The 6 Best Virtual Network Computing (VNC) Software

These remote desktop sharing apps keep you connected

Virtual Network Computing (VNC) technology enables sharing a copy of one computer's screen display with another computer over a network connection. Also known as remote desktop sharing, VNC is typically used by people wanting to monitor or control a computer from a remote location rather than just accessing shared files.

The following free software packages provide VNC functionality. VNC software consists of a client user interface plus a server that manages connections to clients and sends desktop images. Some applications only support Windows PCs, while others are portable across different types of network devices.

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What We Like
  • Free to download and install.

  • Very easy to learn and use.

  • Simple to configure on remote machines.

  • Small footprint (consumes little system resources).

What We Don't Like
  • Screen updates can lag at times.

  • Consumes more network resources than other VNC alternatives.

  • Application appearance is somewhat outdated.

  • Lacks advanced features offered by other VNC apps.

The TightVNC Server and Viewer use special data encoding techniques designed to better support lower-speed network connections. First released in 2001, the latest versions of TightVNC run on all modern flavors of Windows, and a Java version of the Viewer is also available.

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What We Like
  • Works on all OS platforms.

  • Extensions available for advanced authentication and encryption.

  • Large online user community.

What We Don't Like
  • Advanced features may require a learning curve for new users.

The creation of TigerVNC software was initiated by Red Hat with the goal of improving on TightVNC. TigerVNC development started from a snapshot of TightVNC code and has expanded support to include Linux and Mac as well as Windows, plus various performance and security enhancements.

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RealVNC: VNC Connect

What We Like
  • Home versions free to install and use.

  • Lightweight and fast.

  • Any VNC client can connect to a RealVNC server.

  • Available for multiple platforms.

What We Don't Like
  • May experience performance issues inside corporate networks.

  • Configuration is more advanced (and more difficult) than other VNC alternatives.

  • Mostly geared to Enterprise users.

The company RealVNC sells VNC Connect, which includes commercial versions of its VNC products (Professional Edition and Enterprise Edition) but also supplies the Home Subscription, which is free for personal, non-commercial use. While it's not for commercial use, it may be useful for advanced home users that only need the occasional VNC.

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Chicken (of the VNC)

What We Like
  • Lightweight and fast.

  • Automatically discovers VNC servers on a network.

  • Strong encryption features.

  • Remote screen updates are very accurate.

What We Don't Like
  • Only available for Mac PCs.

  • Only includes a VNC client.

Based on an older software package called Chicken of the VNC, Chicken is an open source VNC client for Mac OS X. The Chicken package does not include any VNC server functionality, nor does the client run on any other operating system than Mac OS X. Chicken can be paired with various VNC servers including UltraVNC.

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What We Like
  • Ultra-fast.

  • Supports many encryption protocols.

  • Supports full Retina display.

  • Intuitive window scaling.

What We Don't Like
  • No permanent free version available.

  • Only available for Mac PCs.

  • Does not support multiple monitors.

  • Complicated configuration for beginners.

JollysFastVNC is a shareware VNC client for Mac created by software developer Patrick Stein. While the developer strongly encourages regular users to purchase a license, the software is free to try. JollysFastVNC is designed for speed (responsiveness) of remote desktop sessions and also integrates SSH tunneling support for security.

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Mocha VNC Lite

What We Like
  • Available for both iOS and Android.

  • Can connect to servers running on various platforms.

  • Supports zooming as well as portrait or landscape modes.

  • Good performance and speed.

What We Don't Like
  • Has a five-minute session time limit.

  • No support for multimonitors.

  • Free version only supports standard keyboard keys.

  • Session traffic is unencrypted.

Mochasoft provides both a full commercial (pay, not free) version and this free Lite version of its VNC client for Apple iPhone and iPad. Compared to the full version, Mocha VNC Lite lacks support for special key sequences (like Ctrl-Alt-Del) and some mouse functions (like right-click or click-and-drag). The company has tested this client with various VNC servers including RealVNC, TightVNC and UltraVNC.

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