How to Access Your Raspberry Pi Desktop Remotely

The Raspberry Pi is probably my favourite invention of the last 20 years.  I had one pre-ordered when RS Components and Farnell were the only two providers in the UK who could sell you one, and I frantically hounded my friend Aimee (who worked at RS) until it arrived on release day.

Over the years I’ve bought several more and always seem to find uses for them, usually not involving having a keyboard, mouse or monitor attached.  This presents a problem; how the hell are you supposed to use the thing if you need to make configuration changes?  Thankfully it’s quite easy when you know how.

For this guide I’m going to assume you’re running the standard Raspberry Pi distro – Raspbian.  If you’re using another OS read on as this may still help you, but the actual step-by-step instructions may not work.

Step 1 – Connect your Pi to a network

It might go without saying, but if you want to remotely control your Pi you’ll need to connect it to a network so that other devices can see it.  You can do this easily enough by plugging in a network cable, or if you want to use WiFi you’ll need a compatible USB WiFi adapter (unless using a Pi3 which has WiFi built in).

Step 2 – Turn on Remote Access

On your Raspberry Pi:

  • Click the Applicationsdropdown menu
  • Highlight Preferences
  • Click on Raspberry Pi Configuration
  • Click the Interfaces Tab
  • Click the Enable button next to VNC
  • A VNC Server icon will appear on the taskbar, click it.
  • In the VNC Server window that opens, follow the onscreen instructions to create a VNC account and login to it

Step 3 – Download VNC Viewer for your client device

If you’re going to control your Raspberry Pi from a smartphone or tablet you can go to your devices app store and download the VNC app from there.  Then login to your VNC account and you should see your raspberry Pi device.

If you’re on a PC or Mac:

  • Go to www.realvnc.com
  • Click on the Downloads Tab
  • Scroll down until you see “Looking for VNC Viewer?” and click on it
  • Select the appropriate download for your operating system
  • The installation files will download to your PC
  • Run the installer and then open the VNC Viewer application
  • Login with your VNC account details and your Raspberry Pi should appear under the devices list.
  • Double click on the icon to connect
  • The default login details for a Raspberry Pi are:
    • Username: Pi
    • Password: raspberry

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