Which VNC Server can I use to run graphical applications (i.e. X Clients) on a headless Debian Wheezy box?

Usually I don't need graphical applications on servers but from time to time there are applications (e.g. firmware update utilities) which sadly required a graphical interface.

2 Answers 2


You don't need VNC or even to run X via a service, though X and whatever gnome-visual stuff will get installed along with your visual program. I use aptitude to install to keep an eye on the dependencies.

I use graphical apps via ssh from home all the time without doing anything special, just use ssh -X as you would ssh before. Once logged in, you background the task, example:
$ midori &
and then the window eventually appears just as if it were your local machine.

I do it mostly for getting a browser inside the network to manage something. The last time, I previously used firefox, but my new Debian install is without anything.

One tool I did really like and enjoy was opening xfce-panel on the server from my linux desktop, in which I had a few different useful plugins, including hardware monitoring. Sometimes gedit would come in handy when I knew there'd be many edits and it seemed faster to start a new shell with -X and then background the GUI rather than just use vi.

Edit to add: You reminded me I needed an internal browser, so from home I just installed a bunch of browsers on my work's host & midori is the best I have tried yet. Netsurf couldn't open webmin, arora was way too slow, & epiphany was slower than normal to show GUI input.

  • BTW, just installed epiphany-browser. Wow, forgot how much gnome poop there is. I looked at the dependencies & they didn't seem like the several hundred that did install. :P + it's slow, so I'm looking at the others here: wiki.debian.org/WebBrowsers
    – Krista K
    Jan 1, 2014 at 21:47
  • Ah, of course you're right. I was too unspecific with my question. I was looking for something that keeps the applications running once I log out. I'll mark your answer anyway because it correctly answers the question as I asked it.
    – tex
    Jan 5, 2014 at 16:46
  • Ah, for those fun instances, you can evoke and then background the nohup command (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nohup) but not sure how that and GUI work together based on my prior usage of remote X sessions and nohups. I use nohup to start informal services or long wgets and then logout.
    – Krista K
    Jan 6, 2014 at 3:25

The nature of X is such that you can run your display server on another machine. The easiest way to start GUI apps is login from another unix machine with ssh -X and then simply start the application. It will then appear on your local computer.

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