Securely remote control your Ubuntu via putty from a windows host (VNC+SSH)

Last time I had the following situation: I wanted to remote connect to my workstation from another workstation like in the following image:
SSH Linux Tunnel via Putty
My current workstation is the left one (I will call it “workstation“) and I want to connect to the computer on the right (“server“). The workstation is running Windows XP, the server is running on Ubuntu Feisty.

  1. Setup Server(SSH+VNC): You have to install SSH and activate the VNC-Server, to be able to securely connect to your server.
    1. Install SSH: Just install the SSH server by entering the following in bash:
      sudo apt-get install ssh
    2. Screenshot Remote Desktop Preferences Screenshot Remote Desktop MenuEnable VNC: VNC is already installed on yor Ubuntu system, so you only have to enable it. Navigate to System -> Preferences -> Remote Desktop. Now you should activate “Allow other users to view my desktop“, “Allow other users to control my desktop“, and for security purpose “Require the user to enter this password” and provide a secure password. Then click the Close-button. Now your VNC-server should be ready to use.
  2. Setup Rooter (SSH Forwarding). If your server is directly connected to the internet (modem) you can skip this step. On my SMC-router this feature is called virtual server. You have to forward the SSH-port (22) to the IP address of your server. (here:
  3. Download and Install Putty: If you search Google for putty, the first result will be a download page, where you should download eighter the windows installer (putty-0.60-installer.exe) or the single putty program (putty.exe) . (I placed the single file into %windir%system32 for fast access per Start -> Run.)
  4. Start Putty and set it up:
    1. Start putty.exe (e.g. if you put it in system32 per Start -> Run putty.exe
    2. Putty Step1Enter the hostname, you want to connect to on the first startpage “Session“. Here this is the router. You have to enter the external IP (in concreto: If your “server” is directly connected to the internet you have to enter the external IP of your server. (This is the case if you have only a single PC and this PC is directly connected to the modem of your provider.
    3. Putty Step2Setup a tunnel by going to “Connection -> SSH -> Tunnels“. Here you enter as source port 5900 (the default VNC-Port which is used by Ubuntu if you installed it like me). As Destination you enter the internal server-ip with the VNC-Port (in concreto: and Click Add. Make sur, that you use the internal IP of your server not e.g. an IP-Adress of your router. (I made this mistake and wondered why nothing happend 😉 )
    4. Putty Step3Save your session and connect, so you can recall it later quickly by going back to “Session”. Type a meaningful name for your session below the “Saved Session” label and click “Save“. Now you can restore your session always by selecting it and click “Load“. Now you can click “Open” to connect to your server.
  5. Connect to your workstation: Now you will get a window where your username and password will be asked. Enter you login credentials to connect to your server and establish a SSH-tunnel.
  6. Connect to your server using VNC:
    1. Download and install VNC. There are lots of free VNC apps for windows out there e.g. UltraVNC or TightVNC. Note that you only need the viewer.
    2. Start the vncviewer and connect to localhost ( and enter your password which you provided in step 1.2.
    3. Now you should be connected to your home server 🙂

50 Responses to “Securely remote control your Ubuntu via putty from a windows host (VNC+SSH)”

  1. 1 anarchore July 1, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Hi, may I suggest a calendar widget so people can navigate to see your first posts?

    I am intrigued and wish to see your beginning.

    I am assuming you are describing the whole switch to Ubuntu, and start at the beginning?

    Please add the ‘calendar’ or better still ‘archives’ that can be searched by month.

    Take care;

  2. 2 John July 2, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Or, more simply, install hamachi on both the workstation and server, then (on the workstation) VNC to the server’s hamachi address (5.x.x.x). That way, encryption and port forwarding come for free.

  3. 3 star July 2, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    I use Hamachi with GHamachi on Ubuntu for a graphical interface.

  4. 4 ataub2qf July 2, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    @anarchore: calendar and archives added. I did not know this feature yet 😉

    I was not blogging from the begin of my switch but I am blogging about some things I stumbled on.

  5. 6 handband2 July 2, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    As John said, I like hamachi too. Instead of using VNC I prefere FreeNX. It seems to run so much faster. Here is some howto’s I use:

    Hamachi on Ubuntu


  6. 7 Done July 2, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    I set up my “rooter” but my plumber objected.

    seriously, I would also link to the howto’s for securing SSH. The fact is that if you have port 22 hanging on the internet, go and check your auth.log, it’s kind of scary. I don’t think there are any default ubuntu service accounts that might allow shell, but certainly people need to disable root login in sshd.config and also I’d recommend putting (is denyhosts in apt-get yet???)


  7. 8 Ruff July 2, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Um yeah. How do I run it if it’s on a dual boot and I am in windows and want to run ubuntu? I have access to the partitions on both OS’s

    That’s what I was hoping this article would be about.

  8. 9 Tom July 3, 2007 at 6:14 am

    I like NoMachine NX or freenx, secure and super fast + it lets you use more than one account at a time.

  9. 10 russ July 3, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    You’re correct in saying there are no default ubuntu service accounts that allow shell, and as you may be aware, the root account in ubuntu is disabled by default (not only in SSH, but everywhere.)

  10. 11 psymon101 July 3, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Great how-to… Ever tried Xming? Opens up a secure X session on a Windows machine using plink, excellent alternative.

