I want to access an Ubuntu machine remotely via VNC. But I can access the Ubuntu machine only if the user is logged in. I want to access the ubuntu machine via VNC from the login screen itself. We can access all windows machines from the login screen. However we were not able to access the Ubuntu machine from the login screen. There is some way but I am not aware of the details. Can someone give a solution to this problem?

  • If the other machine is on the same LAN it would be feasible to just use XDMCP instead of VNC. If it's not on the same LAN, unaccelerated X over the network might be too slow. Apr 16, 2011 at 7:05

5 Answers 5


Your best bet is to install xrdp Install xrdp. After installation, you can use an RDP client to connect to the machine - you will then be prompted for your credentials as you would be on the login screen.

  • I have installed xrdp but still i am unable to access the ubuntu machine from the login screen.
    – karthick87
    May 17, 2011 at 12:34
  • @karthick: Are you connecting to the machine with VNC or using an RDP client? May 17, 2011 at 15:48
  • I dont find RDP client in my machine. Where it will be located ?
    – karthick87
    May 18, 2011 at 5:43
  • @karthick: Are you using Ubuntu as your client? If so, the program to use is called "Terminal Server Client". On Windows, it's called "Remote Desktop" IIRC. May 18, 2011 at 6:15
  • Yeah thank you. Is it possible to create a launcher for Terminal Server Client ?
    – karthick87
    May 18, 2011 at 7:05

Overall, I'd recommend x11vnc.


apt-get -y install x11vnc
x11vnc -storepasswd

Enter your password, it's saved by default in ~/.vnc/passwd in INSECURE encrypted form. It can be decrypted because the key is known... protect it with filesystem permissions)

chmod 600 ~/.vnc/passwd

Save my helper script locally:

mkdir ~/bin/
curl https://gist.githubusercontent.com/trinitronx/76d2bf98489e5e3e84fa/raw/53885d87f91320b574ca4f7d609e4bb268274f68/start_x11vnc.sh  > ~/bin/start_x11vnc.sh && chmod +x ~/bin/start_x11vnc.sh

From your VNC Client host:

ssh -f  -L 5900: -p 22 youruser@your-ubuntu-host.example.com '~/bin/start_x11vnc.sh && sleep 10'

Or, from your VNC Server host, run :


via a terminal (or start it as a daemon with -forever as an init.d service, upstart service, systemd unit, or however you wish)

Now run your VNC Client of choice from your Client Host, point it at:, login with password saved above.

Use the X11 "Magic Cookie"

Most X display managers (like GDM, XDM, KDM) start an initial X11 server and authenticate to it with an MIT Magic Cookie. Depending on your display manager, the magic cookie will be found in one of various locations.

I've had good luck getting a VNC session open on the Ubuntu GDM login screen *NOTE1 by finding the magic cookie with this script:


if [ -x /usr/bin/x11vnc ]; then
     [ "$1" == '-nocache' ] && CACHE_FLAG='-noncache' || CACHE_FLAG='-noncache'
     [ "$2" == '-guess' ] && GUESS_FLAG='-auth guess' || GUESS_FLAG=''
         [ -f /root/.vnc/passwd ] && PASSWORD="/root/.vnc/passwd"
         [ -f $HOME/.vnc/passwd ] && PASSWORD="$HOME/.vnc/passwd"
         [ ! -z "$PASSWORD" ] && x11vnc -display $X11VNC_DISPLAY -xkb -rfbauth $PASSWORD -rfbport 5900 -shared -forever -nowf -norc -notruecolor -bg $GUESS_FLAG $CACHE_FLAG -noxdamage
     if [ $EXIT_CODE -ne 0 ]; then

        echo "\n*********************************************************************"
        echo "*** Could not start x11vnc!  Trying again with gdm MAGIC_COOKIE! ***"
        echo "*********************************************************************\n"

        # Old GDM location for Ubuntu <= 17.10
        MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE=`sudo find /var/run/gdm/ -iname database | grep for-gdm`

