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How to Connect to a CentOS 7 Server via Remote Desktop Connection using xRDP

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Step 1 – Install xRDP on CentOS 7

First, update your package index:

sudo yum -y update
$ sudo yum install -y epel-release
$ sudo yum install -y xrdp
$ sudo systemctl enable xrdp
$ sudo systemctl start xrdp

If you’re using FirewallD, then open port 3389/tcp for RDP:

$ sudo firewall-cmd --add-port=3389/tcp --permanent
$ sudo firewall-cmd --reload

Step 2 – Install Your Preferred Desktop Environment

Now we can install the desktop environment we’ll be using. In this guide we’ll try out XFCE, MATE, and GNOME.

If you’re looking for a lightweight and resource friendly solution, install XFCE.

NOTE: If you can’t connect via Remote Desktop Connection after you’ve installed the desktop environment, then open port 3389/tcp using the firewall-cmd command mentioned above.

1. Install XFCE Desktop Environment

XFCE is one of the most lightweight desktop environments. It’s fast, low on system resources, while still visually appealing. Additionally, it has a very active community, so there are many customization options available.

To install XFCE, run the following commands:

$ sudo yum install -y epel-release
$ sudo yum groupinstall -y "Xfce"
$ sudo reboot

Next, create the .Xclients file in the directory of the user you’re connecting with:

$ echo "xfce4-session" > ~/.Xclients
$ chmod a+x ~/.Xclients

Now you can connect to the server using Remote Desktop Connection.

Here is what XFCE looks like:

XFCE

Uninstalling XFCE

To uninstall XFCE from your CentOS 7 machine, run the following commands:

$ sudo yum groupremove -y "Xfce"
$ sudo yum remove -y libxfce4*

2. Install MATE Desktop Environment

To install MATE, run the following commands:

$ sudo yum install -y epel-release
$ sudo yum groupinstall -y "MATE Desktop"
$ sudo reboot

Next, create the .Xclients file in the directory of the user you’re connecting with:

$ echo "mate-session" > ~/.Xclients
$ chmod a+x ~/.Xclients

Now you can connect to the server using Remote Desktop Connection.

Here is what MATE looks like:

MATE

Uninstalling MATE

To uninstall MATE from your CentOS 7 machine, run the following commands:

$ sudo yum groupremove -y "MATE Desktop"
$ sudo yum autoremove -y

3. Install GNOME Desktop Evironment

We’ll now install GNOME 3.

To do this, we’ll just have to install the GNOME Desktop package group, which will install all the packages required for the GUI installation.

$ sudo yum groupinstall "GNOME DESKTOP" -y

This may take a while. There were ~1000 packages installed on a minimal CentOS 7 installation.

Start the GUI

Although we installed the GNOME Desktop package group, the GUI will not be loaded by default on reboot.

We can check this by running:

$ systemctl get-default

Output:

multi-user.target

If our default target is multi-user.target, it means that the GUI will not be loaded. What we want is to set the default target to graphical.target.

To do this, run the following commands:

$ sudo systemctl set-default graphical.target

Output:

Removed symlink /etc/systemd/system/default.target.
Created symlink from /etc/systemd/system/default.target to /usr/lib/systemd/system/graphical.target.

After which, run the following command to change to the GUI immediately:

$ sudo systemctl isolate graphical.target

That’s it. You can now connect via xRDP to your CentOS 7 machine using GNOME.

Here is what GNOME 3 looks like, the first time you connect after installing. Just follow the initial configuration steps to finish setting up.

GNOME 3

Uninstalling GNOME

To uninstall GNOME from your CentOS 7 machine, run the following commands:

$ sudo yum groupremove -y "GNOME Desktop"
$ sudo yum autoremove -y

Step 3 – Connect to Your Machine Using Remote Desktop Connection

With xRDP and your desktop environment installed, you can now connect from your local machine to the remote machine.

How you do this depends on your operating system.

Connect from Windows

To connect to your server from Microsoft Windows, just search and launch the Remote Desktop Connection application and input your hostname or IP:

input_hostname_or_ip_in_remote_desktop_connection

If this is your first time connecting, then you’ll receive some security warnings. Assuming this is your server and it is secure then just go ahead and confirm them.

confirm_security_warning

confirm_security_warning

Connect from Linux

To connect from a Linux machine, a great option for using remote desktop connection is Remmina. Remmina is a wonderful free and open-source remote desktop client that supports Remote Desktop Protocol, VNC, NX, XDMCP, SPICE and SSH protocols.

linux_to_linux_remote_desktop_connection

To use Remmina to connect from Linux to your remote machine, just run Remmina after installing it, click the `+` in the top left corner and fill in your remote machine’s IP/Hostname, Username and Password.

If you’re running Debian/Ubuntu/CentOS/Fedora locally, you can install Remmina using the following commands:

Debian/Ubuntu

$ sudo apt-get install remmina remmina-plugin-*

CentOS/RHEL

$ yum install remmina remmina-plugins-*

Fedora 22

$ sudo dnf copr enable hubbitus/remmina-next
$ sudo dnf upgrade --refresh 'remmina*' 'freerdp*'

 

 

You’ll notice we are also installing `remmina-plugins-*` because our main interest is installing the Remmina RDP plugin, as it may not be installed by default.

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