Install GUI on Ubuntu 20.04 Server & Desktop

Although GNOME is the default GUI, there are many different desktop environments available for Ubuntu. If you want to try a different desktop environment, or need to install a GUI because you don’t have one yet, we’ll show you how in this guide.

These instructions will also work for Ubuntu Server, which doesn’t have a GUI by default and only uses the command line.

Install GUI on Ubuntu

1. Various desktop environments rely on different window managers and other dependencies. Rather than dealing with the headache of figuring out what exactly is required to install the GUI you want, it’s much easier to let tasksel do the heavy lifting for us.

Start by installing tasksel on your system.

$ sudo apt install tasksel

2. Next, you’ll need to decide on which GUI you want to use. You can view the available desktop environments with the following command.

$ tasksel --list-tasks

A list of desktop environments available for installation include:

Task Name Description
kubuntu-desktop Kubuntu desktop (KDE)
lubuntu-desktop Lubuntu Desktop (LXQt)
ubuntu-budgie-desktop Ubuntu Budgie desktop
ubuntu-desktop Ubuntu desktop (GNOME)
ubuntu-desktop-minimal Ubuntu minimal desktop (GNOME)
ubuntu-mate-core Ubuntu MATE minimal
ubuntu-mate-desktop Ubuntu MATE desktop
ubuntustudio-desktop Ubuntu Studio desktop (Xfce)
ubuntustudio-desktop-core Ubuntu Studio minimal DE installation (Xfce)
xubuntu-core Xubuntu minimal installation (Xfce)
xubuntu-desktop Xubuntu desktop (Xfce)

Note that some desktop versions have minimal or full installations. The minimal installations contain less bloat and will consume less system resources.

3. Once you’ve chosen the desktop environment you’d like to use, you can install it with the appropriate command below.

To install the default GNOME GUI:

$ sudo tasksel install ubuntu-desktop

To install KDE:

$ sudo tasksel install kubuntu-desktop

To install LXQt:

$ sudo tasksel install lubuntu-desktop

To install MATE:

$ sudo tasksel install ubuntu-mate-desktop

To install Xfce:

$ sudo tasksel install xubuntu-desktop

4. After installation, reboot the system and you will load into your new GUI.

$ reboot

5. To make the GUI start by default on Ubuntu server, you will also need to execute the following command to make the default target.

$ sudo systemctl set-default

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