How to Install TightVNC to Access Remote Desktops in Linux

Virtual Networking Computing (VNC) is a kind of remote sharing system that makes it possible to take control of any other computer connected to the internet. Keyboard and mouse clicks can easily transmit from one computer to another. It helps administrators and technical staff to manage their servers and desktops without being to the same location physically.

VNC is an open-source application created in the late 1990s. It is independent and is compatible with Windows and Unix/Linux. This means a normal Windows-based user can interact with Linux based system without any hazel.

[ You might also like: 11 Best Tools to Access Remote Linux Desktop ]

To use VNC you must have a TCP/IP connection and a VNC viewer client to connect to a computer running the VNC server component. The server transmits a duplicate display of a remote computer to the viewer.

This article demonstrates how to install VNC Server using TightVNC a much-enhanced version of an older VNC program, with remote desktop access on RHEL-based Linux distributions and Debian-based distros.

Step 1: Installing the Desktop Environment

If you’ve installed a minimal version of the operating system, which gives only a command-line interface not GUI. Therefore, you need to install a GUI (Graphical User Interface) called GNOME or XFCE desktop which works very well on remote VNC access.

$ sudo dnf groupinstall "Server with GUI"   [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky Linux/AlmaLinux]
OR
$ sudo apt install xfce4 xfce4-goodies      [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]

Step 2: Installing TightVNC Server

TightVNC is a remote desktop control software that enables us to connect to remote desktops. To install, use the following yum command as shown below.

$ sudo yum -y install tigervnc-server xorg-x11-fonts-Type1  [On RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Rocky Linux/AlmaLinux]
$ sudo apt install tightvncserver      [On Debian, Ubuntu and Mint]

Step 3: Create a Normal VNC User

Create a normal user, that will be used to connect to a remote desktop. For example, I’ve used “tecmint” as a user, you can choose your own username.

$ sudo useradd tecmint
OR
$ sudo adduser tecmint
$ sudo passwd tecmint

Step 4: Set VNC Password for User

First, switch to the user using (su – tecmint) and run ‘vncpasswd‘ to set the VNC password for the user.

Note: This password is for accessing VNC remote desktop, and the password we created in step 3 is for accessing the SSH session.

[[email protected] ~]# su - tecmint
[[email protected] ~]$ vncpasswd
Password:
Verify:

The above command asks you to supply a password twice and creates the “.vnc” directory under the user’s home directory with a passwd file inside it. You can check the password file is created, by using the following command.

# ls -l /home/tecmint/.vnc
-rw------- 1 tecmint tecmint 8 Jul 14 21:33 passwd

If you are adding another user, just switch to the user and add the vnc password with the vncpasswd command.

Step 5: Configure VNC for Gnome

Here, we will configure TigerVNC to access Gnome using the user configuration settings from the ~/.vnc/config file.

$ vim ~/.vnc/config

Add the following configuration to it.

session=gnome
geometry=1920x1200
localhost
alwaysshared

The session parameter defines the session you want to access, and the geometry parameter adds the resolution of the VNC desktop.

Now exit from user login and return to root user login.

$ exit

TigerVNC comes with default configuration settings that allow you to map a user to a specific port in the /etc/tigervnc/vncserver.users file:

# vim /etc/tigervnc/vncserver.users 

The configuration file uses <display_port>=<username> parameters. In the following example, we are assigning display port :1 to user tecmint.

# This file assigns users to specific VNC display numbers.
# The syntax is =. E.g.:
#
# :2=andrew
# :3=lisa
:1=tecmint

If you are adding another user, just set the display port to :2 followed by the username.

Step 6: Starting the Tigervnc Server

After making all changes, run the following command to start the VNC server. Before starting the VNC session with a “tecmint” user, let me give you a small intro about Port Numbers and ids.

By Default VNC runs on Port 5900 and ID:0 (which is for the root user). In our scenario, I’ve created tecmint, ravi, Navin, and avishek. So, the ports and id’s are used by these users as follows

User's		Port's		ID's
5900		root		:0
5901		tecmint		:1
5902		ravi		:2
5903		navin		:3
5904		avishek		:4

So, here user “tecmint” will get port 5901 and id as :1 and so on. If you’ve created another user says (user5) then he will get port 5905 and id:5 and so on for each user you create.

To start and enable the VNC service for the user assigned to the display port :1, enter:

# systemctl start [email protected]:1 --now
# systemctl enable [email protected]:1 --now

You can confirm that the VNC service is successfully started with:

# systemctl status [email protected]:1

To allow VNC access for other users, simply replace 1 with the display port number.

Step 7: Open VNC Ports on Firewall

Open port on iptables, firewalld or ufw, say for the user (tecmint) at 5901.

