What Is Ubuntu Remote Desktop? How to Set Up and Use It

What Is Ubuntu Remote Desktop? How to Set Up and Use It

If you’re working from home, or are too far from your Ubuntu PC, setting up a remote connection seems smart.

Ubuntu features a built-in remote desktop tool. This gives you total control over your desktop from any other computer or mobile device. You’ll see what’s on that screen and be able to move the mouse and even type!

The remote desktop feature supports RDP and VNC and is built into Ubuntu by default. Here’s how to use remote desktop software with Ubuntu.

3 Ways to Remote Control Ubuntu

Generally speaking, you have three options to remote control an Ubuntu PC:

  1. SSH: Secure Shell
  2. VNC: Virtual Network Computing
  3. RDP: Remote Desktop Protocol

While many Linux users see SSH as their remote connection tool of choice, it lacks a graphical user interface (GUI).

Usually, these three options are separate. However, thanks to Ubuntu’s built-in remote desktop tool, you can use SSH, VNC, and RDP in the same app. Linux, Mac, and Windows PCs can use remote desktop tools to control Ubuntu, as can Android and iOS.

But first, you’ll have to enable the remote desktop feature on your system.

Enabling Ubuntu Remote Desktop

Enabling the Ubuntu Remote Desktop could not be easier. You don’t need to install a thing: Ubuntu has built-in VNC support. However, you will need to move to the Ubuntu PC to set it up the first time.

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Click Search and enter desktop sharing, then click Sharing. The system will present a simple window full of options. Along the top edge of the window, toggle the switch to enable the feature. Next, click the Screen Sharing button, and again, find the switch on the window and click it to enable.


Enable Ubuntu remote desktop

Ensure that you’ve enabled Allow connections to control the screen. For security purposes, you should also set a password here.

As soon as you enable remote connection, the app will display the local name of your Ubuntu device. This is a VNC address—keep a note of it to remote access the Ubuntu desktop later.

Remote Control Ubuntu With VNC

Controlling an Ubuntu PC over VNC is straightforward from another device. Just be sure you have a VNC client or viewer app installed. Here’s how to use VNC from another desktop computer.

Remote Desktop Ubuntu From Another Linux Device

Ubuntu (and many other Linux distributions) comes with a preinstalled remote desktop viewer. This means that once you’ve configured your Ubuntu PC for remote connection, you can remote login to it from whatever Linux distro you’re using including an Ubuntu to Ubuntu remote desktop connection.

  • Click Search and enter remote.
  • Select the first result, Remmina.

Search for Remmina remote desktop software on Ubuntu
  • Select VNC in the drop-down menu on the left.
  • Enter the VNC address (or IP address) you noted earlier for the Ubuntu PC.
  • Tap Enter to commence the connection.
  • When prompted, input the password.

As you add devices, they’ll be saved in the list so you can quickly access them in the future.

Use this tool to remote desktop Ubuntu from other Linux desktops on your network, so that you can control that computer remotely. You can also use this tool to control any computer with a VNC client installed.

Remotely Connect to Ubuntu From Windows

Want to control your Ubuntu computer from a Windows computer? Using the same VNC address (or your Ubuntu computer’s IP address), you can.

First, however, you’ll need a VNC client, such as VNC Viewer (from VNC Connect) installed on your Windows computer. Then you can connect to your Ubuntu machine by entering the VNC or IP address.

Check our guides about establishing a remote desktop connection to Ubuntu from Windows and remotely accessing your Linux desktop computer from Windows for full details.


Establish an Ubuntu Remote Desktop From a Mac

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 or the provided VNC address. Want some in-depth information about using VNC on a Mac? Check our tutorial on how to use Apple Remote Desktop.

What About RDP on Ubuntu?

It’s also possible to connect to an Ubuntu PC over RDP.

Remote Desktop Protocol is a proprietary system developed by Microsoft. It has proven so successful that RDP server and client apps are available on most software platforms.

RDP’s authentication system relies on your computer’s username and password and is quick and easy to set up.

Configure Ubuntu RDP Connection

Before connecting to Ubuntu over RDP, you’ll need to know the remote computer’s IP address. The easiest way is to open a terminal and enter:

ifconfig

Be sure to note the inet addr value that corresponds with the connection type you’re using. For example, if the Ubuntu computer is on Ethernet, use the corresponding IP address.

Next, you’ll need to install xrdp. This is an RDP server for Ubuntu (and other Linux devices) and is required before remote connection.

Install xrdp with:

sudo apt install xrdp

Once installed, launch the server with:

sudo systemctl enable xrdp

With xrdp running, you’re ready to use RDP.

Set Up a Remote Desktop RDP Connection With Ubuntu

As noted, RDP clients are available for most platforms. For example, you can use Remmina’s RDP function if you’re using a Linux computer to access the Ubuntu desktop remotely. Similarly, RDP is built into Windows.

If you’re using a standard desktop, use these steps to use RDP to connect to Ubuntu.

  • Ubuntu/Linux: Launch Remmina and select RDP in the drop-down box. Enter the remote PC’s IP address and tap Enter.
  • Windows: Click Start and type rdp. Look for the Remote Desktop Connection app and click Open. Input the IP address of your Ubuntu computer and click Connect.

Set up a Windows Remote Desktop connection with Ubuntu
  • Mac: Start by installing the Microsoft Remote Desktop 10 software from the App Store. Launch the software, click Add Desktop, add the IP address under PC Name, then Save. Simply double-click the icon for the connection in the app window to start a remote desktop session.

Our guide to using RDP on a Mac will help here. It’s aimed at remote controlling a Windows PC, but the setup is the same for Linux.

Note that RDP for Ubuntu will prompt for your PC account credentials when the connection is first established.

Use Chrome Remote Desktop With Ubuntu

If you can’t establish remote desktop access with Ubuntu, there is an almost-universal alternative you can try: Chrome Remote Desktop.

This is a cross-platform downloadable tool for Linux, Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS that lets you remotely access your PC. You can also use the Android or iOS mobile app for remote access.

With Chrome Remote Desktop, remote access is managed via your Google account. All you need is an access code for the remote PC. Once a remote desktop session with Ubuntu is initiated, you can control your computer as with any other remote desktop connection tool.

For more information, see our guide to Chrome Remote Desktop.

Can You Remote Control Ubuntu Away From Home?

Want to connect to your Ubuntu machine while traveling? This is a little trickier but not totally impossible. You’re going to need a static IP or a dynamic address from a service such as DynDNS. This basically forwards a web address to a device running DynDNS on your network.

Related: The Best Free Dynamic DNS Providers

Make a Remote Desktop Connection With Ubuntu

Whatever your remote desktop requirements are, don’t feel limited by Ubuntu. It has built-in tools to ensure that you can SSH, VNC, and RDP to your Ubuntu PC.

And if the native remote-control app is too complicated, you can use the simpler option of Chrome Remote Desktop. With the above methods, now you know how to remote desktop to and from Ubuntu.

In addition to Remmina, there are several other remote desktop clients for Linux that you can use to remote desktop to and from your system.


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