Complete Guide to Installing XFCE and VNC Server on Ubuntu

Step 1: Fixing Broken Installations

Before proceeding with the installation, it’s crucial to ensure your system is free from broken installations. Run the following command in your terminal:

sudo apt --fix-broken install

Step 2: Updating and Upgrading Packages

After addressing any broken installations, update and upgrade your packages to ensure all software is current, which can help resolve dependency issues:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Step 3: Cleaning Up Package Database

An outdated or corrupt package database can hinder installations. Clean it up with these commands:

sudo apt autoclean
sudo apt autoremove

Step 4: Installing XFCE

Now, proceed to install XFCE, a lightweight desktop environment. The apt command will manage all necessary dependencies:

sudo apt install xfce4 xfce4-goodies

Additional Steps for Troubleshooting

  • Check for Held Packages: Use dpkg --get-selections | grep hold to find any held packages.
  • Manually Resolve Dependencies: If specific packages are causing issues, manually install or update them.
  • Use Synaptic Package Manager: For more graphical dependency management, use Synaptic Package Manager, if available.

Final Notes: Exercise caution with manual package management. Test changes in a non-production environment and ensure you have backups or a recovery plan.

Step 5: Installing VNC Server

Install a VNC server, such as TightVNC, to enable remote desktop access:

sudo apt install tightvncserver

Step 6: Configuring VNC Server

Start and configure your VNC server. First, launch it:


After setting a password, stop the server to configure:

vncserver -kill :1

Edit the configuration for XFCE:

nano ~/.vnc/xstartup

Add these lines:

xrdb $HOME/.Xresources
startxfce4 &

Ensure the file is executable:

chmod +x ~/.vnc/xstartup

Step 7: Starting VNC Server

Start the VNC server with your preferred screen resolution:

vncserver -geometry 1920x1080

Step 8: Connecting to Your Server

Connect to your server using a VNC client. The address is typically your_server_ip:1 or your_server_ip

Step 9: Securing Your VNC Connection

For security, tunnel VNC through SSH:

ssh -L 5901:localhost:5901 -C -N -l username your_server_ip

Then, connect to localhost:1 with your VNC client.

Additional Notes

  • Desktop Environment Choice: Depending on your needs, you might choose a different environment.
  • Firewall Settings: Ensure your firewall allows VNC ports.
  • Security in Production: In a production environment, implement additional security measures like fail2ban.


Q1: What are the benefits of using XFCE over GNOME for VNC? A1: XFCE is lightweight and consumes fewer resources, making it ideal for remote desktop environments, especially on lower-spec servers.

Q2: How can I ensure my VNC connection is secure? A2: Always tunnel your VNC connection through SSH and consider using strong passwords and additional security tools like fail2ban.

Q3: What should I do if I encounter dependency issues during installation? A3: Try cleaning up your package database, checking for held packages, and using Synaptic Package Manager for a graphical approach to resolving issues.

Q4: Can I access my XFCE desktop remotely from any operating system? A4: Yes, as long as you have a VNC client installed on your local machine, you can access your XFCE desktop from any OS.

Q5: What are the recommended firewall settings for VNC? A5: Ensure your firewall allows traffic through the VNC ports, typically 5900 and above, depending on the number of VNC sessions.

Q6: Is there a way to automate the VNC server startup on boot? A6: Yes, you can create a systemd service file to start your VNC server automatically on boot.

Q7: Can I customize the XFCE environment for better performance over VNC? A7: Yes, you can customize XFCE settings to optimize performance, such as disabling certain visual effects.

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