booting ubuntu without a monitor

H.S. hs.samix at
Wed Apr 29 03:11:21 UTC 2009

Councill, David wrote:
> I am trying to set up a remote Linux computer, no monitor, accessible by
> vnc. So I built it with Ubuntu 8.1 until I found it would not boot up
> afterwards without a monitor. This was because Ubuntu goes into a "low
> graphic mode" with a message box that needs acknowledged. Then I tried
> Debian - it would boot up but the vnc connection would cause an error
> due to a bug already acknowledged. So I went back to Ubuntu and tried
> the new Ubuntu 9. Same problem as 8 except now it not only has to be
> acknowledged at the low graphics mode messagebox, it now has to be
> rebooted rather than continuing after pressing OK. I've searched

I use a headless computer routinely. It runs Debian.

Think about it. A monitor can switched on or off, yet a computer still
works, doesn it not? (excluding display devices which communicate back
to the machine, though I do not have experience with them).

What you need to do is:
1. Install a vnc server on the headless machine. Search for a package:
$> aptitude search vnc

and install a vnc server that you like. I like tightvncserver or vnc4server.

2. Start the vnc server on that machine.

3. Try connecting from a vnc client (I like xtightvncviewer) from
another machine.

That is it for a simple configuration. In my case, it doesn't matter if
gdm is running or not on the headless machine, BTW.

Finally, you want to search how to start a window manager when you
connect to the vnc server. There are many options, as you will find on

> extensively and found only a few solutions which did not work - this
> included turning off the autodetect using dpkg-reconfigure. And the
> suggestion of using Option "ConnectedMonitor" set to CRT in the devices
> in xorg.conf. But I still cannot get past the "low graphics mode"
> without an attached monitor. Any suggestions? I hate to go back to XP

The low graphic mode is not really going to matter as far as vnc is
concerned. You can specify any allowed resolution on your vnc server,
regardless of what your display might use.

Finally, to be thorough with security, I usually do not connect directly
to port 5900 for the vnc session. I start an SSH server on the headless
machine and connect to it from the client using SSH and creating a
tunnel to port 5900. This way all the vnc traffic secure (by default, in
vnc only password authentication is encrypted). How to do this is
explained here:

> but I've already spent a number of hours trying to get this to work and
> I can have XP on the same computer doing what I need it to do in about
> an hour (security wise I like the idea of a non-windows computer doing
> monitoring in an AD domain).

Looks like you have not searched for this properly. There are ample
number of web pages describing this in detail.

Good luck.


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