  11. 12 DUDE July 4, 2007 at 1:10 am

    How on earth will you run Ubuntu AND Windows on one box (using the dualboot you describe)… What machine would you connect to from Windows? ehh… oops that instance in not running right? haha

  12. 13 Matt July 12, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Doesn’t this arrangement assume that you remain logged into the “server” Ubuntu machine. If you log out, the VNC service is inactive, isn’t it?


  13. 14 Doug July 24, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    @Matt I am facing this problem right now as I want to leave my Linux comp logged out and still access my VNC server and Azureus. If anyone has any tips that would be great!

  14. 15 ovizii September 24, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I’d like to throw in some hints:

    you have to be aware, this discussion evolves around 2 different solutions: one is using a client software the other one “does not really need one”

    Have a look also here: that post is about running a vnc – java server so you can connect via a browser.

    To make this safe I will describe my situation:

    being at work, almost all outside ports are blocked, so I have setup sshdaemon on my router @ home on port 443 which I am allowed to access from work. so if I connect via putty to port 443 and set up a dynamic tunnel, socks5 => only enter a local port, aka 88 and select dynamic. establish the connection to your router.
    then after you have set up your vnc – java server at home, and set your browser at work to use localhost:88 as proxy, you can simply connect to your home pcs internal IP on the port the vnc server is running. the browser using the dynamic tunnel, will forward your request to the itnernal network at home.

    => this achieves security, your home pc is not reachable from the internet, but only from your local net.

    🙂 have fun

  15. 16 Mike January 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Very helpful, thank you.

  16. 18 Huh March 9, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    These directions are a mess!

    If you overlook the typos –you are left with incomplete instructions.

    Where are the configuration instructions for the server?

    If you only establish one tunnel, (it’s called a cave! and it doesn’t work) You port-forwarded only one side. You have to configure the server to port-forward as well.

    Better instructions can be found here!

    Click to access Ubuntu-Remote-Desktop-Guide.pdf

  17. 19 George March 31, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you for instructions.

    These instructions worked fine for me, thanks a lot. I never knew Putty could do that. remarkable. Seems a little scary but seems a hell of a lot safer than riding vnc into my work network without encryption, which I have done. Still have a few questions like why can’t i access an ubuntu desktop via vnc unless i’m logged into the desktop first? Also, have questions about logging into windows remote desktop from an ubuntu machine. Does microsoft make a client/viewer available that will work? or is there an open-source client that will work? If you can answer these questions, great, if not, still i thank you for excellent and useful instructions which i personally have already made use of (with just a little prior knowledge of vnc and putty and router port-forwarding) and which i believe i would have been able to follow without my prior knowledge.

  18. 20 to George May 22, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    you can use tsclient to connect from windows to ubuntu.
    tsclient is already installed.

  19. 22 ataub2qf August 12, 2008 at 8:35 am

    @George: “why can’t i access an ubuntu desktop via vnc unless i’m logged into the desktop first?”

    I think this is because the vino-server starts with your login and not before.

    You can try to log in automatically and then run “gnome-screensaver-command –lock” to lock your computer.

  20. 23 eric January 26, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Incredibly, your guide worked perfectly, to the dot and was very easy to understand.

    You sir, are pure win. Thank you for the work you put behind this. I never thought I’d get this to work, considering i’m fairly noob to the unix environment.


  21. 24 Alexwebmaster March 3, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Hello webmaster
    I would like to share with you a link to your site
    write me here

  22. 25 Aneslin Subash July 15, 2009 at 6:22 am

    Excellent tutorial bro,
    I got what I searched about remote linux admin

  23. 26 nayanam October 31, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Appreciate your effort! Thanks

  24. 27 KM August 20, 2010 at 7:05 am


    I would like to view the desktop of a few Ubuntu systems from my Windows laptop. The connection configuration is as follows:

    U1,U2,U3 ==> DL1 ==> DL2 Internet

    U1,U2,U3 are the Ubuntu 10.04 systems
    DL1, DL2 are D-Link DES-10106D Switches
    W1 is the Windows XP system
    Modem is for the ADSL broadband connection

    So U1,U2 & U3 are connected to the switch DL1. DL1, W1 and the broadband modem are connected to switch DL2. And hence all the systems access the internet.

    Initially when I open Remote Desktop in U1 (System>Preferences>Remote Desktop) it tries to find out its IP address and then shows And when I try to connect to this IP from my W1 system using UltraVNC Viewer it fails.

    When I open and close Remote Desktop in U1 a few times then it shows its IP address as say a.b.c.d. Now if I provide this IP address a.b.c.d in the UltraVNC Viewer then I am able to view U1’s desktop. Looks like a.b.c.d is actually the IP address of the ADSL modem.

    Now, how do I configure this in such a way that I have discrete access to all the Ubuntu systems in this network from my Windows system? Please help.

  25. 28 KM August 20, 2010 at 7:07 am

    U1,U2,U3 ==> DL1 ==> DL2 Internet

  26. 29 KM August 20, 2010 at 7:08 am

    U1,U2,U3 ==> DL1 ==> DL2
    W1, Broadband Modem ==> DL2

  27. 30 Erica Malinowski September 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    My question is: is it necessary to implement a custom solution in order to remote into Ubuntu? Is any company of remote control software offering a system that can do this in a robust manner?

  28. 31 June Beatty September 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    George, I completely agree with you that this is a lot better than simply riding into my work server with an unencrypted VNC, which could pose security risks. Another option is to go proprietary with something like Proxy Networks for remote control software.

  1. 1 » Securely remote control your Ubuntu via putty from a windows host … Trackback on July 1, 2007 at 2:39 pm
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