Amazon ec2 Linux instances do not come with a GUI. By default, you need terminal access for all application configuration. Most of the developers/sysadmins working with Linux would prefer  the command line over Graphical User Interface. But developers who are new to Linux would require a GUI for installing and managing the applications. In this post, we will teach you how to configure a graphical user interface (GUI) for an Amazon ec2 Linux instance.

Setting up GUI for Amazon ec2 Linux (RHEL)

Note: Please follow this tutorial for RHEL7.  Configure GUI on RHEL 7 

Follow the steps given below for setting up a desktop environment for ec2 RHEL6  instance.

1. Login to the instance using any ssh client like putty and update the server.

sudo yum update -y

2. Install the Desktop environment.

sudo yum groupinstall -y "Desktop"
[[email protected]~]# sudo yum groupinstall -y "Desktop"
xulrunner.x86_64 0:17.0.10-1.el6_4zenity.x86_64 0:2.28.0-1.el6

3. Install few dependencies using the following command.

sudo yum install -y pixman pixman-devel libXfont
[[email protected]~]$ sudo yum install -y pixman pixman-devel libXfont
Installed:pixman-devel.x86_64 0:0.32.4-4.el6

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4. Install tiger VNC server.

sudo yum -y install tigervnc-server
[[email protected]~]$ sudo yum -y install tigervnc-server 
tigervnc-server-module.x86_64 0:1.1.0-16.el6
[[email protected]~]$

5. Set a password for the default user “ec2-user”

sudo passwd ec2-user
[[email protected]~]$ sudo passwd ec2-user
Changing password for user ec2-user.
New password:
Retype new password:
passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.
[[email protected]~]$

6. Set a password for VNC server by executing the following command.

[[email protected]~]$ vncpasswd
[[email protected]~]$

7. Edit the sshd_config file and set the password authentication parameter to “yes”

8. Restart the sshd service.

sudo service sshd restart
[[email protected]~]$ sudo service sshd restart
Stopping sshd:                                             [ OK ]
Starting sshd:                                             [ OK ]
[[email protected]~]$

9.  Open the vncserver config file.

sudo vi /etc/sysconfig/vncservers

10. Update the parameters of vncserver config file as shown below.

VNCSERVERS="1:ec2-user 2:user2"
VNCSERVERARGS[1]="-geometry 1024x768"
VNCSERVERARGS[2]="-geometry 1024x768"

Note: You can add more than one user to access vnc server. In the above snippet, we have user2 apart from ec2-user and subsequently make entry for screen resolution for the particular user, as shown above.

11. Start the vnc server

sudo service vncserver start
[[email protected]~]$ sudo service vncserver 
startStarting VNC server: 1:ec2-user 
xauth: creating new authority file /home/ec2-user/.XauthorityNew 'ip-172-29-4-27:1 (ec2-user)'
 desktop is ip-172-29-4-27:1
Creating default startup script /home/ec2-user/.vnc/xstartupStarting applications 
specified in  /home/ec2-user/.vnc/xstartupLog 
file is /home/ec2-user/.vnc/ip-172-29-4-27:1.log                                [ OK ]
[[email protected]~]$

12. Add  vnc service to the system startup so that vnc server will automatically start after a system restart.

sudo chkconfig vncserver on

13. VNC server uses ports starting from 5901. For the second user, the port will be 5902 and so on. In our case, we have only one user (ec2-user). So we will be connecting to the instance on port 5901. Add a firewall rule to your instance to open 5901 using the following command.

iptables -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport 5901 -j ACCEPT

Note: Open TCP port 5901 in ec2 security group you have assigned to your instance.

14. Now we have an instance with GUI configured. To access it you need a VNC  client. Go to this link to get a VNC viewer client. Install the software and open it.

15. Enter the public IP of you instance followed by the port number 5901 (assuming you the first vnc server user) and click connect. When asked for a password, supply the password you created for vnc server in step 6.

16. Now you will get the access to the GUI. If it asks for ec2-user password, supply the password you created in step 5.

Setting up GUI for ec2 Ubuntu Instance

Check this article for setting up GUI for ec2 Ubuntu instance.

Let us know in the comment section if you face any errors.

AWS ec2 linux gui