Access remote Unix GUIs in Windows: Xming

Nov 22, 2008
Updated • Jan 14, 2013

A friend recently introduced me to the idea of X11 tunnelling, which is accessing programs over SSH whilst still maintaining a graphical interface. Most Linux distributions, and OS X, have built-in X11 support and to connect to a computer and be able to run graphical programs remotely, ssh server -x is the only command which must be typed. On Windows, it is somewhat more challenging.

Xming is an X server for Windows which can be used to secure forward X11 sessions from Unix machines. Basically, using Xming, a graphical program, like Firefox or xeyes, can be run remotely from an SSH server with X11. Using X11 tunneling, many things can easily be done remotely, whether that be word processing, file-sharing or accessing an email client.

Xming requires a little configuration. In my opinion, Xming works best with the Putty and comes with it. ssh.exe can also be used.

Putty must be configured to enable X11 forwarding, which is done inside Putty by going to SSH>X11 and ticking 'Enable X11 forwarding'. Whilst programs can be launched via remote SSH terminal, the Xlaunch program which comes with Xming is much easier to use.

In Xlaunch, the chosen view for X11 windows is chosen (one window, multiple windows or full screen), the SSH server and login details is entered as is the application which is to be run. xterm (the terminal) is a good choice!


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