How to Establish a Remote Desktop Access to Ubuntu From Windows
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You’re in one room, sat at a PC; the data you want is in another, on a computer running Ubuntu. If both computers are in the same house, no problem; but what if they’re in the same office block? It might be a bit of a walk!

The answer, therefore, is setting up a remote desktop connection. Two good remote desktop options are available for Windows users to access Ubuntu.

Why Remote to Ubuntu?

There are several reasons why you might want to remote connect to your Ubuntu computer How to Remote Control Linux From Windows How to Remote Control Linux From Windows Read More .

Perhaps you’re at work and need to log into your home computer. Alternatively, you might have an Ubuntu PC in one room, your Windows PC in another, and a desire to run updates on Ubuntu.

How to Establish a Remote Desktop Access to Ubuntu From Windows muo windows remote ubuntu rdp

Alternatively, you might be running an Ubuntu server. Perhaps you set this up to manage the running of a game, like Counter-Strike, or Minecraft. Either way, a method of setting up a remote connection will save a lot of time and effort.

You have two options for establishing a remote connection with your Ubuntu machine: you can use remote desktop (RDP) or Virtual Network Computing (VNC) Ubuntu Remote Desktop: Built-In, VNC Compatible & Dead Easy Ubuntu Remote Desktop: Built-In, VNC Compatible & Dead Easy Do you need to connect to your computer remotely? Using Ubuntu Remote Desktop gives you total control over your desktop from any other computer: Linux, macOS, or Windows. This is how it works. Read More .

Let’s take a look at each method in turn.

Find Your Ubuntu Device’s IP Address

Before you can establish a connection to your Ubuntu device, you’ll need to know the IP address.

The first way is the easiest. Physically go to the Ubuntu machine, press CTRL + ALT + T to open the Terminal, and input the command:


Look for the “inet addr” against the connection you’re currently using. For instance, if you’re on Wi-Fi, look for wlan0. If the computer is connected to the network for Ethernet, look for eth0.

Another way to find the IP address is to find the connection icon in the pane, right-click, and select Connection Information. You’ll find the IP address listed here.

Neither of these options open? You can also connect to your router directly, via your computer’s browser. Once signed into the router’s admin console, you’ll be able to see which devices are connected. Just look for your Ubuntu device name, find the IP address, and make a note of it for later.

Create a Secure Socket Shell (SSH) Connection to Ubuntu

Before you start, you might want to install PuTTY on your PC Beginner's Guide To Setting Up SSH On Linux And Testing Your Setup Beginner's Guide To Setting Up SSH On Linux And Testing Your Setup Arguably one of the most important Linux utilities to learn is SSH as you can control a different machine as if you were sitting directly at it. We'll take you through a basic installation. Read More  (or just try the built-in Windows SSH function Windows 10 SSH vs. PuTTY: Time to Switch Your Remote Access Client? Windows 10 SSH vs. PuTTY: Time to Switch Your Remote Access Client? Let's take a look at how to set up SSH access in Windows 10, and whether the new tools can supplant PuTTY. Read More ). This enables you to set up an SSH connection, which gives remote access to the Ubuntu command line.

To be clear: this isn’t a remote desktop option; there is no mouse control. But it is useful to have in order to remotely install the tools you’ll be using. SSH is often disabled by default, however, so if it is not installed, you’ll need to fix this. In short, it depends on which Ubuntu version you’re using, and whether you’ve used SSH previously.

Once installed (sudo apt-get install openssh-server) you’ll be able to make a remote connection (just using the IP address and the Ubuntu username and password) and use the terminal to install the tools you need for RDP and for VNC.

Connect to Ubuntu with Remote Desktop Protocol

The easiest option is to use Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP. Built into Windows, this tool can be used to establish a remote desktop connection across your home network. All you need is the IP address of the Ubuntu device.

How to Establish a Remote Desktop Access to Ubuntu From Windows muo linux server remote rdp

While the necessary software is pre-installed on Windows, you’ll need to install the xrdp tool on Ubuntu. To do this, open a Terminal window (CTRL + ALT + T) and enter:

sudo apt-get install xrdp 

Wait for this to install, then run the application in Windows using the Start Menu or Search. Type rdp then click on Remote Desktop Connection. With the app open, input the IP address in the Computer field. Next, click Show Options and add the Username for the Ubuntu PC. You can click Save to keep these settings for reuse on another occasion.

Click Connect to start the connection, and input the Ubuntu account password when prompted. The connection will then be established, giving you full mouse and keyboard access to your remote Ubuntu computer.

Access Ubuntu Remote with Virtual Network Computing (VNC)

Another option with full remote desktop functionality is VNC. This requires a client application on the Windows PC and a server on Ubuntu.

On the remote PC, install the TightVNC Server component after checking for updates:

sudo apt-get update 

Then install the server utility:

sudo apt-get install tightvncserver 

Once done, you’ll need to run it, at which point you’ll be prompted to set a password for the connection:

sudo tightvncserver 

You’ll also be given a desktop number, usually :1. Keep a note of this.

