Installing GUI on CentOS 7/8 and RHEL 7/8

If you are running a CentOS 7/8 or RHEL7/8 in your environment with minimal installation and for want to install a graphical desktop for some reason, it is a very easy process. Thanks to the yum grouplist and the yum groupinstall commands, which are very powerful commands that save you precious time by installing group of packages easily without the need to install packages individually.

By using yum groups, it’s not necessary to manually install related packages one by one, and we will use this feature to install the GUI desktop environment in my CentOS 8 server running with minimal installation.

The current systemctl target in my running system is, which is the equivalent of runlevel 3, Text mode in systemd. We can check this with below command

$ systemctl get-default

The two most common targets are:

  • analogous to runlevel 3, Text mode
  • analogous to runlevel 5, GUI mode with X server

After the GUI desktop is installed, we will need to change the default to to allow the system to boot by default on the graphical target. We will see how to do this later in this post.

First, list all available package groups with the yum grouplist command

$ yum grouplist

CentOS-8 - AppStream                                                                                                                 1.2 kB/s | 4.3 kB     00:03
CentOS-8 - Base                                                                                                                      1.5 kB/s | 3.9 kB     00:02
CentOS-8 - Extras                                                                                                                    583  B/s | 1.5 kB     00:02
Available Environment Groups:
   Server with GUI
   Virtualization Host
   Custom Operating System
Installed Environment Groups:
   Minimal Install
Available Groups:
   Container Management
   .NET Core Development
   RPM Development Tools
   Smart Card Support
   Development Tools
   Graphical Administration Tools
   Headless Management
   Legacy UNIX Compatibility
   Network Servers
   Scientific Support
   Security Tools
   System Tools

As you can see from below output, the current installed environment group is “Minimal Install” and one of the available groups to install is “Server with GUI“. We can dig further by displaying the subgroups that will be installed with a specific group, we can use the yum groupinfo “Group Name” command.

For example, to list the available packages grouped in the “Server with GUI”, use below command.

$ yum groupinfo "Server with GUI"
Last metadata expiration check: 0:16:40 ago on Sat 16 Nov 2019 09:38:21 PM +04.
Environment Group: Server with GUI
 Description: An integrated, easy-to-manage server with a graphical interface.
no group 'dns-server' from environment 'graphical-server-environment'
 Mandatory Groups:
   Common NetworkManager submodules
   Container Management
   Guest Desktop Agents
   Hardware Monitoring Utilities
   Hardware Support
   Headless Management
   Internet Browser
   Printing Client
   Server product core
 Optional Groups:
   Basic Web Server
   Debugging Tools
   FTP Server
   File and Storage Server
   Guest Agents
   Infiniband Support
   Mail Server
   Network File System Client
   Network Servers
   Performance Tools
   Remote Desktop Clients
   Remote Management for Linux
   Virtualization Client
   Virtualization Hypervisor
   Virtualization Tools
   Windows File Server

The above output shows the mandatory groups and the optional groups to be installed. One of the mandatory groups listed is GNOME, so we can assume that the GNOME desktop will be installed while installing the “Server with GUI” group, along with other administration tools like “Internet Browser”, “Multimedia”, …etc.

Let’s go ahead and install the “Server with GUI” group with yum groupinstall command. Below command will install all other mandatory groups listed above. If you wish to install only the GNOME environment, type “GNOME” instead of “Server with GUI”

$ sudo yum groupinstall "Server with GUI" -y


CentOS-8 - AppStream                                                                                                                 1.1 kB/s | 4.3 kB     00:04
CentOS-8 - Base                                                                                                                      2.0 kB/s | 3.9 kB     00:01
CentOS-8 - Extras                                                                                                                    949  B/s | 1.5 kB     00:01
no group 'dns-server' from environment 'graphical-server-environment'
No match for group package "hpijs"
No match for group package "centos-release-eula"
Dependencies resolved.
 Package                                              Arch              Version                                      Repository            Size
Installing group/module packages:
 PackageKit-command-not-found                         x86_64            1.1.12-2.el8                                 AppStream             27 k
 PackageKit-gstreamer-plugin                          x86_64            1.1.12-2.el8                                 AppStream             18 k
 PackageKit-gtk3-module                               x86_64            1.1.12-2.el8                                 AppStream             18 k
 abattis-cantarell-fonts                              noarch            0.0.25-4.el8                                 AppStream            155 k
 alsa-plugins-pulseaudio                              x86_64            1.1.6-3.el8                                  AppStream             49 k
  udisks2-iscsi                                        x86_64            2.8.0-2.el8                                                       AppStream             45 k
 udisks2-lvm2                                         x86_64            2.8.0-2.el8                                  AppStream             69 k
 webkit2gtk3-plugin-process-gtk2                      x86_64            2.22.6-1.el8                                 AppStream             11 M
 p11-kit-server                                       x86_64            0.23.14-5.el8_0                              BaseOS               236 k
Enabling module streams:
 container-tools                                                        rhel8
 llvm-toolset                                                           rhel8
 perl-DBD-SQLite                                                        1.58
 perl-DBI                                                               1.641
 python36                                                               3.6
 virt                                                                   rhel
Installing Environment Groups:
 Server with GUI
Installing Groups:
 Container Management
 Guest Desktop Agents
 Hardware Monitoring Utilities
 Hardware Support
 Headless Management
 Internet Browser
 Common NetworkManager submodules
 Printing Client
 Server product core

