Updated by Christian Cawley on March 30th, 2017
Do you need to connect to your computer remotely? Perhaps you’re in a different room, and need to grab a file from it — as long as you’re on the same network, this should be easy to do, regardless of which operating system you’re using.
Many Linux users see SSH as their remote connection tool of choice, but if you prefer a graphical user interface (GUI) to the command line, don’t worry: Ubuntu provides an option for you as well.
Using Ubuntu Remote Desktop gives you total control over your desktop from any other computer: Linux, macOS, 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. Click Search and enter desktop sharing, then click Desktop Sharing. You’ll be presented with a simple window of options.
Just check the Allow other users to view your desktop option. 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.
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. You can also use VNC (as well as SSH) to connect to a Raspberry Pi computer.
If you don’t have a favorite keep reading; you’ll find one by the time you’re done.
Connecting From Ubuntu/Linux
Ubuntu, and most Linux distributions, comes with an excellent VNC-compatible remote desktop viewer by default.
You can find this program by clicking Search and entering remote. The first result, Remmina Remote Desktop Client is the tool you need. Here, enter the IP address for a device on your network. VNC, SSH, RDP, and NX are all connection protocols you can use here, via the drop-down menu on the left. (If you connect via SSH, you’ll see a screen like the one above; click OK to proceed if you’re happy the target computer is safe.)
As you add devices, they’ll be saved in the list so you can quickly access them in future.
Use this tool to connect to other Ubuntu desktops on your network, and you’ll be controlling that computer remotely. The tool can also be used to control any computer with a VNC client installed.
Connecting From 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 TightVNCViewer [No Longer Available], on your Windows computer. Then you can connect to your Ubuntu machine by entering your IP address. Check our guide about establishing a remote desktop connection to Ubuntu from Windows for full details.
Connecting From macOS
Mac users wanting to connect to their Ubuntu machines should use the built-in VNC Viewer tool. 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.
Can You Connect 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.
For a different option, see our comparison of Ubuntu and Debian for different uses.
Image Credit: Minerva Studio via Shutterstock.com