I have a headless debian server that I SSH into regularly. I want to know how to set it up so that users can ssh in and then run something like iceweasel, and a window will popup on their machine which is the browser window. I don't want to install KDE or Gnome or anything like that on the server.

I have tightvncserver running on the server, and a vnc client on the windows machine. However, when I connect I get the following message:

Xsession: X session started for myuser at Wed Mar 28 15:41:39 EDT 2012 Xsession: unable to start X session --- no "/home/myuser/.xsession" file, no "/home/myuser/.Xsession" file, no session managers, no window managers, and no terminal emulators found; aborting.

What am I missing? I feel I am a bit confused with ssh+vnc, and how it all works together. Should the client use putty to connect first? then try and vnc in separately outside of putty? Any help would be great!

1 Answer 1


You'll need to install an X Windows server on your windows box. I recommend XMing http://sourceforge.net/projects/xming/.

On your linux box, enable X11Forwarding in /etc/ssh/sshd_config

When connecting to your server from Putty, click on Connection > SSH > X11 > Tick X11 Forwarding

Once you've logged in, you can test if it's working by running

$ echo $DISPLAY

Output should look like this


Then try run a GUI application

$ xclock

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