Transaction Summary
Install  756 Packages

Total download size: 696 M
Installed size: 2.1 G
Downloading Packages:
(1/756): PackageKit-gstreamer-plugin-1.1.12-2.el8.x86_64.rpm                                               23 kB/s |  18 kB     00:00
(2/756): PackageKit-gtk3-module-1.1.12-2.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                    45 kB/s |  18 kB     00:00
(3/756): PackageKit-command-not-found-1.1.12-2.el8.x86_64.rpm                                              20 kB/s |  27 kB     00:01
(4/756): accountsservice-0.6.50-6.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                           78 kB/s | 109 kB     00:01
(5/756): abattis-cantarell-fonts-0.0.25-4.el8.noarch.rpm                                                   79 kB/s | 155 kB     00:01
(6/756): accountsservice-libs-0.6.50-6.el8.x86_64.rpm                              
(130/756): gnome-initial-setup-3.28.0-8.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                     406 kB/s | 1.3 MB     00:03
(131/756): gnome-keyring-3.28.2-1.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                           267 kB/s | 934 kB     00:03
(132/756): gnome-keyring-pam-3.28.2-1.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                        33 kB/s |  47 kB     00:01
(133/756): gnome-logs-3.28.5-3.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                              202 kB/s | 1.0 MB     00:04
(134/756): gnome-menus-3.13.3-10.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                            161 kB/s | 187 kB     00:01
(135/756): gnome-online-accounts-3.28.0-1.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                   188 kB/s | 547 kB     00:02
(136-137/756): gnome-getting-started-docs-3.28.2-1.el8.noarch.r 21{a30ec6af4236f4179fdacbfa14163c342445d6f2c9798eae9caee1ef22a84454} [=============                         1.0 MB/s | 149 MB     09:12 ETA
(618/756): xdg-desktop-portal-gtk-1.0.2-1.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                   69 kB/s | 181 kB     00:02
(619/756): xdg-user-dirs-0.17-1.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                             97 kB/s |  65 kB     00:00
(620/756): xdg-user-dirs-gtk-0.10-13.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                        87 kB/s |  73 kB     00:00
(621/756): xorg-x11-drv-fbdev-0.5.0-2.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                       78 kB/s |  27 kB     00:00
(622/756): xorg-x11-drv-libinput-0.28.0-2.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                   58 kB/s |  50 kB     00:00
(623/756): xorg-x11-drv-vesa-2.4.0-3.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                        46 kB/s |  31 kB     00:00
(624/756): xorg-x11-font-utils-7.5-40.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                       73 kB/s | 103 kB     00:01
(625-627/756): xorg-x11-server-Xorg-1.20.3-5.2.el8_0.x86_64.rpm 93{a30ec6af4236f4179fdacbfa14163c342445d6f2c9798eae9caee1ef22a84454} [================================    ] 736 kB/s | 653 MB     00:59 ETA
(754/756): xmlrpc-c-client-1.51.0-5.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                          80 kB/s |  40 kB     00:00
(755/756): wpa_supplicant-2.7-1.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                             203 kB/s | 1.7 MB     00:08
(756/756): perl-interpreter-5.26.3-416.el8.x86_64.rpm                                                      182 kB/s | 6.3 MB     00:35
Total                                                                                                      611 kB/s | 696 MB     19:25
Running transaction check
Transaction check succeeded.
Running transaction test
Transaction test succeeded.
Running transaction
  Preparing        :                                                                                           1/1
  Installing       : atk-2.28.1-1.el8.x86_64                                                                   1/756
  Installing       : perl-Exporter-5.72-396.el8.noarch                                                         2/756
  Installing       : perl-libs-4:5.26.3-416.el8.x86_64                                                         3/756
  Installing       : perl-Carp-1.42-396.el8.noarch                                                             4/756
  Installing       : libjpeg-turbo-1.5.3-7.el8.x86_64                                                          5/756
  Installing       : gstreamer1-1.14.0-3.el8.x86_64                                                            6/756
  Installing       : libXfixes-5.0.3-7.el8.x86_64                                                              7/756
  Installing       : libXdamage-1.1.4-14.el8.x86_64                                                            8/756


Once the installation is completed, change the default system target to to make the system boot on GUI interface by default, then reboot the system.

$ sudo systemctl set-default

[sudo] password for mourad:
Removed /etc/systemd/system/
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /usr/lib/systemd/system/
$ sudo systemctl reboot

After the system is rebooted, go through the GNOME initial configuration wizard and you’re good to go with you CentOS 8 Graphical installation.

CentOS 8 with GNOME is ready to be used!

If you would like to revert back the system to boot to the text mode as the default target, use below command.

$ sudo systemctl set-default

Removed /etc/systemd/system/
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/ → /usr/lib/systemd/system/

To uninstall the GUI desktop from your system, use the yum groupremove command to uninstall GNOME then reboot your system.

sudo yum groupremove "GNOME" -y
Dependencies resolved.
 Package                                         Arch         Version                                             Repository        Size
 ModemManager                                    x86_64       1.8.0-1.el8                                         @BaseOS          3.0 M
 NetworkManager-adsl                             x86_64       1:1.14.0-14.el8                                     @BaseOS           54 k
 PackageKit-command-not-found                    x86_64       1.1.12-2.el8                                        @AppStream        50 k
 PackageKit-gtk3-module                          x86_64       1.1.12-2.el8                                        @AppStream        28 k
 at-spi2-atk                                     x86_64       2.26.2-1.el8                                        @AppStream       247 k
 at-spi2-core                                    x86_64       2.28.0-1.el8                                        @AppStream       502 k

$ sudo systemctl reboot

That’s it for this post. Thanks for reading!

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