Can I run my full Ubuntu Unity desktop on my Windows machine using X?


This post may be a bit dated, but the principal applies.

Intro to X Forwarding

Unix machines have been able to run software on a remote machine and display the GUI locally for almost two decades. Linux and Mac OS X support X Forwarding with no extra software. Any terminal on Linux should do X Forwarding, Mac users need to run "Applications > Utilities > XTerm". In a command line terminal run "ssh -Y [email protected] matlab" and you'll be running matlab on "" but seeing it on your desktop. Windows users need two pieces of software: an secure shell program (ssh) to establish the remote connection and an X Server to handle the local display. Prerequisites

Putty for SSH Xming for the XServer

**Configuring Putty

  1. Add Unix hostname
  2. Switch Protocol to SSH
  3. Type name of session in saved sessions
  4. Click 'Save'

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  1. Expand the 'SSH' tab from the 'Category' list
  2. Choose 'X11' from 'SSH' list
  3. Check 'Enable X11 Forwarding'

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  1. Choose 'Session' from 'Category' list
  2. Click 'Save'

Starting the X Server on Windows Configuring Xming

Just run "All Programs > Xming Xming" and it should work if you've got PuTTY configured.


  1. Start Xming
  2. Start Putty
  3. Double click on the saved session you want

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  1. Enter username and password as requested
  2. You should now be able to run X applications from the host on your local desktop



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Updated on September 18, 2022


  • Thomas Browne
    Thomas Browne 3 months

    I am currently running Ubuntu 13 Desktop edition on a second PC on my desk, which has one small monitor. For work reasons my primary machine must be Windows(7), and it has multiple monitors, of varying resolutions.

    I wish to have my Ubuntu Desktop fill up all those Windows monitors at their native resolutions so that I can basically make Ubuntu my primary desktop, without physically plugging in the keyboard and monitors into the Ubuntu box. Both machines are connected within a fire walled internal 1Gb network, and both have fixed IP addresses.

    Nomachine NX is working pretty well up to now, but seems limited to aping the exact resolution of the (small) monitor I have on the Ubuntu box. VNC the same.

    I do not wish to use a VM solution such as VMWare (though this does work), as I need more than one computer for reasons of data analysis throughput.

    Is this possible? Is it viable? And how exactly do I go about it?

    I have already downloaded and run MobaXterm, and running terminals over SSH seems to work fine. I have also run Firefox and other Ubuntu-machine applications in windows on my Windows machine, by calling them from the SSH terminal command line. But no luck so far getting the full Unity monty across my Windows monitors.

  • Thomas Browne
    Thomas Browne almost 9 years
    Yep - been doing this up to now, successfully, but I have a powerful 32gig XEON server sitting right next to my Windows desktop and it would be shame to let it go to waste! So I am looking for a generic solution that scales, potentially to more machines... running Ubuntu on remote machines and seeing a big desktop on Windows.
  • landroni
    landroni almost 9 years
    Well, make sure to include this in the OP to make it clearer. This said, you're probably looking for a reliable and flexible VNC solution. What VNC solutions did you try, and why didn't they work? (You have a load of VNC clients to play with: .) Something like TeamViewer could do the job, too.
  • Thomas Browne
    Thomas Browne almost 9 years
    used RealVNC on Windows, and simply allowed VNC connections in the settings on Ubuntu. Too slow even with a 1440x900 resolution, let alone 4 x fullHD. NoMachine much faster but still doesn't solve the problem because, like VNC, it does not scale to a different, larger, desktop space on the client, as far as I know (and I have tried, but would be happy to be proven wrong with NoMachine (VNC will almost certainly be too slow)).
  • Thomas Browne
    Thomas Browne almost 9 years
    TeamViewer: cannot see how that solves the issue either as this simply gives me a variation of VNC/NoMachine. Same resolution as server, no scaling to bigger desktop / more monitors.