Add GNOME to a CentOS Minimal Install


In most instances, the Linux servers I setup are used to host the Oracle database software and only require using the Command-Line Interface (CLI) for the OS. This is beneficial because I only need to perform a minimal installation and can add only those required Linux packages (RPMs) needed to support the database. However, there are situations where I need to access a graphical desktop in order to install or run certain Graphical User Interface (GUI) applications.

This guide provides the steps needed to add the GNOME Desktop to a CentOS minimal installation where the OS was installed without the X Window System.

CentOS 6

In this section, the GNOME desktop will be added to a new server running CentOS 6.2 (x86_64) after performing a “Minimal” install.

Install Desktop Packages

# yum -y groupinstall "Desktop" "Desktop Platform" "X Window System" "Fonts"

You can also install the following optional GUI packages.

# yum -y groupinstall "Graphical Administration Tools"

# yum -y groupinstall "Internet Browser"

# yum -y groupinstall "General Purpose Desktop"

# yum -y groupinstall "Office Suite and Productivity"

# yum -y groupinstall "Graphics Creation Tools"

Finally, if you wanted to add the K Desktop Environment (KDE).

# yum -y groupinstall kde-desktop

When using yum groupinstall, the groupinstall option only installs default and mandatory packages from the group. There are times when you also want to include optional packages within a group. I have not figured out (yet) how to control which package types to install (group package “policy”) from the command-line using yum. The only method I know of to also include optional packages is to edit the /etc/yum.conf file and add the following to the [main] section:

group_package_types=default mandatory optional

The reason I mention this is because I wanted to install “Terminal emulator for the X Window System” (xterm) which is under the group “Legacy X Window System compatibility”. xterm happens to be an optional package and did not get installed until I added group_package_types=default mandatory optional to /etc/yum.conf.

# yum -y groupinstall "Legacy X Window System compatibility"

I did find a plug-in for yum that allows users to specify which package types within a package group should be installed when using yum groupinstall.

Enable GNOME

Since the server was previously running on CLI mode, we need to change the initialization process for the machine to boot up in GUI mode.

Open /etc/inittab using a text editor and change following line:




After making the change, reboot the machine.

# init 6

Note that you can switch from GUI to CLI mode manually by using following method:

GUI to CLICtrl + Alt + F6
CLI to GUICtrl + Alt + F1

Installing Additional Applications

After logging in to the GNOME Desktop, you can now go to System > Administration > Add/Remove Software to manage application in CentOS.

By using this wizard, you can install various applications similar to yum but through a GUI. Applications installed using this method will appear in the Application menu list.