How to install GUI on Ubuntu server 18.04

Although it’s uncommon to find display managers running on a server, some users may still want to experience that look and feel of a GUI in a server. In this guide, we take a look on how to install GUI on Ubuntu server 18.04. Because GUI is notorious for exerting heavy demands on CPU and RAM, we will only focus on the installation of Light-weight desktop environments.  These include

  • MATE core Desktop
  • Kubuntu Desktop
  • XFCE
  • LXDE
  • Budgie Desktop



  1. Ubuntu server 18.04 with SSH access
  2. A non-root user with sudo privileges

Before getting started, ensure that you update & upgrade your system

$ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

Next, we are going to install the tasksel manager.

$ sudo apt install tasksel

Now we can begin installing the various Desktop environments.


1) Mate Core Server Desktop

To Install the MATE desktop, use the following command

$ sudo tasksel install ubuntu-mate-core

To Launch the GUI MATE desktop execute the command below

$ sudo service lightdm start

install GUI on Ubuntu server 18.04

Click on the Start button to explore further

mate core Desktop

2) Lubuntu Core Server Desktop

This is considered to be the most lightweight and resource friendly GUI for Ubuntu 18.04 server
It is based on the LXDE desktop environment. To install Lubuntu execute

$ sudo tasksel install lubuntu-core

Once the Lubuntu-core GUI is successfully installed, launch the display manager by running the command below or simply by rebooting your system

$ sudo service lightdm start

Thereafter, Log out and click on the button as shown to select the GUI manager of your choice

login button to select desktop managers

In the drop-down list, click on Lubuntu

drop down menu for desktop environments

Log in and Lubuntu will be launched as shown

lubuntu dekstop


3) Kubuntu Core Server Desktop

Kubuntu is a light-weight desktop environment that borrows a lot from Xfce desktop environment.

To get started with the installation of Kubuntu run the command below

$ sudo tasksel install kubuntu-desktop

Once it is successfully installed, start the display manager by running the command below or simply restart your server

$ sudo service lightdm start

log out or restart your machine and click on the button below

login button to select desktop managers

From drop the drop-down list, select Kubuntu

install Kubuntu Desktop

A look at the start menu reveals a cool array of features

kubuntu menu


XFCE is a very lightweight desktop environment that is resource friendly and takes up very minimal RAM and CPU resources. To install XFCE use the following command

# sudo tasksel install xfce4-slim

After the GUI installation, use the command to activate it

# sudo service slim start


This will prompt you to select the default manager. Select slim and hit ENTER.

xfce4 slim

Log out or reboot and select ‘Xfce’ option from the drop-down list and log in using your credentials.

Shortly, the Xfce display manager will be launched

install xfce4 desktop


LXDE is a Desktop envirnonment considered the most economical to system resources. Lubuntu is based on LXDE desktop environment. Use the following command

$ sudo apt-get install lxde

To start LXDE, log out or reboot and select ‘LXDE’ from the drop-down list of display managers on log on.

install LXDE environment


Those are a few lightweight desktop environments that you can deploy on your Ubuntu 18.04 server to make your work easier and do away with the boredom of having to work on a black terminal screen.

Give it a try and tell us how it went. In this article, we looked at how you can install GUI on Ubuntu server 18.04. your feedback is most welcome.

About James

Hey there! This is James, a Linux administrator and a tech enthusiast. I love experimenting with various distributions of Linux and keeping tabs on what's new in the Linux world.
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