NixOS as a desktop

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NixOS can be used for many purposes. If you want to use it as a primary desktop operating system for your daily use (either on bare metal or as a secondary VM), this page is for you. Even if your ambitions are to use NixOS in the cloud or on specially configured servers, you may want to start with the lessons outlined here in order to get more generally familiar with the Nix ecosystem.

Installation

Wiki method

If you prefer reading, see NixOS Installation Guide to get started. For a well presented video option, see video guide section immediately below. Keep in mind that, for a desktop installation, you will probably want to make sure you start with at least 30 GiB of available disk space to allow for the desktop environments (e.g. GNOME, KDE, or XFCE), browsers (e.g. Firefox), and other graphical applications (e.g. VSCode) that would be typical of daily use. 15 GiB might be enough in a pinch for a fairly bare-bones setup.

Video guide

For a visual guide, see Wil T Nix Guides. The second video is a concise installation guide. This 8-part series, produced in early 2021, also covers all the basics of using NixOS as a desktop and configuring it to your liking.

Managing your configuration

It is possible to manage your entire configuration using the methods documented in the NixOS official manual. However, most community members who use NixOS on the desktop prefer to manage their user configurations (e.g. "dotfiles") using Home Manager. Home Manager is a user oriented tool for declaring what you want installed and how you want it configured, and thus would be used in lieu of most settings you would otherwise put into a configuration.nix or through nix-env

Video guide

Wil T's guides are about an even mix of:

  1. Hands-on bootstrapping to get to being able to very capably manage your system using Home Manager, git versioning, and eventually Flakes.
  2. Conceptual overviews and general exposition of the Nix ecosystem, community, and available resources.

The second video, starting from about 27 minutes in, is also an introduction to and guide to setting up Home Manager.

Modularizing your configuration

If you want a more composable NixOS configuration setup, the still-experimental Flakes feature is causing a lot of excitement in the community. Managing flakes requires a good basic understanding and some existing hands on experience with the Nix ecosystem.

Video guide

Videos seven and eight of Wil T's original 8-part series are a good overview of what Flakes enable and how to get started with them.

Beyond initial setup

After you are familiar with the Nix ecosystem and have a functional desktop install of NixOS, you will likely be interested in customizations and more detailed setup.

Learn by example

If you are comfortable managing your system through a git repo using flakes, then there are many repositories you can learn from now!

Check out Comparison of NixOS setups for a table comparing some popular choices.

See Configuration Collection for a long list within the wiki.

Additionally, the following topic searches on Github should uncover many useful examples.