I'm planning to run Raspbian on a Model B v1 (256MB) Pi, and I'd rather not have the memory overhead of a GUI running in the background.

I know that there are a few Raspbian Server respins available but I'd prefer to use vanilla Raspbian for simplicity. Note that I'm not necessarily concerned about disk/SD space, but more about available RAM.

My question is: does Raspbian auto-start X by default, or does it only start a DE if a display is detected?

2 Answers 2


To answer the question in the comment, yes there is also a way. After you flash the image onto the SD card, locate the config.txt file. Open it in a text editor, I suggest Notepad++. Find and change "start_x=" to either one (for GUI) or zero (for terminal). Save and reboot! This should work!


If your Pi is set up to boot to the desktop, it will start X even if no display is connected.

You can run this command to run the config utility:

sudo raspi-config

and go into the option for boot settings and select 'Boot to CLI'

  • Thanks - is there any way to set this on a freshly-flashed SD card by modifying the files on the SD before first boot? Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 15:46

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