Will the desktop be consuming resources if Im not using it? If so, how do I turn it on/off?

  • FYI there's also text mode browsers which you can use without a GUI, such as lynx, maybe that's enough to configure those devices ?
    – JonasCz
    Jun 12 '16 at 12:39
  • It greatly depends on what your desktop is doing while idle (i.e. what besides the desktop is running). Call uptime before installing the desktop. Then after installation and one hours later call uptime again. If you need more details what is using resources, install atop or htop to monitor your processes.
    – MadMike
    Jun 15 '16 at 1:01

I assume you have a clean install of Ubuntu Server. The apt command is equivalent to apt-get. I've tested all myself (except the first one). If you want a remote desktop like vnc server, you will need at least 3,4,5 or 6. See more info here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ServerGUI

  1. Run GUI applications without GUI

    sudo apt install xauth

    Then any gui application that you install will also install the required dependencies. After you can connect with ssh -X command and run any gui application with X forwarding (never tried it with just xauth installed).

  2. Minimal GUI:

    sudo apt install xorg
    sudo apt install openbox --no-install-recommends

    Run the command startx and openbox will start (you can open a terminal there and run any application you want)

  3. Minimal GUI with display manager:

    sudo apt install xorg
    sudo apt install lightdm-gtk-greeter --no-install-recommends
    sudo apt install lightdm --no-install-recommends
    sudo apt install openbox --no-install-recommends

    After reboot you will see the lightdm login menu (I don't know how you can make it not to start automatically but I don't think it consumes too much resources when you haven't logged in). Maybe some themes won't appear correct, so if you don't mind more dependencies install all packages in the same order without the --no-install-recommends option.

  4. A more functional minimal desktop environment (the one I use)

    sudo apt install xorg
    sudo apt install lightdm-gtk-greeter

    Install lightdm-gtk-greeter first or it will install unity-greeter as dependency:

    sudo apt install lightdm
    sudo apt install lxde-core
    sudo apt install lxpolkit #(pkexec can't run without it)
    sudo apt install lxsession-logout #(logout button doesn't work without it)
  5. A full lightweight desktop environment

    sudo apt install lubuntu-core

    It will install all dependencies like xorg, ligthdm, alsa and many more things.

  6. A bit heavier desktop environment

    sudo apt install xubuntu-core

    It will install all dependencies like xorg, ligthdm, alsa and many more things.

You can use the --no-install-recommends option at 5 and 6 but you may need to install additional packages for the full desktop experience.


You can install desktop environments with sudo apt --no-install-recommends install lubuntu-desktop. This would be very lightweight

Thanks to Nick Weinberg from the comments: sudo apt install --no-install-recommends lubuntu-core should be better

  • 1
    sudo apt install --no-install-recommends lubuntu-core would be another, even more lightweight option Jun 14 '16 at 1:02

Two additional options you can use in SSH connection

  • Port forwarding
  • X11 Forwarding
  • Say a newly install application has a web administration interface that can only be accessed via localhost by default. You can forward communications via ssh.

    Additionally, you can install a web browser on the server and use x11 forwarding to transmit the application window display through ssh to the client.

    Because x11 forwarding is transmitting images, it is usually slower than port forwarding. Both can be useful tools depending on your situation.

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