How to Establish a Remote Desktop Access to Ubuntu From Windows muo linux server remote vnc

Now that TightVNC Server is set up on Ubuntu, you’ll need to install the client on Windows. This can be downloaded from — make sure you choose the right version, as it is available in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. TightVNC tools are only available as a bundle, so once installed, look for TightVNC Viewer in Windows search.

Once you’ve launched the viewer, input the IP address of the Ubuntu box in Remote Host, followed by the desktop number. So, it might look like this:

Input the password when prompted, and commence your remote desktop activity!

Make TightVNC More Secure

By default, TightVNC will encrypt your password, but nothing else. This makes it insecure for connections over the internet. Fortunately, it can be made more secure, thanks to SSH and Xming.

To use this, download and install the Xming tool for Windows from Sourceforge. Once this is done, look for the desktop shortcut, right-click, and choose Properties.

How to Establish a Remote Desktop Access to Ubuntu From Windows muo rpi vnc xming properties

Look for the Shortcut tab, and in the Target field, enter the following:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Xming\Xming.exe" :0 -clipboard –multiwindow 

Click Apply to save the change, then OK. Double-click the icon to run Xming, then open PuTTY. Here, expand the menu on the left to Connection > SSH > X11. Check Enable X11 Forwarding, then return to Session at the top of the menu.

How to Establish a Remote Desktop Access to Ubuntu From Windows muo rpi vnc xming forwarding

Enter the IP address for the remote device, and click Open. Moments later, a secure connection to the remote Ubuntu desktop will be available.

Choosing the Right Remote Solution

How you use these methods depends on what you want to get out of your remote desktop experience. If you want complete control, video streaming, and even support for games, then the Microsoft RDP plus xrdp software is the best option, but things can get a bit slow.

For a more efficient experience that doesn’t require heavy graphics processing, use VNC Setup VNC on Raspberry Pi to Remotely Control It with Any PC or Phone Setup VNC on Raspberry Pi to Remotely Control It with Any PC or Phone You can have a full Raspberry Pi desktop interface with ever connecting a monitor, keyboard or mouse. Now that the latest version of Raspbian includes RealVNC server, it's easier than ever. Read More . This is a low bandwidth solution, so keep your remote activity simple. And if you just want to quickly dip into Ubuntu, why not try the Windows Subsystem for Linux A Quick Guide to Linux Bash Shell in Windows 10 A Quick Guide to Linux Bash Shell in Windows 10 You can now run Linux on Windows. Learn more about Bash on Windows, from how and why you should install it, to hidden features you probably didn't know about. Read More , available for Windows 10 Pro users. Failing this, an Ubuntu virtual machine Top 5 Linux Operating Systems You Should Try in a Virtual Machine Top 5 Linux Operating Systems You Should Try in a Virtual Machine Five Linux operating system distributions are particularly suitable for running virtual machines, so let's take a look at them. Read More would be the next best thing.

We’ve shown you three ways to establish a remote connection to your Ubuntu computer or server from Windows. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. But which do you prefer? Did any of these solutions fail to work for you? Still having trouble? Or did you find an additional solution? Whatever you have to say, tell us about it below. 

Explore more about: Remote Access, Remote Desktop, Ubuntu, VNC.

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  1. Palash Aggrawal
    November 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Doesn't ssh work only when the two systems are in the same network? I read that the reason is NAT. I even tried to ssh into my ubuntu machine from outside my home network, but couldn't. What is the way out?

  2. Wellington Torrejais da Silva
    June 29, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Nice tutorial. Thanks!

  3. Prasanta Shee
    May 16, 2018 at 7:06 am

    You can use tools like logmein, Teamviewer, R-HUB remote support servers etc. for remotely establishing remote desktop access from Windows to Ubuntu.

  4. Tim ODell
    December 12, 2016 at 1:31 am

    This article assumes there is some sort of Windows-like interface installed. It would be helpful to start at the beginning and list prerequisites (a GUI? Which one? or this addreses "X" install of Ubuntu) -- the selection string "System > Preferences > Remote Desktop " doesn't work from the CLI. I'm using from a server installation (because it uses less resources), so maybe a redirect to the "Linux connect" section at the beginning would be helpful for a remote console connection.

  5. Nogero
    December 23, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    NX, which I think is the same as freenx can't be beat for speed and all around use. It is quite easy to install. Download the client, click, click, click. Download the three packages for the server, then do:
    sudo dpkg -i nx*
    Use the wizard to connect first time, thereafter it is one easy click. I used to be a loyal tightvnc user until I discovered NX. Official site and d/l:
    Available for all platforms. It runs over SSH port 22. So fast you will forget you are not on the console.

  6. the_guv
    December 8, 2009 at 4:34 am
  7. the_guv
    December 8, 2009 at 4:26 am

    Varun's solution is ideal for Linux initiates, sure, but FreeNX beats it for speed ...

    For the more adventurous, maybe the best remote access is with ...

    ... but their docs are appalling .. so Google, say, ubuntu openvpn.

    @Mike .. I *think* the above is as close as it gets, but I dunno much on these web apps.

  8. Mike Wilson
    November 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    How about a solution like Logmein or Teamviewer that would allow me to connect to my work machine while at home over the internet? I used to use Hamachi and a vnc but was wondering if you knew of a single dedicated client like Logmein for Ubuntu.