Install GUI on debian 7 wheezy

This article will show you how to install GUI (Graphical User Interface) of your choice (gnome, kde, tde, Cinnamon, mate, enlightenment, xfce, or lxde) on debian 7. The two biggest players in the game are Gnome and KDE, but there are also many smaller GUIs, like Xfce and LXDE that have just as much to offer.

Download Debian 7 wheezy

For leaner and better control of what you install on your machine, I highly recommend you to download and install debian minimal CD or netinst.



When you are at “Software selection” screen, *unselect* all the option.

If you already have debian installed and you want to find out what your debian version is, you can use this command


GNU Object Model Environment (Gnome) is a desktop environment and graphical user interface that runs on top of a computer operating system, user-friendly desktop for Unix operating systems, based entirely on free software.
You will need to install aptitude and tasksel before install gnome

Aptitude is an Ncurses based FrontEnd to Apt, the debian package manager.

Tasksel is a tool that installs multiple related packages as a co-ordinated “task” onto your system.

Install gnome on debian


K Desktop Environment (KDE) is a free desktop environment and development platform built with Trolltech’s Qt toolkit. It runs on most Unix and Unix-like systems, such as Linux, BSD and Solaris.

Or install KDE from the default repositorie


TDE (Trinity Desktop Environment) is a Linux desktop environment. TDE is a continuation of the KDE 3 series which look and feel the same with KDE 3.5 but it’s packages aren’t interchangeable with KDE. The first time you start TDE, Kpersonalizer will help you to configure the basic setup of Trinity desktop.

To install TDE on Debian 7 wheezy, you will need to add Trinity Repository to your system sources.list file

Add these lines to the end of your sources.list file

Now you can install TDE on Debian 7 Wheezy


Compiz is truly one of the original compositing window managers for the X Window System which is capable to make use of OpenGL-acceleration. The integration enables it to run compositing effects in window management, for example a minimization effect and a cube workspace. Compiz conforms to the ICCCM standard together with replacement for the main Metacity in GNOME or KWin in KDE.

You can configure Compiz via CCSM utility. located in System -> Preferences -> CompizConfig


Cinnamon is a Linux desktop which provides advanced innovative features and a traditional user experience. The desktop layout is similar to Gnome 2. The underlying technology is forked from Gnome Shell. The emphasis is put on making users feel at home and providing them with an easy to use and comfortable desktop experience.Cinnamon has rich visual effects enabled by new graphical technologies.

NOTE: This is broken. At the moment this method no longer works.

Edit /etc/apt/sources.list

Add these to the file

Change the content of /etc/apt/preferences like this

Install linuxmint-keyring package or GnuPG key from Linux Mint repository

Now import the GPG key


To install Cinnamon on debian 7 wheezy


The MATE Desktop Environment, a non-intuitive and unattractive desktop for users, using traditional computing desktop metaphor. MATE is based on old Gnome 2, which is stable, tried and true. Because of it has been around for so much longer, tools have been developed for it which makes Gnome 2 highly compatible with most software and also highly configurable (for example, you can run Compiz on it).
Add one of MATE repositories to your source.list

Install MATE on debian

You will need to install X Windows System before install MATE

You can choose to o install MATE with three options
To installs MATE base packages

To install mate-core and more extras

Or to install mate-core + mate-desktop-environment and even more extras.


Enlightenment is not only one desktop environment for Linux, but it has an entirely libraries to assist you to produce gorgeous end user interfaces together with a lesser amount of computer resource as compared to doing it the particular traditional way, it also helping together with classic toolkits, not forgetting an old-fashioned window manager.
We are going to install Enlightenment from debian testing repository, so we have to add the testing repository to the sources.list file

Add these lines to the end of the sources.list file and save it

I’m going to use LightDM instead of Gnome GDM3 desktop manager. If you have installed gdm3, remove it and install lightdm.

