Ubuntu Remote Desktop: Built-In, VNC Compatible & Dead Easy

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remotedesktopiconSometimes it’s nice to connect to your computer remotely. Hardcore Ubuntu users typically see SSH as their remote connection tool of choice, but if you prefer graphics to the command line don’t worry: Ubuntu provides an option for you as well.

Using Ubuntu Remote Desktop you can have total control over your desktop from any other computer: Linux, Mac or Windows. You’ll see what’s on that screen and be able to move the mouse and even type. Best of all, the feature is built into the operating system by default, so you won’t have to install a thing.

Let’s check it out!

Turning Ubuntu Remote Desktop On

Simply put, turning on Ubuntu’s version of Remote Desktop could not be easier. You don’t need to install a thing: everything you need is built in. Simply click “Settings,” then “Preferences,” then “Remote Desktop.” You’ll be presented with a simple window of options.

ubuntu remote desktop

Just check the “Allow other users to view your desktop” button. If you want other users to be able to control your computer, also click the “Allow other users to control your desktop” button.

This window also provides you with a couple of security options. It’s highly recommended that you enable a password, but at the very least you should set it so that anyone connecting to your machine needs your permission before continuing.

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As soon as you enable remote connection you’ll be told your IP address on the local network. Write this down.

Ubuntu’s remote desktop technology is based on the existing VNC standard. This means you can connect to a Ubuntu remote desktop using any VNC client. There are more than a few VNC clients around, so if you have a favorite on any platform you can use that to connect to Ubuntu already.

If you don’t have a favorite keep reading; you’ll find one by the time you’re done.

Connecting From Ubuntu/Linux

ubuntu remote desktop

Ubuntu, and most Linux distributions, comes with an excellent VNC-compatible remote desktop viewer by default: Vinagre. You can find this program by clicking “Applications,” then “Internet,” then “Remote Desktop Viewer.” Open this up and you’ll see all the desktops you can open on your current network. If not, you can always enter the IP you want to connect to directly.

Use this tool to connect to other Ubuntu desktops on your network and you’ll be controlling your computer remotely. Nifty, right? The tool can also be used to control any computer with a VNC client installed.

Connecting From Windows

vnc-windows

Want to control your Ubuntu computer from a Windows computer? Don’t worry; it’s more than possible. You’ll just need to install a VNC client, such as TightVNC, on your Windows computer. Then you can connect to your Ubuntu machine just by entering your IP address. Varun wrote all about this in his article about establishing a remote desktop connection to Ubuntu from Windows.

Connecting From Mac

Mac users wanting to connect to their Ubuntu machines should check out Chicken of the VNC. Again, connecting to your Ubuntu machine is a simple matter of entering your IP address, but if you’re looking for some in-depth information about using VNC on a Mac you should check out Jackson’s article on easy remote desktop support on the Mac.

Away From Home

Want to connect to your Ubuntu machine while away from work? This is a little more tricky, but not totally impossible. You’re going to need a static IP, or a dynamic address from a service such as DynDNS. I could get into it here, but I’ve already written an article about using DynDNS to connect to your computer from anywhere with more than enough information to get you started. Best of all, that article already deals with VNC in a couple of examples.

Conclusion

There you have it: everything you wanted to know about Ubuntu’s remote desktop feature but were afraid to ask. Do these tricks work for you? Do you have a preferred VNC client that I failed to touch on? Do you have any tips to share with the crew? Don’t be shy; comment away!

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Comments (12)
  • Matthew

    A bit dated now, these days we might not be able to click on anything if the machine is a vps, so how to do this from the command line over SSH would be useful ?

    • Justin Pot

      I might have to look into this, thanks for the note. I wrote this article 5 years ago.

  • Aibek

    Hi Mehdi

    Why don’t you ask how to get it done on MakeUseOf Answers,
    http://www.makeuseof.com/answe

    I am sure you will get a few tips from our team.

    Aibek

  • mehdi

    HI,
    Is it possible to post a tutorial on how to start the vnc server on boot. The problem is that if I logout from my ubuntu machine , I cannot access it remotely from vnc and get to the gnome desktop to open my session.
    Thanks a lot if you can help.

  • mehdi

    HI,
    Is it possible to post a tutorial on how to start the vnc server on boot. The problem is that if I logout from my ubuntu machine , I cannot access it remotely from vnc and get to the gnome desktop to open my session.
    Thanks a lot if you can help.

  • FritzPinguin

    In the meantime Teamviewer for Linux is available and works perfectly for controlling Windows from Linux and vice versa.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.