I want to run wine headless and avoid the error message:

Make sure that your X server is running and that $DISPLAY is set correctly.

Is there a way or do I have to route/forward it to some output? Can it just run from a command line way?

  • What exactly are you trying to run in wine? Most Windows programs require a GUI to be present. Apr 15, 2015 at 17:08
  • 1
    It's a long story but basically i have n very old exe that i have to use for legacy reasons and will not produce any GUI output. An example of a command that is issuing the same error would be winetricks vb6run
    – FabioCosta
    Apr 15, 2015 at 17:09
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    Well, yes, that starts up a GUI-based installer, so it will want a display. Apr 15, 2015 at 17:10
  • I didn't realized it would really require the gui on this example, this is a different issue but you showed me an error of mine.Anyhow i guess i will end up using Xvfb and fixing the font errors
    – FabioCosta
    Apr 15, 2015 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


CAUTION: Please note comments below this answer. Xvfb seems to have been deprecated.

I don't know any way to run wine totally headless but I can point you to xvfb. It can create a virtual display to which X server can redirect its output. No need to have a physical display connected. We use it to run selenium tests in browsers on a headless Jenkins cluster.

Does that meet the requirements or are you bent on running wine absolutely headless?

  • I am trying with Xvfb but it's kind of strange using "Xvfb :1 &'" and then "export DISPLAY=:1 " and then running my wine issue me a font error and lock the execution . I am trying to fix the font error by following this blog.martin-lyness.com/archives/… while seeking other alternatives
    – FabioCosta
    Apr 15, 2015 at 17:12
  • For anyone else coming here, Xvfb has been depreciated since 2016 and replaced by xf86-video-dummy ... though I am not sure the latter is still usable today. Nov 23, 2021 at 12:13
  • @levraininjaneer Thank you. I've updated the answer to bring attention to the issue.
    – Erathiel
    Nov 23, 2021 at 13:21

You can configure Wine to run headless by installing X virtual frame buffer. For instance:

sudo apt-get install xvfb
Xvfb :0 -screen 0 1024x768x16 &

Install Wine:

# On 64-bit also run: sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:ubuntu-wine
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install wine

Note: For detailed installation example, check provision.sh script.

Install fonts if required:

winetricks allfonts

Then run your apps as:

DISPLAY=:0.0 wine my_app.exe

or you can export it (so no need for the above prefix when running):

export DISPLAY=:0.0 # Select screen 0.

Where DISPLAY is your request to local display/input service (or: export DISPLAY=[user's machine]:0).

Alternatively set-up X11 Forwarding. Then you don't need to use DISPLAY.

Basically set X11Forwarding yes in /etc/ssh/sshd_config on the headless server and ForwardX11 yes in /etc/sshd/ssh_config on the machine you're connecting from.

Then you can run GUI applications on your headless server and at the same time wine will be able to connect to your local X11 server, so you could run your console-based DOS executables.

  • 1
    Xvfb :0 -screen 0 1024x768x16 & It should be lowercase xvfb, right? Mar 17, 2022 at 10:52
  • I followed the instructions and yes xvfb seems to be what works
    – thinktt
    Jun 29, 2023 at 5:50

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