Are there (preferably free) alternatives to VNC on Linux?

Is there different remote desktop technologies for Linux or is it all based around VNC?

EDIT: Thanks symcbean for your comment, good point. I find the network performance of RDP much faster than VNC. I am currently using tightVNC, but I do not want to compromise the quality for speed. Using RDP I find that it is just like being infront of the computer. I'm using VNC over an internet connection to a virtual dedicated server, on a broadband connection (admittedly not the fasted broadband in the world - but fast enough) - so in theory there isn't really any serious bottle necks.

-thanks Alex.

Alex KeySmith
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7 Answers7


If you have a reasonable fast link, X11 is the native remote technology on Linux and every other Unix-type system, as the X11 system was designed from the ground up to work over the network. These days, it's mostly used with ssh port forwarding (like ssh yourname@example.com -X), and NX, mentioned in the answer by alvosu, "merely" improves on the compression, making it accessible over slow links with a high latency.

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  • X11 would be much more secure also, using SSHD, since VNC and xrdp may be (I believe) unencrypted unless you buy a 3rd party version of those protocols like "Real-VNC" , etc. – djangofan May 03 '12 at 22:34
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    Just like you can tunnel X11 over SSH, you can also tunnel VNC over SSH (or SSL/TLS; look at stunnel) ;) – reiniero May 06 '12 at 02:03
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    X11 over ssh *feels* about 5 times faster than VNC or Spice -- nearly fast enough to view flash video... – Dave Mar 27 '13 at 20:59

NX technology is a computer program that handles remote X Window System connections, and attempts to greatly improve on the performance of the native X display protocol to the point that it can be usable over a slow link such as a dial-up modem. FreeNX - Free Software (GPL) Implementation of the NX Server.

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X2Go is a software that enables you to access graphical desktop of a Linux computer. It performs really well even over low bandwidth connections. You can choose to use an entire desktop, or have only a single application (over X11 with a persistent session). If you are familiar with solutions like GNU Screen or tmux for command line sessions, X2Go is a similar tool for graphical sessions. X2Go uses NX technology under the hood.

Praveen Kumar
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Depends why you need it. xrdp is a wrapper around vnc but it solves most of the difficulties I have with vnc on Linux. http://xrdp.sourceforge.net/

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And if the box you are connecting to virtualized using KVM (or RHEV), you can use Spice which performs exceptionally well.


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  • Interesting thanks Izap. I don't have my virtual server setup at the moment, but next time I do I'll give this one a shot. I've not heard of spice before, but it does look intriguing. – Alex KeySmith Jan 31 '13 at 20:03

Using cygwin-x to run an x-server on your windows, then ssh to the machine. This doesn't give you a desktop like you would with vncserver, but it lets you run x-apps. And as mentioned above it is over ssh so it's encrypted. I have not tried running vnc over ssh itself. A tutorial on that would be great. This is the tutorial for cygwin x http://geekswing.com/geek/linux/vncserver-alternative-running-x-windows-through-ssh-using-cygwin-x/

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  • Good tip, thanks Scotty I haven't had a chance to try it out, but I like the theory. – Alex KeySmith Feb 22 '13 at 09:22
  • Putty (ssh) + Xming was a better alternative to Cygwin (forwarding console and X desktop apps). Putty+Xvsrv is a better alternative now. Find a tutorial including x11 forwarding. – TamusJRoyce Feb 15 '19 at 10:17

Chrome remote desktop looks like a good alternative. https://chrome.google.com/remotedesktop

Jan DB
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