Now we can install Enlightenment with this command

To start Enlightenment, you can use this command, or Enlightenment should starts automatically after you do reboot


Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for UNIX-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly.
To install Xfce on debian 7 wheezy

To install extra XFCE packages

To start xfce
Once the xfce installation is done, reboot your sytem, login with your username and password, then type


To start xfce automatically when you login to tty1
edit .bashrc in your user directory

add these code to the end of the .bashrc file


The LXDE or “Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment” is an extremely fast-performing and energy-saving desktop environment. LXDE uses less CPU and less RAM than other environments. It is especially designed for cloud computers with low hardware specifications, such as netbooks, mobile devices (e.g. MIDs) or older computers. LXDE can be installed on many Linux distributions including Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu.
minimum set of elements

complete set of elements

complete Debian LXDE desktop environment


Fluxbox is a extremely minimalistic and fast window manager for Linux and Unix systems. Based on the Blackbox 0.61.1 code, FluxBox uses very little resources and memory compare to KDE or Gnome which is great for older or low-powered machines. To install FluxBox on debian 7 wheezy.
You will need to install X Windows System before FluxBox

After you installed X, you now can install FluxBox on debian wheezy.

The fluxbox package from debian contains:

  • fluxbox: window manager
  • fbsetbg: setup script for rootwindow’s background
  • fbrun: small RunApplication tool
  • startfluxbox: Fluxbox starter that reads session information from ~/.fluxbox/startup


Similar to Xfce, LXDE, and Fluxbox, Openbox is very light weight and minimal window manger (not a desktop environment) for Debian or any Linux and Unix system. Openbox is developed from Blackbox 0.61.1 source code. Since Openbox is light weight, it uses very little resources yet very functional.

To start openbox

Last Modified: 06/23/2014


    • namhuy says

      Which one are you trying to install? Some will auto load without startx command, some after you login at the terminal, you have to type in “startx” to load the GUI.

  1. mark says

    Spent three days trying to get debian installed with KDE GUI and nothing works. Boots to console.

    • namhuy says

      you need to run startx to start gui

      If you want to start kde automatically, edit /etc/inittab file



    • namhuy says

      Which debian version are you using? I tested with debian wheezy 7.5, KDE starts automatically

    • namhuy says

      Same here, I just put a note on Cinnamon section. I will update when I found another working way to install Cinnamon. If you found a way, please feel free to share with me.

  2. jim says

    When trying the 3 LXDE options, startx only starts the GUI when installing the last option (with tons of stuff not needed for a webserver). Why does startx not start the GUI with the first 2 options?

    • namhuy says

      It’s been a while, but if i remember correctly, after a reboot, debian should boot into LXDE automatically.

      If a reboot wont help, try to check your runLevel in /etc/inittab make sure your system boot to x11 which is should be id:5:initdefault:

      • jim says

        This seemed to start the minimal desktop using LXDE…

        sudo apt-get install xorg

        apt-get install lxde-core


  3. Alicia says

    Hi, thanks for the information. I seem to get an error when installing TDE. After following all of your instruction, I get to a halt with the last command “sudo apt-get install desktop-base-trinity kde-trinity.” The result reads:

    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    E: desktop-base-trinity package cannot be found
    E: kde-trinity package cannot be found

    Can you give me any advice on how to fix this? Thanks.

    • Alicia says

      I think I’m asking you the wrong questions. Scratch what I’ve written above.
      I’ve added the mirrors to my source list and typed the command ” apt-key adv –keyserver keyserver.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing. net –recv-keys 2B8638D0″
      This is what I get at the end:

      W: GPG error: wheezy Release: The following signatures couldn’t be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY 96C95152F5CFC95C
      W: GPG error: wheezy Release: The following signatures couldn’t be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY 96C95152F5CFC95C

      How can I solve this problem?

  4. Barry says

    Gnome 3 is ‘user-friendly’ while MATE is ‘unintuitive and unattractive’? They look pretty much the same, and guh-nome 3 is so locked down that you can barely do anything.

    Also, the installer these days has an ‘advanced’ menu entry that lets you select a few different desktops (including KDE and XFCE), so you don’t have to worry about getting config files right to ensure your X session starts.

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