --newmode "1600x900_60.00" 118.25 1600 1696 1856 2112 900$
/usr/bin/xrandr --addmode VIRTUAL1 "1600x900_60.00"

That way, VIRTUAL1 is set as output and connected. At boot, a new mode (found using "cvt 1600 900") is being created and appointed to VIRTUAL1.

Only issue with this is: dock is missing at reboot... Haven't solved that yet.

  • Did not work for me though due to could not parse ""1600x900_60.00"" message but maybe works, but causes graphics artifacts/glitches at the screen, had to remove it, askubuntu.com/questions/1231824/… some apps crashed or were transparent also – FantomX1 Feb 22 at 12:12
  • Generate a xrandr line with cvt. e.g. cvt 1920 1080 gave me Modeline "1920x1080_60.00" 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync. Also beware of the $ at the end. – Ramon Poca Apr 15 at 15:46
  • Unfortunately, this did not work on my Ubuntu 20.04. I get strange glitches and the extended display size is incorrect. – Merve Sahin May 11 at 14:18

For me no one of the above solution works. To add a new device/screen VIRTUAL1, what has worked for me is :

  • Install the packet xserver-xorg-video-dummy
  • Update xorg.conf

All details are here : Add Fake Display when No Monitor is Plugged In

Info : for me, it works in editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf instead of /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/xorg.conf

  • Tested with Ubuntu 20.04LTS and TeamViewer and its working fine! /etc/X11/xorg.conf path worked for me too. – BirdOfPrey Aug 16 '20 at 20:38
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    THis worked great for me but how do I get a regular screen back when I connect a monitor? – Jeff Barnett Sep 15 '20 at 2:06
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    Did you linked this page in this page? Or I am wrong? – therealak12 Sep 15 '20 at 9:46

This works as an additional monitor/display once there is an existing one

I think I may have spoken too soon. I was able to create a "virtual" display by adding a new mode to one of the disconnected displays listed in xrandr using

xrandr --addmode VIRTUAL1 1024x768
I then simply enabled the display like you would normally:

xrandr --output VIRTUAL1 --mode 1024x768 --left-of HDMI3
Furthermore, combined with x11vnc -clip, I am able to use this to convert my android tablet to a second monitor.  The perfomrance is pretty crappy at the moment, unfortunately, but that's whole other area to be explored.



Got it working

Just install the dummy driver

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-dummy

dont edit the xorg.conf file I however just created an empty file here


now when you have a monitor hooked in it will work as earlier but if you boot it without a monitor that should work too and you should be able to ssh into your machine.

hope it works for you too.

tested on ubuntu 19.04 and intel nuc.


John Chapman's answer didn't work for me. I can suggest this link for a fixed dummy display with 1024x768 24bit. I can successfully connect to my pc without any display attached. My system is Ubuntu 16.04. You should install VESA video driver.

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-vesa

Code is in your /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/xorg.conf file or /etc/X11/xorg.conf file

Section "Device"
Identifier    "Configured Video Device"
Driver        "vesa"

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier    "Configured Monitor"
    HorizSync 42.0 - 52.0 
    VertRefresh 55.0 - 65.0 
    Modeline "1024x768" 60.80  1024 1056 1128 1272   768  768  770  796
    Modeline "800x600" 38.21 800 832 976 1008 600 612 618 631
    Modeline "640x480" 24.11 640 672 760 792 480 490 495 50

Section "Screen"
    Identifier    "Default Screen"
    Monitor        "Configured Monitor"
    Device        "Configured Video Device"
    DefaultDepth    24
    Subsection "Display"
        Depth       24
        Modes       "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

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