How-To Geek

Allow Remote Control To Your Desktop On Ubuntu

Enabling remote desktop mode is extremely easy on Ubuntu since Dapper. You can allow other users to access your desktop using the VNC Viewer utility that is bundled with Ubuntu, or offered as a free download for Windows.

Note that enabling remote control of your desktop is never a safe thing to do unless you have a firewall installed and configured correctly, and even then is still a potential security problem. Now that you’ve been warned of the risks, let’s move on.

Navigate to the System \ Preferences \ Remote Desktop on the Gnome top menu.

You’ll see this window:

The first two checkboxes need to be checked in order for remote desktop to be enabled.

The Security section is important: If you select the “Ask you for confirmation” code, then you will need to be at the computer in order to allow the other person to access your desktop. If you are trying to remotely access one of your own computers, you will want to uncheck this box.

The second checkbox should always be checked, and you should enter a secure password. You will be prompted for this password when you try to log on.


Tested on: Ubuntu Dapper Drake, Ubuntu Edgy Eft

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/7/06

Comments (31)

  1. Perspoff

    You discuss the “Ask you for confirmation” code, but that option neither shows on your screenshot nor in the Ubuntu control panel.

  2. jon6foot4

    It is there… it’s the part that says “Ask you for confirmation” on the screenshot.

  3. JeffFromHell

    will this work if i want to connect to ubuntu from a windows system? and how do i do it?

  4. valladares

    how can we do this via console commands

  5. Iain

    TBH, not a very good tut – actually, quite dissapointing. I was looking for something more along the lines of showing you how to initiate a remote desktop connection, an explanation of the vncviewer host:port command, secure it through ssh etc, use the terminal to do remote admin work.

    What you have described is just a 2 minute scout around the desktop and a bit common sense. I hope you elaborate more on this cos I really like this site, just a bit let down by this article

  6. gps

    Nice article. Do you have any advice on how this can be done via command line? I need to enable “share desktop” and disable the “ask for confirmation” features remotely.

  7. Paul G.

    Any idea why this setup is so God-awful slow? I’ve tried this on many different Ubuntu machines and it’s never been a usable solution.

  8. David

    If I’m using an Ubuntu image from Amazon EC2 I will need to set it all up via command line. Then I would like to go in through remote desktop from my local machine at that point. How do I do that?

  9. John

    after i followup the procedure, and tried to connect ubuntu machine from windows mashine, didnt help.

  10. What is Ubuntu?

    How is this enabled in KDE or Kubuntu?

  11. Robert

    First install vncserver and give it a password
    $ sudo apt-get install vncserver
    Then run it like this
    $ vncserver robert-desktop:0

  12. What is Ubuntu?

    Thanks, Robert.

  13. @ndyP

    Robert, thanks for the post… but I get a blank desktop when log in. Whats up with that?

  14. Najeeb

    I have installed vnc viewer in ubunthu , connection is ok ,
    when iam connecting from windows xp with Tignt Vnc /Real Vnc its getting connection

    But the problem , my remote desktopnot refreshing .

    each time i have to connect and disconnect toget next screen…

    Im not so good in Linux , so please help me …

  15. aaron

    Great explanation… I had figured this part out at least… This only works for me when I have already logged into the pc. If I just power it on and it is at the initial login screen I can’t connect. What are my options there?
    Thanks for all your help.

  16. Alvin Brinson

    I gotta agree with the one person who asked why it was so slow… it is INCREDIBLY slow – unbelievably so. I’m on LAN and it should not be this slow. VNC to a win2k box is snappy and quick – but to uBuntu it feels like I’m on a 2400bps modem!

    I’ve tried all the options in TightVNC Client, and nothing helps. I can’t believe they consider this production quality software.

  17. Bob

    How secure is this method?

  18. David W

    I have a clean recent install of Hardy Heron Server on one box on which I then installed the gnome desktop from the server command line, enabled remote desktop using this very tutorial, and am able to use it from both a windows xp box or other ubuntu box through VNC very quickly, Its possible that there is a firewall problem o such thing for those with sluggish VNC conexiones. I did have a few problems with Hardy Heron desktop install with enabling servicios, so I prefer to install server then add the desktop with sudo apt-get install desktop after the server is loaded and booting..

  19. Rob

    I am trying to remote desktop between two ubuntu machines, when i connect i just get a black screen, no login prompt or anything.

  20. JB

    Rob, you should edit gdm.conf in /etc/. Uncomment the RemoteGreeter line and in the
    xdmcp section set Enable to true.

  21. linuxbee

    I have question related to the topic discussed here.
    When I try to ssh to my ubuntu desktop, the request is “always” denied by the computer.
    Previously I used fedora core OS, I did’nt have this problem at all.
    I am wondering if you have any comments on this?

  22. balboa41

    I just made a fresh install of Ubuntu 8.04 and I did as explained. Then I connect from Windows using UltraVNC Client and this is working great!!! It is refreshing fast and flawless.


  23. Vivek Chuahan

    What is the main diffrence in KDE & GNOME desktop environment??

  24. Dan Dar3

    Thanks a lot for writing this post, very handy!

  25. cmarc

    It works very well. I get connections between windows and ubuntu 9.04.
    Only one thing: reconnection is mostly unsuccessful after closed first connection…
    Do I have to do some vncserver -kill on the ubuntu side after deconnecting?

  26. Sujeet

    I I just made a fresh install of Ubuntu and I did as explained. Then I connect from Windows XP rdesktop i can’t do the copy any data Xp to Ubantu. So please resolved my problem

  27. wewa

    I have tried to implement remote using all the common methods since Hardy. Too slow, too unreliable, too complex.

    I do this all the time on Windows Remote Assistance with few problems.

    I have been using Teamviewer Linux beta on Lucid and it is fast, consistent, and does all major platforms.
    Now I can support users on Macs, Win, Ubuntu in any combination from any of my OS machines.
    Just like Firefox, it goes on every machine I configure.

    Give it a try, your wishes will be answered.

    I am not affiliated with them. I just think they deserve their hard earned recognition.
    Can’t wait for a Android App so I can do support on the road.

  28. bluefish

    Quick question, does anyone know how to pop up a program on a remote computer while someone else is using the computer on ubuntu. I can get control but the other person has control as well. Is there any way you can disable their control while you take control of the desktop? or by using a termial window start a program on their computer through SSH or something like that?

  29. locomancell

    man, this was really helpful to me, thanks a lot… i will use it wisely ;^)

  30. Koowie

    The steps are easier than I thought. Thanks.

  31. Ronnie

    To get around the problem of connecting at the logon screen, check out NXFree…

    There’s also a Windows client if you wish to connect from a Windows machine.

    To install on Lucid from terminal…

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:freenx-team
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install freenx-server

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