Linux Remote Desktop For Controlling Windows XP / Vista / Server 2003 ( rdesktop )

I am responsible for a couple of MS-Windows servers and Windows XP/Vista/7/10 workstations too. When I work from home, I need a way to get into Windows XP/2000/Vista/2003/2008/7/Vista/10 operating systems for work.

I have Debian Linux at home, and I needed a way to login into Microsoft windows desktop from Linux OS. Many of us working at tech support use rdesktop to connect to customers’ MS-Windows systems.

Fig.01: rdesktop login window

This program is very useful to configure Outlook or something else when customers do not understand how to configure or troubleshoot the problem. This is the best way to fix a problem.

Say Hello To rdesktop

Fortunately, Linux has rdesktop utility. It is a client for a remote desktop protocol (RDP), used in many Microsoft products including Windows NT Terminal Server, Windows 2000 Server, Windows XP and Windows 2003 / 2008 Server. You do not need to install VNC server. All you need is rdesktop client on Linux or BSD workstation.

What is a rdesktop client for Linux/Unix?

From the project web site:

rdesktop is an open source UNIX client for connecting to Windows Remote Desktop Services, capable of natively speaking Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) in order to present the user’s Windows desktop. rdesktop is known to work with Windows server versions ranging from NT 4 terminal server to Windows Server 2012 R2

Install rdesktop

Type the following apt-get command/apt command as root user to install rdesktop on a Debian/Ubuntu Linux:

# apt-get install rdesktop

To connect to MS-Windows systems from Linux, type the following command at a shell prompt (connect to Windows server called

$ rdesktop mw2sn100.your-domaian-name-here

Or connect to windows XP/Vista workstation having IP

$ rdesktop

Fig.01: rdesktop in action

Please note that you must enable remote desktop connection under MS0Windows operating systems; otherwise it will not work. Turn on remote desktop under MS-Windows operating systems:
  • Go to MS-Windows desktop
  • Right Click on My Computer
  • Select properties
  • Select Remote tab
  • Enable Remote desktop.
  • Save the changes.

Make sure enterprise firewall allows incoming connection on TCP port 3389. rdesktop supports many other options, type the following command to read the man page of rdesktop or visit project website for more information.
man rdesktop

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100 comments… add one
  • syed wajiuddin Apr 26, 2016 @ 12:33

    rdesktop -u syed
    Autoselected keyboard map en-us
    ERROR: Failed to open display:

    please help me i am getting this error while trying to connect.

  • lindows-User Mar 24, 2013 @ 1:00

    Just want to ask if this is also applicable with windows 7 starter. As one of the shortcomings or limitations of the win 7 starter version it can’t see other pc in the network and you need a higher version of Win 7 like Home prem. to create a workgroup and join the win7 starter.
    Thank you and this website of yours is one of the great source of information.

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