# iptables -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport 5901 -j ACCEPT
OR
# firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=5901/tcp
OR
$ sudo ufw allow 5901/tcp

For multiple users, ravi, navin, and avishek. I open ports 5902, 5903, and 5904 respectively.

# iptables -I INPUT 5 -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp -m multiport --dports 5902:5904 -j ACCEPT
OR
# firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=5902-5904/tcp
OR
$ sudo ufw allow 5901:5910/tcp

Restart Iptables service.

# service iptables save
# service iptables restart
Or
# firewall-cmd --reload
# systemctl restart firewalld

Step 8: Download VNC Client

Now go to your Windows or Linux machine and download the VNC Viewer client and install it in your system to access the desktop.

Step 9: Connect to Remote Desktop Using Client

After you installed the VNC Viewer client, open it you’ll get something similar to the below screen. Enter VNC Server IP address along with VNC ID (i.e 1) for user tecmint.

VNC Server Login Details
Enter VNC Server IP Address

Enter the password that we created with the “vncpasswd” command.

Enter VNC User Password
Enter VNC User Password

That’s it, you connected to your Remote Desktop.

VNC Remote Desktop
VNC Remote Desktop

[ You might also like: How to Access Remote VNC Desktop from Web Browser Using TightVNC Java Viewer ]

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44 thoughts on “How to Install TightVNC to Access Remote Desktops in Linux”

  1. Hi. Thank you for your posting.

    I’m now using CentOS6.5.

    /etc/init.d/vncserver start

    Error: bad escape code: f [FAILED]

    I have this error. What is the problem???

    thank you.

    Reply
  2. Hi, thank you for a nice tutorial.

    I do my work thru VNC, connecting to a remote server. I often encounter problems though when running some applications, I cannot use my keyboard to input on the GUI, thus I cannot type anything on the fields for the gui of this particular app.

    Everything works fine on a simple linux shell.

    Thank you

    Reply
  3. how to resolve too many security failures vnc server how to check vnc server logs and how check which ip address are connected to vnc server please guide me

    Reply
    • Under user’s home directory you will see a .vnc directory where you can see the log file of each vnc session like ‘mymachine.localnet:1.log’. And about checking vnc connection sessions, you can use netstat command to list vnc ports or use ps -fax to check running vnc services.

      Reply
  4. hi, I have managed to configure the vnc but when I log in there are some files that I can not edit/delete as vncuser, how can I give vnc user root lever access I have tried to do something like: vncserver:0;0…… to give it root access on users file. But now I cant log in to vnc either.

    Reply
  5. I followed the steps on my centos 6.5 final VPS trying to connect from windows 7 but is says “connection refused (10061)” I also tried telnet from comments above on SSH it says telnet: connect to address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx: Connection refused

    can anybody help? Thanks in advanced

    Reply
  6. im facing connection : Connection time out (10060).

    my telnet is working fine..
    telnet 172.31.0.212 5901
    Trying 172.31.0.212…
    Connected to 172.31.0.212.
    Escape character is ‘^]’.
    RFB 003.008

    some one help me out. im having my aws linux machine and accessing it from local machine.

    Reply
  7. I have been having trouble with this under Fedora since version 18. Under Gnome 3.6 I could set it in forced fallback mode and using the Cinnamon desktop could get it to work. Now with gnome 3.8 there is no fallback mode option. I went all through your setup instructions, with modification for using systemctl to start/stop vncserver, and it all seems to work fine until I enter the VNC password. The remote desktop window opens but says “Oh no! Something has gone wrong. A problem has occurred and the system can’t recover. Please log out and try again.”

    I have been searching the web for a solution to this for nearly a year and so far have not had any luck getting it to work. Any ideas?

    Thanks,

    Dave

    Reply
    • I had a messy setup working for Cinnamon under Fedora 18, but got the “Oh no!” again after upgrading to Fedora 19. However now it appears that there is a much simpler solution in Fedora 19. Install tiger-vncserver, copy file [email protected] to [email protected]:1.service and edit to replace the two uses of to the correct user name and add the -geometry and -depth options you want to the vncserver command line, just like you would to use vnc with the Gnome desktop.

      Then to make it use Cinnamon, create a script file named ~/.Xclients that contains

      #!/bin/bash
      exec /usr/bin/cinnamon-session

      When the vnc session starts up it runs ~/.Xclients if it exists instead of starting gnome-session.

      The cinnamon-session program appears to be new in Fedora 19 and solves the problem.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for this comment. I spent several hours trying to get the same thing to work without any success. Your solution works for me as well and it’s so simple!

        Reply
    • hi,

      this is Imran raini from Mumbai.
      I have Linux Server that is Linux 6.0 version
      I want to install VNC on that server. please help me
      I try to install VNC but it is not install Proper kindly send me step how can install VNC in Linux 6.0 Server.

      Best Regards
      Mohd Imran Raini

      Reply

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