X-server Remote Desktop Protocol (Xrdp)

With Xrdp you can remotely log in on a virtual machine, giving you a full virtual desktop. Moreover, you can close the RDP window and pick up the session later, allowing you to continue to work on a graphical desktop while switching off your own local computer.

First, you need to set up your Linux VM, using the following steps.

Ubuntu 18

Simplified procedure:


You will have to type in the user’s password (by default, the same as the user name). Then type in a new password, repeat that when asked, and you are in a terminal on the remote VM.

ssh ubuntu@145.100...
sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y xorgxrdp xrdp xfce4 tango-icon-theme
sudo sed -i.bak '/fi/a #xrdp multiple users configuration \n xfce-session \n' /etc/xrdp/startwm.sh
sudo ufw allow 3389/tcp
sudo reboot now

After these steps, you should now be able to use your Remote Desktop client from your laptop to connect to the graphical environment. If, after logging in through the Remote Desktop client you are asked to choose a session type, the default “Xorg” should be fine.

Ubuntu 14.04, 16.04

The default Unity desktop does not support remote sessions as well as other desktop environments do. To create a virtual machine with a GUI, create a plain server VM and install the desktop environment of your choice, for example KDE or Xfce (which is used in the example below). This following example works under Ubuntu 14.04 server.

sudo su -
  ufw allow 3389
  ufw allow ssh
  ufw enable
  adduser $USERNAME
  adduser $USERNAME sudo
  sudo usermod -aG sudo,adm $USERNAME
  sudo apt-get install xrdp xubuntu-desktop tightvncserver
  apt-get update
  echo xfce4-session >~/.xsession
  sudo service xrdp restart

Now you can connect to your machine. However, Ubuntu’s default settings are to create a new session each time you log in instead of resuming your old session. Let us fix this.


In the next step you will have to edit a file by using a text editor. For example, you can use sudo nano /etc/xrdp/xrdp.ini to edit the file we will tell you in a moment. To save the changes you can then press the key combination Ctrl + X (see then that at the bottom of the screen you get a question like Save modified buffer […]?. Press then the y key, and finally hit Enter.


CentOS 7 & 8


The following commands open port 3389 for the whole Internet. We strongly recommend that you limit this to a well-known location of yours, such as your Universitie’s network and/or your house IP address to have a more secure set-up.

sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --zone=trusted --add-port=3389/tcp
sudo firewall-cmd --reload

Check with:

sudo firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --list-all
trusted (active)
  target: ACCEPT
  ports: 3389/tcp
  sudo yum groupinstall xfce
  sudo yum install tigervnc-server xrdp
  sudo systemctl enable xrdp.service
  sudo systemctl start xrdp

You can now use your Remote Desktop client from your laptop to connect to your VM’s remote desktop. You may have to create a linux user first in your VM, with a password, such as:

sudo adduser fred  # first create a user `fred` (use a name that suits you best)
sudo passwd fred   # and then set the password for user `fred`



The following steps describe the procedure for setting up Xrdp in CentOS 6. Other distributions may require some variation, but the guidelines should remain analogous.

  -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport 3389 -j ACCEPT

reload the firewall configuration, using

  service iptables reload
  yum install -y tigervnc-server xrdp
  chkconfig --levels 5 xrdp on
  service xrdp start


On newer Fedora-based systems, use

  systemctl enable xrdp
  systemctl start xrdp
  systemctl enable xrdp-sesman
  systemctl start xrdp-sesman

You can now log in on the virtual machine using RDP. From Windows or Mac OSX, use the Remote Desktop Connection client, sometimes supplied as an additional package to Microsoft Office. On a Linux desktop, use Rdesktop.


Make sure to set the display to millions of colors (Mac OsX) or high color (16-bits) (Windows), because thousands of colors (Mac OsX) or high color (15-bits) (Windows) will give you a non-descriptive error.


We have a full page on installing Windows, where we explain how serve access to Remote Desktop from it.