Running Remote X Linux Apps from Windows

Joe Huss

Staff member
To run linux programs remotely on your desktop you just need to install an X server. There are several availabe and most of them are pretty painless to install and use. There are some pretty big differences in them feature wise and only a few seem to be very activly maintained anymore.

To use remote X, make sure you have X11Forwarding enabled in your sshd_config file, and make sure you can run the 'xauth' program on the
remote system. After that any of the remote X apps should work and let you run the programs as if they wre local.

I've used Cygwin/X and ReflectionX now. ReflectionX seems geared more towards only being an X server with a 'saved remote X sessions' manager. Cygwin/X runs on top of Cygwin which sets up a directory on your computer like a linux filesystem, and fills it with linux programs compiled for winodws. Because of this I find the Cygwin/X more useful (having things like bash, ls, nano, more, grep, sed, etc.. in windows is nice) beyond simplly running software remotely.

Remote X Servers for Windows:
Thanks for this advice, I think I'll try out some of these versions. Out of the versions here, which one do you recommend as the best / the most useful?

Joe Huss

Staff member
At the moment I'm using Cygwin64 w/ Cygports ( for extra packages. The amount of ported packages in there is pretty impressive.

Its free and my trial period ran out on most of the other programs, but I decided on Cygwin64 before that happened, many of the other X servers are just that, an X server so you can do remote X , but Cygwin comes with a package installer that I used to install bash, a handful of different terminals (xterm, rxvt, quaketerm, etc..), and tons of other goodies that let me do alot of work locally without having to login to a remote server.

If you want *only* remote X , and are willing to shell out money , I hear X-Win32 and ReflectionX are a better than cygwin, but I didnt really notice.
I have heard a lot about Cygwin and remember trying it out a while ago, so I am looking forward to using it some more and seeing what I can do with it, thanks for the guide!


New Member
The two ways we use are VNC which works reasonably well, or better still is to use the Windows built-in Remote Desktop. The package xrdp provides this functionality in Linux. RDP can resize the desktops to suit your Windows workstation unlike VNC.

The other way is to run an X server on your Windows pc and use X forwarding in ssh/putty. That way you can run graphical applications from the ssh command line and they’ll pop up on your Windows workstation. If you run this rootless then each window will pop up individually in Windows and you can move and arrange them using the Windows controls.

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