Graphical user interface (GUI) for Google Compute Engine instance

Aditya Choudhary
Google Cloud - Community
5 min readMar 25, 2016


Want to have GUI on your Google Compute Engine instance or use Internet browser on it? Here are the steps to install minimum required UI on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS VM(virtual machine) with Firefox . So let’s start.

Note: I am assuming that you have already created a VM instance with Ubuntu 14.04-LTS image and successfully running it.

Connect to your instance either through SSH option or use gcloud option. Once connected update the source list.

$ sudo apt-get update

Install the Gnome components

Then we need to install the Gnome components for our virtual desktop. So type the following command:

$ sudo apt-get install gnome-core

when prompted type Y and then press [Enter]. This will install the basic gnome desktop components. Normally gnome takes time but on GCE instance it flies :) .

If you prefer a lighter and faster alternative like Xfce, refer to this post.

Install a Virtual Desktop using VNC

Now we need a VNC server to interact with desktop environment. I am using vnc4server, you can install your favorite one:

$ sudo apt-get install vnc4server