I'm running Backtrack 5 R1 with GNOME in Virtualbox on a Windows 7 x64 host.

In the default install, Backtrack boots to a command-line login prompt and then requires you to run startx to load the GNOME desktop.

Is there a way for me to install a GUI login interface? I'd prefer if the interface could also auto-start the GNOME desktop on login.

4 Answers 4


I am pretty sure all you need to do is install gdm (gnome display manager)

sudo apt-get install gdm
  • Installed GDM, but it had no effect to my logon on reboot.
    – Iszi
    Nov 26, 2011 at 2:35
  • 1
    I found a youtube video: youtube.com/watch?v=9uMqsVFVO58 Nov 26, 2011 at 2:53
  • Okay, I think that makes sense. But, the steps in the video really should be part of the answer here. Also, I'm not sure I understand why the user "Phoenix" was necessary. Can it be done without?
    – Iszi
    Nov 26, 2011 at 3:06
  • That's only a stand in Nov 26, 2011 at 3:10
  • Figured it out. Going to post the step-by-step with my notes.
    – Iszi
    Nov 26, 2011 at 3:15

Backtrack Linux is not configured by default to load a display manager, so there is more work to be done than just installing GDM. Here's a step-by-step of one way to install and enable GDM in Backtrack 5 R1.

First, thanks to @DavidVermette for the YouTube link. This video covers all the steps, albeit in a different order and with little to no explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uMqsVFVO58

NOTE: Some of the commands or procedures below may require elevation, though I'm not sure which. In a default install of Backtrack 5, you're running as root anyway so this should not be an issue unless you've set yourself up to run as a limited user. In that case, (and since you're running Backtrack in the first place) I trust you know how to troubleshoot "I need to do this as root" issues yourself.

Firstly, of course, you need to install GDM. This can be done with the following command:

apt-get install gdm

Next, you need to configure the system to load GDM at startup. This can be done by editing /etc/rc.local to include the following line:

/usr/sbin/gdm &

Remember to leave exit 0 as the last line in /etc/rc.local and save it.

Last, you will probably want (as I did, in the question posted here) to load the X Windows interface automatically after login. This can be done by adding the following lines to .bash_profile in the home directories of any users for which you want it applied.


In the case of a default Backtrack install where the only user is root, the only file you need to worry about is /root/.bash_profile.

Optionally, the video linked above also walks you through setting up an extra user account. This is not necessary for GDM to work, or for the system to auto-start the desktop - I imagine it's included merely for aesthetics or some personal preference.

After all of the above, reboot your system and you should see the settings have been applied. GDM will load to prompt you for your credentials and give you some other options to pick for your desktop environment. After successful authentication, your chosen desktop environment should load.

apt-get install rungetty

vi /etc/init/tty1.conf #comment out the "exec /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty1" line

and add the line > exec /sbin/rungetty tty1 --autologin root

and then

echo startx >> /root/.bash_profile

verified & checked Working properly


apt-get install rungetty
vi /etc/init/tty1.conf 

comment out the exec /sbin/getty -8 38400 tty1 line, and add the line

exec /sbin/rungetty tty1 --autologin root`

and then

echo startx >> /root/.bash_profile

verified & checked, working properly

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