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I have recently installed CentOS 7 (Minimal Install without GUI) and now I want to install a GUI environment in it.

How can I install Desktop Environments on previously installed CentOS7 without reinstalling it?

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1. Installing GNOME-Desktop:

  1. Install GNOME Desktop Environment on here.

    # yum -y groups install "GNOME Desktop" 
    
  2. Input a command like below after finishing installation:

    # startx 
    
  3. GNOME Desktop Environment will start. For first booting, initial setup runs and you have to configure it for first time.

    • Select System language first.
    • Select your keyboard type.
    • Add online accounts if you'd like to.
    • Finally click "Start using CentOS Linux".
  4. GNOME Desktop Environments starts like follows.

GNOME Desktop Environment: start screen

How to use GNOME Shell?

The default GNOME Desktop of CentOS 7 starts with classic mode but if you'd like to use GNOME Shell, set like follows:

Option A: If you start GNOME with startx, set like follows.

# echo "exec gnome-session" >> ~/.xinitrc
# startx 

Option B: set the system graphical login systemctl set-default graphical.target and reboot the system. After system starts

  1. Click the button which is located next to the "Sign In" button.
  2. Select "GNOME" on the list. (The default is GNOME Classic)
  3. Click "Sign In" and log in with GNOME Shell.

Sign-in screen with GNOME selected

  1. GNOME shell starts like follows:

GNOME Desktop Environment - sample screen

2. Installing KDE-Desktop:

  1. Install KDE Desktop Environment on here.

    # yum -y groups install "KDE Plasma Workspaces" 
    
  2. Input a command like below after finishing installation:

    # echo "exec startkde" >> ~/.xinitrc
    # startx
    
  3. KDE Desktop Environment starts like follows:

KDE Desktop Environment: sample start-screen

3. Installing Cinnamon Desktop Environment:

  1. Install Cinnamon Desktop Environment on here.

    First Add the EPEL Repository (EPEL Repository which is provided from Fedora project.)
    Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL)

    • How to add EPEL Repository?

      # yum -y install epel-release
      
      # sed -i -e "s/\]$/\]\npriority=5/g" /etc/yum.repos.d/epel.repo # set [priority=5]
      # sed -i -e "s/enabled=1/enabled=0/g" /etc/yum.repos.d/epel.repo # for another way, change to [enabled=0] and use it only when needed
      # yum --enablerepo=epel install [Package] # if [enabled=0], input a command to use the repository
      
    • And now install the Cinnamon Desktop Environment from EPEL Repository:

      # yum --enablerepo=epel -y install cinnamon*
      
  2. Input a command like below after finishing installation:

    # echo "exec /usr/bin/cinnamon-session" >> ~/.xinitrc
    # startx 
    
  3. Cinnamon Desktop Environment will start. For first booting, initial setup runs and you have to configure it for first time.

    • Select System language first.
    • Select your keyboard type.
    • Add online accounts if you'd like to.
    • Finally click "Start using CentOS Linux".
  4. Cinnamon Desktop Environment starts like follows.

Cinnamon Desktop Environment: sample starting screen

4. Installing MATE Desktop Environment:

  1. Install MATE Desktop Environment on here (You will need to add the EPEL Repository as explained above in advance).

    # yum --enablerepo=epel -y groups install "MATE Desktop"
    
  2. Input a command like below after finishing installation:

    # echo "exec /usr/bin/mate-session" >> ~/.xinitrc 
    # startx
    
  3. MATE Desktop Environment starts.

MATE Desktop Environment: sample starting screen

5. Installing Xfce Desktop Environment:

  1. Install Xfce Desktop Environment on here (You will need to add the EPEL Repository as like above in "Cinnamon" installation before).

    # yum -y groupinstall X11
    # yum --enablerepo=epel -y groups install "Xfce" 
    
  2. Input a command like below after finishing installation:

    # echo "exec /usr/bin/xfce4-session" >> ~/.xinitrc 
    # startx
    
  3. Xfce Desktop Environment starts.

Xfce Desktop Environment: sample starting screen

  • 2
    I downloaded the 7GB version of CentOS 7 and installed it on VirtualBox, and surprisingly, there is no GUI. 7GB as compared to Ubuntu's 1GB with GUI. And the step 1 in the answer gave me error "Cannot find a valid baseurl for repo"... oh well... P.S. I just found that it is defaulted to "Minimal installation" during the installation -- you just have to change it to GNOME or something else – nopole Dec 12 '15 at 17:02
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    @太極者無極而生 usually the base url error occurs due to network client not running. If your virtual box network is configured properly the simple give command "dhclient" – Ravi Shekhar Jul 26 '16 at 9:49
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    @KasiyA, can you please update your answer to include that using dhclient works on virtual box for network client not running.. and yum groupinstall X11 is needed, at least for XFCE install... your answer helped a lot, thanks :) – Sundeep Oct 7 '16 at 10:42
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    I've tried installing GNOME but It's stuck after gnome-session-is-accelerated: llvmpipe detected. for startx. I'm using CentOS 7 – Jama Oct 28 '16 at 19:54
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    to install epel I needed to yum install epel-release – Stuart Cardall Nov 13 '17 at 19:28
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Rather than make use of the hacking of a startx command into a .xinitrc file, it's probably better to tell Systemd that you want to boot into a graphical GUI vs. the terminal.

To accomplish this simply do the following:

$ sudo yum groupinstall "GNOME Desktop"
$ ln -sf /lib/systemd/system/runlevel5.target /etc/systemd/system/default.target

Then simply reboot.

The last bit will associate the runlevel 5 target as your default with respect to Systemd.

Doing it with Systemd

You can also use Systemd to accomplish this. This is arguably the better method since you're managing the state of the system directly through Systemd and its CLIs.

You can see what your current default target is:

$ sudo systemctl get-default
multi-user.target

And then change it to graphical:

$ sudo systemctl set-default graphical.target

Targets

In Systemd the targets runlevel5.target and graphical.target are identical. So too are runlevel2.target and multi-user.target.

Runlevel    Target Units                          Description
0           runlevel0.target, poweroff.target     Shut down and power off the system.
1           runlevel1.target, rescue.target       Set up a rescue shell.
2           runlevel2.target, multi-user.target   Set up a non-graphical multi-user system.
3           runlevel3.target, multi-user.target   Set up a non-graphical multi-user system.
4           runlevel4.target, multi-user.target   Set up a non-graphical multi-user system.
5           runlevel5.target, graphical.target    Set up a graphical multi-user system.
6           runlevel6.target, reboot.target       Shut down and reboot the system.

References

  • 3
    Isn't it better to use Systemd commands to enable graphical mode rather than manually creating a symlink? See the Red Hat Systemd Targets Documentation – Mark Edington Feb 20 '16 at 11:54
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    @MarkEdington - agreed, updated. Thanks for pointing this out. Figured it was possible but hadn't dug deep enough to see how. – slm Feb 20 '16 at 14:05
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    +1 for the sudo systemctl set-default graphical.target. (I prefer sudo yum groupinstall "Server with GUI".) – Trevor Boyd Smith Jan 27 '17 at 21:06
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On CentOS 6

This did work for me:

yum -y groupinstall "X Window System" "Desktop" "Fonts" "General Purpose Desktop"
yum -y groupinstall "KDE Desktop"

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