How to Use Remote Desktop on the Raspberry Pi with VNC

Contributors: Shawn Hymel
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If you like the idea of a headless computer setup for your Raspberry Pi (i.e. one without a keyboard, mouse, or monitor) but want access to the full graphical desktop, then you're in luck! By using a Virtual Network Computing (VNC) program, you can access a remote desktop over the network!

For schools and individuals that need to use the full desktop for certain applications (Scratch, creating your own graphical interface, etc.), using a VNC client to access your Raspberry Pi might be the way to go.

Using VNC to remotely access the Raspberry Pi desktop

Using RealVNC to access the Raspberry Pi's graphical desktop

The good news is that Raspbian (the recommended Raspberry Pi operating system) comes with RealVNC installed by default. The bad news is that we need to enable it using some other means.

Required Materials

To follow along with this tutorial, you will need a Raspberry Pi, power supply, and micro SD card. Note that no monitor, keyboard, or mouse is required!

Note: The Raspberry Pi Zero W should also work with this tutorial, if you want a smaller option for your project.

Optional Materials

All that being said, you can also use a keyboard, mouse, and monitor to enable the VNC server. Once you have enabled it, you will not need these accessories any more (unless you really want them).

Raspberry Pi LCD - 7" Touchscreen

Raspberry Pi LCD - 7" Touchscreen

Multimedia Wireless Keyboard

Multimedia Wireless Keyboard

$29.95 $19.95

SmartiPi Touch

8 Retired

Suggested Reading

If you aren't familiar with the following concepts, we recommend checking out these tutorials before continuing.

Serial Terminal Basics

This tutorial will show you how to communicate with your serial devices using a variety of terminal emulator applications.

Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kit Hookup Guide

Guide for getting going with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ starter kit.

Getting Started with the Raspberry Pi Zero Wireless

Learn how to setup, configure and use the smallest Raspberry Pi yet, the Raspberry Pi Zero - Wireless.
Please note: If you have trouble seeing any of the images throughout this tutorial, feel free to click on it to get a better look!