Remote Desktop Connection to Ubuntu from Windows 7 / MacOS / iPhone

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Remote desktop viewing and controlling capability is built in most Linux systems. In Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick or any older version (10.04, 9.10 etc.) via vino-server. You can enable remote desktop viewing and control capability by going to System > Preferences > Remote Desktop

In the preferences box tick the appropriate options. It is strongly recommended that you enter a password for connection authentication. The setting box above also tells you the hostname and ip address to be used to connect to the given machine. Now that the sever end is setup, you just need appropriate client to enable the connection.

Before we discuss the clients, a word of warning, the default connection over vnc server is not secured, so be aware of that, it is not a concern if you just intend to use this setup in your private LAN. Also it works best on LAN, I mean in terms of responsiveness, VNC is not as fast as RDP. If you plan on connecting from a machine outside your LAN, make sure you forward appropriate ports on your router (typically TCP port no 5900)

Client for Windows

On Windows you can get the VNC Personal Edition Viewer for Windows (x86 & x64) for free which you can use to connect to your Ubuntu desktop remotely. Feel free to share, if you use a better way of connecting to VNC server.

Client for Ubuntu

There are plenty of VNC clients that come with Ubuntu like Remote Desktop Viewer or Terminal Server Client which comes pre-installed on Ubuntu. But to make a secured and encrypted connection via SSH, I would recommend you do this.

Install vncviewer by doing

sudo apt-get install vncviewer

and then from command line do this

ssh -X -C username@remote_ip_or_hostname "vncviewer"

I am making the assumption that your Ubuntu SSH server supports X11 forwarding. With the command above, you would need to enter the password on two occasions first to connect to your remote machine via SSH and then the password for the local VNC connection. This is the ideal and most secured way of making VNC connections.

Client for iPod / iPhone

You can use Mocha VNC Lite, which is a free App for iPod Touch / iPhone  /iPad that allows you to VNC servers.

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has written 346 posts on this blog.

Meditating towards his "nerdvana", lifehacker is a teacher by the day and a nerdy blogger by the night. He lives to learn and yearns to learn living.

6 Comments on “Remote Desktop Connection to Ubuntu from Windows 7 / MacOS / iPhone”

  • karen boyle wrote on 10 January, 2011, 11:00

    How secure is the stock linux remote desktop client? I have heard that these OS-based clients perform well, but may have security holes, and that to be truly secure you should get remote connection software from companies like Proxy networks. Is this true?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


    lifehacker Reply:

    @karen boyle, Most VNC clients aren’t that secure, thats why it is good to ssh first and then do a VNC as described.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


  • John wrote on 3 June, 2011, 11:18

    So, I enabled remote desktop in Ubuntu. Connecting from a Windows machine, I can see the login screen, enter user name and password, but when I click the login button I get disconnected. This sucks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


    lifehacker Reply:

    @John, Which client are you using?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


  • John wrote on 3 June, 2011, 18:21

    @lifehacker, I googled for an answer and found , which unfortunately says that you can’t use Remote Desktop to log on remotely. Rather defeats its’ own purpose, doesn’t it? In other words, you can only connect remotely if someone has already logged on locally.

    BTW, I used UltraVNC.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


    lifehacker Reply:

    @John, Haha yes you are absolutely right, it does make no sense, this is basically meant only for remote viewing of the screen. However there is a way of setting up a VNC server on your machine which enables you to get GUI bases access. But all GUI based remote access methods are “slow”. Therefore, I either use regular terminal based SSH or use sshfs to mount remote files locally (this is the fastest way of working on remote files, because desired files become available locally and you use your local programs, but yeah it is not of much practical use to Windows users. Samba can be another option.
    You can look at sshfs here:

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