Steps to reproduce:

  1. copy latest Raspbian Jessie Lite image to sdcard
  2. install updates, reboot
  3. run raspi-config, choose "boot into Desktop" from boot menu
  4. install lightdm package as suggested by raspi-config
  5. reboot

After these steps cli is only loaded and lightdm service shows only this:

sudo systemctl status lightdm
 lightdm.service - Light Display Manager
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/lightdm.service; enabled)
   Active: failed (Result: start-limit) since Thu 2017-03-30 11:05:44 UTC; 39s ago
     Docs: man:lightdm(1)
  Process: 854 ExecStart=/usr/sbin/lightdm (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)
  Process: 849 ExecStartPre=/bin/sh -c [ "$(cat /etc/X11/default-display-manager 2>/dev/null)" = "/usr/sbin/lightdm" ] (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
 Main PID: 854 (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE)

Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: Failed to start Light Display Manager.
Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: Unit lightdm.service entered failed state.
Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: lightdm.service holdoff time over, scheduling restart.
Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: Stopping Light Display Manager...
Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: Starting Light Display Manager...
Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: lightdm.service start request repeated too quickly, refusing to start.
Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: Failed to start Light Display Manager.
Mar 30 11:05:44 raspberrypi systemd[1]: Unit lightdm.service entered failed state.

2 Answers 2


GUI in Linux is modular and client-server. A display manager (as its name suggests) manages your displays, and nothing more. You will need an X server (which doesn't have to be running on the same computer BTW) to have any displays in the first place, and a desktop environment if you want to have something on your display besides a mouse pointer.

The relevant packages to install are xserver-xorg and lxde, but there's a high chance that I have missed something, so if your goal is to use the GUI, just install Raspbian with GUI included.

  • Thanks, I'll try that. raspi-config only suggest to install lightdm package, I thought that raspi-config tool is smart enough to give good suggestion, but it could be that you are right and something is still missing. Maybe this is a bug in dependencies for lightdm package.
    – valentt
    Apr 2, 2017 at 22:40
  • 1
    @valentt It's not a bug, this is by design. You can configure lightdm to use the X server installed on your PC if you want, meaning you don't have to install it on the RPi. You may also want to run without a desktop environment (think web kiosks). This is why those are not dependencies of lightdm Apr 3, 2017 at 7:44
  • @Dmitri you were right, after installing xorg and lxde packages now Raspbian boots into gui desktop. I know that Linux is modular, but I would still argue that this is a bug in raspi-config. When I open raspi-config two options in boot menu are "cli" or "desktop" (no mention of "no X server kiosk mode" or "modular dekstop" that uses remote X server. There is plain vanilla "desktop" option and after it is chosen only suggestion, which I argue is wrong (ie a logical bug), is that it suggest installing lightdm package and nothing else.
    – valentt
    Apr 3, 2017 at 17:28
  • 1
    @valentt Sure, I was arguing that lightdm should not have xserver-xorg as a dependency. I'm not familiar enough with raspi-config, but yeah, it would be nice if it did such checks for you when you select "Boot to desktop". Apr 4, 2017 at 8:44
  • I've just tried this and just apt-get install xerver-xorg lxde (including the recommonded packages) is all you need to add to a fresh install of Raspbian 8 to get an LXDE (not PIXEL) desktop. This does, however, increase disk space usage from about 900 MB to 2.3 GB (1.9 GB after apt-get clean), and includes some moderately large things you may not use, such as firefox-esr (80 MB) and gnome-user-guide (40 MB). Note too that the apt-get install can take quite a long time on an SD card—much longer than a fresh install of the full non-light version.
    – cjs
    Apr 6, 2017 at 15:48

I probably didn't do all this correctly, but maybe this will help someone.

After spending much time trying to get OpenCV working, I found ready to use Image based on Lite. But still in the very Noob stage, decided to get a GUI installed and found this/ [GUIDE] [Raspbian Lite with RPD/LXDE/XFCE/MATE/i3/Openbox/X11 GUI]1 Then I installed synaptic and loaded up what I needed without any of the troubles I was having with the OpenCV installation attempts.

Should anyone be interested in the Image: Ready-to-use Image: Raspbian Stretch + ROS + OpenCV

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