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Install Remote Desktop (VNC) on Ubuntu 16.04 Server

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is out for a quite while now. And it comes with great improvements. Installing and configuring VNC server on a Ubuntu 16.04 LTS server to enable remote desktop is easier than ever. So if you want to access an Ubuntu 16.04 server remotely from your Windows PC or MAC, you can follow this tutorial to configure it.

A remote server with desktop connection can be used to hide your online identity, to access websites that are blocked on your geographical area, to download torrents safely without getting caught or to encode and upload videos. And I’m sure there are many more reasons why you would want to configure VNC on your remote Ubuntu 16.04 server. When configured, you can access your VPS through VNC viewer as if you’re sitting in front of a Ubuntu 16.04 desktop.

The reason I prefer Ubuntu VNC over Windows RDP is that Ubuntu servers are so much cheaper than Windows VPS. You can buy 1GB RAM Ubuntu VPS for $10 per month from my recommended unmanaged VPS providers and configure it to enable VNC following this tutorial. So I’m going to assume that you have a Ubuntu 16.04 VPS ready to be configured. Let’s start the installation. You need to be connected to your VPS as root using Putty to proceed.

Installing VNC Server

Following command will install latest Xfce desktop environment and the TightVNC package on your Ubuntu 16.04 VPS. These packages are available in the official Ubuntu repository.

apt install xfce4 xfce4-goodies tightvncserver

It’ll take a minute or two to complete. When it’s done, you can run following command to initiate initial configuration of VNC server.

vncserver

You’ll be promoted to enter and verify a password. This is the password for root VNC user. It can be different from your server root password. You’ll be also asked for view-only password, you can ignore it by typing n.

It’s also important that you install a package manager. You can install official Ubuntu software center. But I prefer to use Synaptic Package Manager. Following command will install it.

apt install synaptic

Update and upgrade.

apt update
apt upgrade

Configuring the VNC Server

Since you ran the vncserver command on previous step, you need to stop it before making any modifications to the configuration. Following command will do it.

vncserver -kill :1

Now backup the current configuration file.

mv ~/.vnc/xstartup ~/.vnc/xstartup.bak

Create a new xstartup file with nano text editor.

nano ~/.vnc/xstartup

Paste following lot,

#!/bin/bash
xrdb $HOME/.Xresources
startxfce4 &

Save and close file. Give proper permissions to execute the file we just created.

chmod +x ~/.vnc/xstartup

Start VNC server,

vncserver

Connecting to Remote server

Your VPS is now fully configured with VNC to be used as a remote desktop. But you’ll need a VNC viewer installed on your local PC or MAC to be able to access it. I use RealVNC. It’s free for personal use. So install RealVNC on your local PC and you’ll see following window when you start it up.
vnc-viewer
Type your server’s IP address followed by :1 and then click Connect. You’ll be asked for the password you created earlier. Entering correct password will open your Ubuntu 16.04 server’s desktop in a new window.

You can start installing apps you need and configure your VNC server as you need. You’ll have to run vncserver command each time you reboot your VPS as VNC server will not start with the reboot.

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About Tharindu Kumara

Hey!! I'm Tharindu. I'm from Sri Lanka. I'm a part time freelancer and this is my blog where I write about everything I think might be useful to readers. If you read a tutorial here and want to hire me. send me a message on Fiverr.

4 comments

  1. Great article Man. I was trying to install it via Digital Ocean tutorials but it was giving me some sort of errors. Your guide is perfect for newbie like me. Thanks a ton.
    Just add
    sudo apt-get update
    in the beginning. Even such small things become tedious for newbie like me.

  2. Font directory ‘/usr/share/fonts/X11/Type1/’ not found – ignoring
    Font directory ‘/usr/share/fonts/X11/75dpi/’ not found – ignoring
    Font directory ‘/usr/share/fonts/X11/100dpi/’ not found – ignoring

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