Installing VNC on a Windows Server using Remote Desktop

One of the first things I decided to do with my Windows Home Server was to install a VNC server on it. VNC is an open source solution (i.e.: free) that allows remote access to a computer in a similar way that of Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). However, because my Windows Home Server is a headless computer which can only be accessed remotely with Microsoft RDP, the installation of VNC is not as straightforward as it seems. In this documentation I’ll explain how I successfully installed VNC on my Windows Home Server.

Differences between VNC and Remote Desktop

Why should one consider installing VNC anyway? Isn’t Microsoft RDP enough?

Microsoft RDP is a proprietary protocol which is mainly used in Windows operating systems for Terminal Services and Remote Desktop Connection. Upon connecting to the remote server, the user is initiating a new individual session on the server in the background. In practical terms, RDP supports multiple connections, and each session wouldn’t interfere or interact with one another. If you were to be in front of the server, you wouldn’t notice any visible evidence that the computer is being remotely accessed with Microsoft RDP by simply looking at its screen.

Virtual Network Computing (VNC) on the other hand is an open source solution which is platform-independent, and although it is widely used amongst *nix users (Linux, Solaris, BSD, etc) there are also Windows flavours which are widely popular amongst system administrators. VNC is a desktop sharing application, allowing a users accessing the server remotely to interact with it as if they were sitting right in front of it. In practical terms, this means that if more than one user was to connect to the server, they would all be sharing the same screen, keyboard and mouse; thus interfering and interacting with one another. If you were to be in front of the server, you would be able to watch all remote interactions as if there as a user sitting right in front of it (as if being used by a ghost). Because a VNC connection allows you to see exactly what is happening on the remote screen, it gives you an advantage to troubleshoot and configure computers remotely.

Installing VNC through RDP

First you need to choose a distribution of VNC you would like to use. I choose UltraVNC which supports plug-ins, encryption, file transfer and other neat features. For this document I assume you are going to use UltraVNC which you can download here.

  1. Log as administrator into your Windows Server through a Remote Desktop Connection. The next steps are to be performed on the Server.
  2. Download UltraVNC here.
  3. Install UltraVNC. When asked for the installation type, choose “UltraVNC Server Only“, but not the silent option.
  4. If you are asked to install Windows VISTA addons, you don’t need to select this option.
  5. If you are asked to install the mirror driver, I recommend you select this option.
  6. When asked, select the option to “Register UltraVNC as a system service” and continue with the installation.
  7. Once the installation is finished, go to your Start menu.

The problem is, VNC set-up doesn’t update the Windows Registry with the proper configuration when installed through remote desktop. In practice this means you can’t log into your ser through VNC because you can set a password for it. This is a common issue which is widely discussed in Internet forums, and the easiest way really is to import a registry file with the default configuration.

  1. Log as administrator into your Windows Server through a Remote Desktop Connection. The next steps are to be performed on the Server.
  2. Download this registry file which contains a default configuration for VNC.
  3. Open the file. Once asked to merge the file into the registry, click on yes.
  4. Reboot the server.

You should now be able to log in into your Windows Server. The default password is ‘Pass@word1‘ (without quotes). You should now be able change the password for the VNC server.


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