I would like to have a headless machine run steam without having a monitor, mouse or keyboard attached to it and have it use the dedicated GPU (a GTX 970) to stream games over the network. I have found this tutorial on the steam website but the problem is that whenever I try to execute startxfce4 over the SSH connection it instead launches xfce4 on my local machine replacing/messing up my own desktop environment.

What I gathered is that I have to create a virtual monitor that can run gpu accelerated applications without actually having to attach a physical monitor but so far I've failed to do so. Someone actually already asked the same thing but when I tried that method I get an error stating that there are no monitors attached and it fails.

Does anyone know of a guide where someone tried to do the same thing? I also cannot figure out how to e.g. execute something like startxfce4 so it launches in its own window. The problem with that is also that it needs to run even while the ssh connection is closed, so I probably need to set up a vnc server or something but it seems that whenever I try to start the vnc server and then remove the monitor I cannot start any games from Steam anymore since it hangs. Sometimes the vnc server stops responding.

2 Answers 2


It was my bad. I started ssh with the -X flag and so it started locally on my machine.

My /etc/X11/xorg.conf has

 37 Section "Device"
 38     Identifier     "Device0"
 39     Driver         "nvidia"
 40     VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
 41     Option "ConnectedMonitor" "DFP-1"
 42     Option "CustomEDID" "DFP-1:/etc/X11/edid.txt"
 43 EndSection

whereas I used nvidia-settings to export the edid.txt while having a monitor etc. attached. I then created the .config/autostart/steamheadless.desktop from the steam guide and also set the default boot environment to multi-user. I then could boot the machine, ssh into it and do startx &. It then started gnome shell with steam running in a virtual display, everything worked fine. I could even start a vnc server. It crashes a lot, however. Thankfully I don't have to interact too often with the hosts's steam client.


I know this is not a new thread, but for anyone else looking to solve this issue easily don't look at software. There is a "phantom" monitor dongle you can get for around $8 off amazon to plug into hdmi (or whatever type you need) that will give you a phantom monitor like for example a 1080P @60hz. This is the method I used. I linked the one below that I used.


  • That particular item is no longer available. Jun 25, 2021 at 11:49

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