How to Remote Access Linux From a Windows Computer
Set up a Linux server? Perhaps you’ve configured it as the solution to network storage. Or maybe you have a Linux work PC, media center, or simply keep a secondary PC in another room. Whatever the case, at some point, you’ll need to remotely access the Linux device from a Windows PC or laptop. So, what is the solution?
Windows users have several tools that enable simple remote desktop from Windows to Linux. Want to know how remote desktop from Windows to Linux? Read on!
You’ll Need the Linux Device’s IP Address
Before you can remote into Linux from Windows, you’ll need the device’s IP address. It’s useful for all remote connection options, although in some cases, the hostname (the device’s network name) will do.
The simplest way to check the IP address is to log in to you your Linux device and open the terminal. Enter:
The IP address of the device will be displayed. For more details, you can also use:
If your Linux system has multiple connections, these will be listed with prefixes. For example, an Ethernet connection will be listed alongside eth0. If it’s connected wirelessly, look for the IP address listed against wlan0.
If this isn’t easy or convenient, there is another method that is almost as simple. In your browser window, connect to your router. This is usually an address like 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.0.100. Check this by looking at the router itself or the documentation that came with it.
Once signed in to the router, look for an option that lists connected devices. Browse through the IP addresses to find your Linux device by hostname. Some routers can even display the device’s operating system. You’ll find the IP address listed alongside, which you should note down for later.
How to RDP From Windows to Linux
The first and easiest option is RDP, Remote Desktop Protocol, which is built into Windows.
Before starting, you’ll need to install the xrdp software on your Linux box. You can do this in person or using SSH (see below) with a single command:
sudo apt install xrdp
To RDP to Linux, run the Remote Desktop software on your Windows machine. In Windows 8 and later, you can find it via Search simply by inputting the letters “rdp”.
With the Remote Desktop Connection window open:
- Input the IP address
- Use Show Options for any advanced connection requirements
- Click Connect
It’s as simple as that.
Benefits of RDP: while it might take a bit longer to set up, using RDP provides great reliability and remote desktop access to Linux. This makes it an ideal tool for remote working with Linux machines.
If you use plan to use RDP regularly, you can save some time by creating these custom configurations for Windows RDP.
Connect to Linux From Windows With VNC
A Virtual Network Connection (VNC) also affords remote access to your Linux desktop. As with RDP, however, you’ll need to install some dedicated software. On the Linux box, the VNC server software is required; on Windows, a client app.
One of the most popular options for connecting to Linux over VNC is TightVNC. You’ll find the Windows client software on the website, but make sure you choose the right version.
Download: VNC for Windows
Once you’ve done that, install tightvncserver on your Linux box. This might be via SSH (see the next section) or with physical access to the computer.
First, in Linux, check for updates:
sudo apt update
Next, install TightVNC Server:
sudo apt install tightvncserver
Once installed, run tightvncserver, and set a password when prompted.
There is an eight-character limit for passwords. With tightvncserver now running, you’ll see a notification displaying the port number—make a note of it.
Once you’ve done that, here’s how to connect to the Linux machine from Windows:
- Run the TightVNC Viewer app on Windows
- Input the IP address and port number
- Click Connect
- Input the password you set when prompted
The remote desktop will then open, and you can start using the app of your choice—within reason. Certain applications with heavy graphical demands are unlikely to run reliably, if at all.
Benefits of VNC: offering fast access to the remote PC, TightVNC has its limits. You can perform standard computing tasks, but media-related activities are severely limited.
Remote Into Linux via SSH
SSH (Secure Shell) is a great way to gain remote access to your Linux device. You’re not limited to Windows with this option, either, as SSH can be used from almost any device. It’s also very secure.
You have two options for SSH on Windows:
- SSH in Windows PowerShell
- Download the PuTTY SSH tool
Let’s look at both.
Remote Access Linux With SSH in Windows PowerShell
Windows PowerShell is the new command line tool in Windows 10 and 11, replacing the old Command Prompt app. Find it by right-clicking Start to access the Power Menu and selecting Windows PowerShell. To SSH, enter:
So if the Linux device has an IP address of 192.168.13.123, enter:
- ssh 192.168.13.123
- When prompted, accept the certificate.
- Input the username and password.
You now have remote SSH access to Linux.
Connect to Linux Remotely Using SSH in PuTTY
Although not natively available in Windows, you can easily download the PuTTY application. You don’t need to install PuTTY, however. Instead, you simply run the downloaded EXE file.
Download: PuTTY (Free)
For convenience, it’s a good idea to create a desktop shortcut.
To use PuTTY for SSH:
- Select Session > Host Name
- Input the Linux computer’s network name, or enter the IP address you noted earlier.
- Select SSH, then Open.
- When prompted to accept the certificate for the connection, do so.
- Enter the username and password to sign in to your Linux device.
Benefits of SSH: using this method lets you make quick changes to Linux without getting your hands dirty. Particularly suited to software installation and admin changes. It’s also useful for setting up the previous option, VNC! SSH is also perfect for servers without a desktop environment installed.
However, if you need a remote connection to the Linux desktop from Windows, try VNC or RDP.
Three Windows Remote Desktop Methods for Connecting to Linux
Whatever your purpose, there is a suitable option to connect to a Linux machine from Windows. These methods work whether the device is a server, desktop PC at work, media center, or even a Raspberry Pi.
So, if you are wondering which of the following tools you can use to get a remote session on a UNIX/Linux system, here they are from easiest to toughest:
- RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol)
- VNC (Virtual Network Connection)
- SSH (Secure Shell)
If your Linux distro happens to be Ubuntu, you already have a built-in VNC-compatible remote desktop tool with which you can easily create a Linux remote desktop server, or Linux RDP, for short.