HowTo: Tunneling VNC Connections Over SSH

Posted on in Categories FAQ, Howto, Linux last updated May 8, 2006

Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is a desktop sharing system which uses the RFB (Remote FrameBuffer) protocol to remotely control another computer. It transmits the keyboard presses and mouse clicks from one computer to another relaying the screen updates back in the other direction, over a network.

Step by step procedure

You can easily tunnel VNC connections over ssh so that entire traffic get encrypted. Type the following command to tunnel VNC connections over SSH (you need to type command on your desktop computer running UNIX or Linux):
$ ssh -L 5901:localhost:5901 -N -f -l rocky
$ ssh -L 5901: -N -f -l rocky


  • -L 5901:localhost:5901 : Specifies that the given port on the local (client) host is to be forwarded to the given host and port on the remote side. Here you are using port 5901 on the localhost to be forward to on the 5901 port.
  • -N : Do not execute a remote command i.e. just forward ports.
  • -f : Requests ssh to go to background just before command execution. Requests ssh to go to background just before command execution. Once password supplied it will go to background and you can use prompt for type commands on local system.
  • -l rocky : rocky is the user to log in as on the remote machine (
  • ( Remote system with VNC server

In your localhost VNC client use for connection. Make sure you use appropriate port i.e. 5901 (VNC server running on display 1). This tunnel will provide nice enhanced security.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

15 comment

  1. Thanks for this Ho-To. One additional note – you don’t have to specify “localhost” in the ssh -L command….I used this to tunnel from work into my home Linux box, and pointed it at the VNC server running on a laptop on my home network. Now I can nannycam! Here is what I did: ssh -L 5600: [email protected]
    (note, IP numbers/names have been changed to keep honest people honest 🙂

  2. I followed these steps and could easily connect to remote machine. But now the problem is my localhost is not working as nginx server is unable to listen to any solution?

  3. For windows, to connect to a remote ssh session just download the free putty program and configure “tunnels” under the “SSH” category. You set the Source port to the local computers port that is connecting (i was connecting to a vnc session) like port 5900 and the destination port to localhost:5900 then when you open your favorit vnc program you can simply connect to the remote computer by typing “localhost” as long as your remote computer is setup to connect on port 5900. Thats my two cents for windows users.

  4. Great that you use 5901 for both the localhost and the remote port, makes it very clear that the first 5901 is for the one and the second 5901 for the other (or is the other way around).

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