One of the single most important aspects of a computer, from an administrative standpoint, is the ability to handle administration remotely. Nearly every operating system offers tools for such a task, but what do you do when you want to go cross-platform? The best bet is VNC (Virtual Network Computing). If you are connecting to a Windows Terminal Server the task is simple…but if you want to connect to a Windows desktop from a Linux client, you might find yourself having trouble connecting to RDP. Instead you want VNC and the best way to get VNC is by using TightVNC.

TightVNC is a free VNC tool that offers both a viewer and a server for Windows clients and a server for Linux clients. Let’s take a look at how to set up the necessary servers on both operating systems so you can log in remotely.

Linux to Windows

As you would expect, the installation of TightVNC is simple on a Windows client. All you need to do is download the correct installation file from the TightVNC download page, double click, and walk through the installation. It’s very straight-forward.

Once you get TightVNC installed, however, the straight-fowardness flies out the window. In order to make a connection to that machine the TightVNC server must be configured and started. In order to do this you first must click Start | All Programs | TightVNC | TightVNC Server (Application Mode) | TightVNC Server – Offline Configuration. From this window, click on the Server tab (see Figure A) and configure TightVNC server to fit your needs.

Figure A

You are required to set a password for incoming connections and this password can not be blank.

The minimum you need to set is a password. Once that is set you are ready to start the server. In order to start the server click Start | All Programs | TightVNC | TightVNC Server (Application Mode) | Run TightVNC Server. You will not see any applications launching since this is just a daemon running in the background.

Now from your Linux box, open up your default remote desktop viewer, enter the IP address of your Windows VNC server and connect. You will be prompted for a password before the connection will be completed.

If you are not sure what VNC viewer to use, my personal favorite is Vinagre, an easy-to-use VNC viewer for the GNOME desktop.

Windows to Linux

This one is a bit easier. I will show you how to set up this connection on an Ubuntu 10.10 machine. The first step is to install tightvncserver. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Ubuntu Software Center.
  2. Search for tightvncserver (No quotes).
  3. Click the Install button for tightvncserver.
  4. Enter your sudo password.

Once this is complete you are ready to connect. Follow these steps to get the server running.

  1. Open up a terminal window.
  2. Issue the command tightvncserver.
  3. You will be prompted to enter a password.
  4. Enter a view-only password if needed.

You are now ready to connect to your Linux box with the TightVNC Viewer. To open up this tool, click on Start | All Programs | TightVNC | TightVNC Viewer. When this new window opens you will need to enter the IP address with the port 5901 included. So the location will be If you do not enter the port, the Windows version of TightVNC Viewer will assume the port to be 5900 and will not be able to connect.

Upon successful connection you will prompted for the password set when you initiated the server on the Linux machine. With successful authentication you will be connected (see Figure B).

Figure B

TightVNC Viewer to tightvncserver means easy remote administration of a Linux machine from a Windows host.

Final thoughts

There are plenty of ways to connect to a remote machine. Having a uniform method (such as using TightVNC both ways) simplifies the task on numerous levels. How do you make your remote connections? Do you use VNC, RDP, or another third-party software (such as Logmein)? Share your remote experiences with your fellow TechRepublic viewers.