Debian not booting into graphical mode, only text mode

Q I installed Sarge from a DVD distro. Everything seemed to go OK. At the end of the install, it asked me to log in and then dumped me in a full-screen Bash shell. I expected to see a desktop environment. I repeated the procedure using a net load ISO from the Debian site. Same result. What is going on? What do I have to do to get a desktop? Why didn't the install create it for me?

A Debian installs very little by default: just the basics to get a core system working, which does not include X. During the second stage of the installation, after the reboot, you are asked to choose from software collections. The first in this list is Desktop Environment. It looks like this is pre-selected, because the cursor is in the selection box to the left of the name, but it is not. Package groups are only installed when there is a star in the box (see screengrab above). You need to explicitly select the groups you want by moving the highlight bar over them and pressing space.

If you simply press Enter at this stage without selecting anything, you will get exactly the system you describe. All is not lost. There is no need to reinstall. Log in as root and type aptitude to load the package manager. Highlight Tasks and press Enter, move down to End-User and press Enter, then highlight Desktop Environment and press '+' to select it. Press G to see what will be installed and G again to begin installation. This will install both the KDE and Gnome desktops - you will be able to choose which you use when you log in. There are a few basic configuration questions to answer, but the defaults are fine if you are unsure. You will also be asked some questions to help configure the graphical display. These are the same as you would have been asked during installation, had you selected the desktop option. Once installation has finished, which will take several minutes, your desktop should load the next time you boot up.

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