Supporting remote workers

How To Access Linux Desktops From Windows using RDP

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Having reliable remote access is a vital tool for a wide array of business needs- whether that be facilitating remote work options for employees, or providing more efficient customer support.

Remote desktop access has even become a daily necessity for numerous IT professionals who need control over remote devices, or the ability to troubleshoot from afar.

Remote desktop from Windows to Linux connections can be established in a variety of ways, many of which are quite easy. In this article, we’ll discuss several options, as well as provide the information you need to select which remote desktop Windows to Linux solution is right for your needs.

The below article will include 2 remote access processes:

  • • Remote Desktop Windows to Linux
  • • Remote Desktop Linux to Windows

Letting Windows Connect To Linux Remote Desktop

A remote connection is more commonly defined by using software that allows someone to remotely control another machine (like a remote desktop to Linux from Windows, or a remote desktop from Linux to Windows… or even a remote desktop connection to or from a macOS.)

Specifically, a remote desktop connection permits users to manage a host computer from any location (though the quality of an RDP session is impacted by bandwidth limitations.)

Remote connections also allow users to access software, applications, and files, as well as conduct system maintenance and troubleshooting resolution.

Below we’ll cover several options (and tools) that enable remote access over the same network, or an internet connection.

Here’s how to access a remote Linux desktop from a local Windows machine:

  • • The “Obtain the IP Address” Method
  • • The “RDP” Method
  • • The “VNC” Method
  • • The “SSH” Method

For those using devices that function over the same network, there are multiple open-source options that help users with remote desktop from Windows to Linux access.

The IP Address Method

Before initiating a Windows to Linux remote desktop connection, users will need to obtain the host machine’s IP address before doing anything else.

To find the IP address of the Linux host, log into the Linux machine, open Terminal, and type the following:

ifconfig

This command will display the Linux machine’s IP address. Users can also locate the IP address by connecting to the network’s router, then browsing the devices by their hostname. Use this information while operating your Windows computer to establish a remote connection.

The “RDP” Method

The simplest option to enable remote connections to Linux desktops is by using the remote access tool built directly into the Windows OS: Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP.)

Users must install Xrdp software on their Linux machine in order to use RDP. Complete installation in person, or with the SSH command. Enter the command as shown below:

sudo apt install xrdp

After that, type “rdp” into the search function, then run the Remote Desktop software on the Windows computer.

From within the Remote Desktop Connection pop-up window, type the Linux computer’s IP address, then click connect.

Note: to manage advanced parameters configuration, click “Show Options”.

The “VNC” Method

Another remote desktop option to try is VNC (Virtual Network Connection.) Access a remote device using VNC by installing the dedicated software on both computers. One of the most beloved VNC remote access tools is TightVNC, which is also open-source.

Installing TightVNC can also be done in person or by using the SSH command.

Step 1: Enter the following command:

sudo apt install tightvncserver

Step 2: Users should then run using the command:

sudo tightvncserver

Step 3: Users must then set the desired password.

Step 4: Once the above steps are complete, start the client app on Windows (which can be downloaded from the TightVNC website).

Step 5: Type the IP address and port number in the TightVNC window on the Windows OS device.

Step 6: Hit “Connect”, then enter the password that was defined in the SSH command section above.

Use SSH

Even though Secure Shell won’t permit remote desktop connections, it’s still an excellent option for remotely installing the software needed to access a Linux desktop remotely. See below to learn how to do it.

Step 1: From the Windows computer, open the Power Menu.

Step 2: Choose “Windows PowerShell”.

Step 3: Type the following command:

ssh [IP_ADDRESS]

Step 4: After accepting the certificate, enter the appropriate username and password.

The connection is now established.

The methods outlined above work well for all Linux systems other than Ubuntu- which already has a built-in remote desktop tool that supports both RDP and VNC.

For the initial connection, ensure this feature is set up on the physical Ubuntu machine. After following the installation steps for the built-in Ubuntu-compatible option, further installation of any additional software won’t be necessary.

Accessing a remote Linux desktop from a Windows machine sharing a network can be done with just a few simple commands, or by installing easy-to-use software like RDP, Xrdp, Xfce4, TeamViewer, Gnome, Remmina, etc.

Note: Some remote access tools even allow you to access a remote printer or scanner.

The options described above are excellent for small businesses, anyone working on a smaller network, or those who don’t need frequent access to a remote device.

Using RDP Clients To Create A Linux to Windows Remote Desktop Connection

This section will help anyone interested in protocols to connect a remote desktop to Windows from Linux.

To start, we’ll begin with using the Windows app, Remote Desktop Connection.

Utilizing the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), the Remote Desktop Connection app is included with all Windows OS. RDC allows users to access a Windows PC, or Windows Server remotely.

This is very convenient and cost-effective because organizations can install apps onto one central server, instead of multiple computer systems. Employees can then use those programs by accessing the remote server. This centralization also ensures that maintenance and troubleshooting are much easier processes.

This technology was originally called Terminal Services (TS.) In modern times, web systems are far more commonplace- but situations remain where Windows remote applications are still required.

During those instances, Linux users can access Windows computers and servers remotely from their preferred system via RDP client.

There are numerous Linux(Ubuntu)-compatible RDP software clients, and we’ll cover three of them below:

After reading the features below, users can select the option that suits their unique needs.

FreeRDP is both an app and a library, providing reusable features for alternative applications. Aside from rdesktop, the clients listed above utilize FreeRDP’s library.

Note: there are some instances where users may prefer to use a VPN for their remote access needs, but this article will solely focus on dedicated remote access software.

Enabling remote desktop on Windows

Users must first set up the machine that they wish to connect with remotely.

While operating the Windows computer that will be remotely connected to, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Login as Administrator;

Step 2: Open the Start menu;

Step 3: Click Settings;

Step 4: When the Settings window opens, open the System category > Remote Desktop;

Step 5: Now enable it;

Enable Remote Desktop on Windows

Please note: users can’t connect with computers running Windows Home edition (like Windows 10 Home.) This screen details the information, if that is the case:

Home edition of Windows 10 doesn't support RDP

Remmina

Remmina supports numerous remote access protocols like RDP, VNC, NX, XDMCP, and SSH. Remmina’s main goal is to help system administrators and travelers that work with multiple remote desktops and/or servers. Remmina is included in the Ubuntu Linux distribution as a default remote desktop client.

FreeRDP

Simply double-click on the computer you want remote access to from the list.

Following the Microsoft Open Specifications, FreeRDP is a free implementation of Remote Desktop Protocol. Said implementation offers the server and client applications, as well as a library that permits other applications to utilize RDP protocol.

rdesktop

Not only was rdesktop the very first Linux RDP client, but it was also the most popular for many years. However, as of November 2019, the project is searching for a new maintainer.

Alternatively, FreeRDP was initially released in 2009 as a fork of rdesktop. This occurred when Microsoft opened the RDP specifications. As time went on, and FreeRDP grew, it became the standard RDP client on systems lacking native Microsoft clients.

Please note: The inclusion of rdesktop on this list was intended for informational purposes only, and unless users have a specific scenario in mind, we advise another client that is compatible with the FreeRDP library.