        # New GDM location for Ubuntu >= 17.10
        [ -z "$MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE" ] && NUM_MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE_SESSIONS=`sudo find /run/user/ -iwholename '*/gdm/*' -iname '*Xauthority' 2>/dev/null | wc -l`
        if [ -z "$MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE" -a "$NUM_MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE_SESSIONS" -gt 1 ]; then
            # Find the current user's session
            MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE=`sudo find /run/user/$(id -u) -iwholename '*/gdm/*' -iname '*Xauthority'`
            # Find the GDM user's session (or whichever shows up first in ps list)
            # This should pick up the original gdm session which grabs :0
            # If you login after gdm login screen, your Xorg server may end up on another display!
            # Workaround for now is to restart x11vnc on that display number
            [ -z "$MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE" ] && MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE=`sudo find /run/user/ -iwholename '*/gdm/*' -iname '*Xauthority' | head -n1`
        # Old lightdm location for Ubuntu <= 17.10
        [ -z "$MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE" ] && MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE=`sudo find /var/lib -name '.Xauthority' -o -wholename '/var/run/lightdm/root/:0' | head -n1`
        #sudo bash -c "[ -z \"$MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE\" -a -e /var/run/lightdm/root/:0 ]" && MAGIC_COOKIE_FILE='/var/run/lightdm/root/:0'
        [ ! -z "$PASSWORD" ] && sudo x11vnc -display $X11VNC_DISPLAY -xkb -rfbauth $PASSWORD -rfbport 5900 -shared -forever -nowf -norc -notruecolor -bg $GUESS_FLAG $CACHE_FLAG -noxdamage ${AUTH_COOKIE_FLAG}

I can start this script (I called it start_x11vnc.sh) anytime via SSH... even before login via the gdm login screen. It launches an x11vnc server which I can then connect to over SSH tunnel. (Use ssh -L 5900: or add LocalForward 5900 to your host's entry in ~/.ssh/config).

NOTE1: In some new distro releases such as Ubuntu >= 17.10, the GDM login X session display is completely separate from the logged in user's X session display. Therefore, it is necessary to first connect to the GDM X session, login... and finally disconnect and re-connect to the newly started X session. Why they now do it this way is a mystery, but it broke the old version of this script.

  • Does not work. VNC client connects then closes immediately
    – Dims
    Aug 31, 2017 at 11:24
  • @Dims Use the command: vncviewer <remote_ip>
    – Gokul NC
    Jan 27, 2018 at 13:12
  • script was broken for new versions of Ubuntu... I updated it with a hack to enable it to work again. It seems now gdm display session is now separate from the logged in session, so if you are using this script on Ubuntu, it will first take you to GDM login screen, then when you login this X session display goes blank. Now you need to stop the first x11vnc process and re-run the script again to re-attach to the separate logged in X session & display.
    – TrinitronX
    Jan 31, 2018 at 0:09

To enable GDM login over a VNC ssh remote connection try with X11vnc. See also this answer.


Here's how to do it with VNC, if you don't want to use RDP:

  1. Install X11VNC server : sudo apt-get install x11vnc (Or through Ubuntu Software Center -> X11VNC Server)
  2. Set a password:

    sudo mkdir /etc/x11vnc
    sudo x11vnc -storepasswd /etc/x11vnc/passwd

    Choose y to save the password.

  3. Create an empty file in /etc/init called x11vnc.conf:

    sudo -H gedit /etc/init/x11vnc.conf
  4. Paste this into the file:

    start on login-session-start
    exec x11vnc -xkb -forever -auth /var/run/lightdm/root/:0 -display :0 -rfbauth /etc/x11vnc/passwd -rfbport 5900 -bg -o /var/log/x11vnc.log
  5. Save and close

  6. Restart Ubuntu

That's it! You should now be able to connect with any VNC client even before login.

  • This didn't work.
    – mace
    Feb 2, 2018 at 8:10
  • @mace Interesting, it had worked for me, maybe its dependent on the Ubuntu version. Unfortunately, I don't remember what version my Ubuntu was when I had done this procedure.
    – Didier A.
    Feb 17, 2018 at 21:59

re: try with X11vnc

x11vnc hasn't been updated since september of 2011!!!! There are known bugs and I'm getting popped by one that triggers a stack smash termination of x11vnc any time a pop-up dialogue (such as clicking the 'file' menu on any window) disconnecting the session.

Raspberry pi's can connect to the desktop manager session on :0, why in the hell is this such a problem for Ubuntu?!?! Why is it necessary to rely on an orphaned, 7 year old program to do this on any modern operating system?

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