X Servers for Windows

From LSA IT

If you want to run a Linux or Mac X application remotely on your Windows machine, you will need two pieces of software on your Windows box: (1) an X server, and (2) an SSH client that tunnels the X traffic. PuTTY is the most popular standalone SSH client. ITS offers an installer package that installs PuTTY along with WinSCP.

Regardless of which SSH client you use, look for the setting to tunnel X11. This will probably be disabled by default but will need to be enabled before you can display X windows.

MobaXterm

MobaXterm is a nicely integrated product that combines the SSH client, X server, and SFTP client into one easy-to-get-started and easy-to-use application. IIt is free for personal use and can be downloaded from here. (Note that MobaXterm apparently uses Cygwin/X and PuTTY under the covers.)

Other X servers

The university licenses non-current versions of OpenText (formerly Hummingbird) Exceed that can be installed on university-owned machines, but the licensed version may not work with newer versions of Windows. Even for use on university machines, there is now a limited license pool. If you want Exceed, please consult with LSA IT. If you just want an X server, VcXsrv (or MobaXterm) is probably the best option.

Free or inexpensive options are:

  • VcXsrv (free). Windows X-server based on the xorg git sources (like xming or cygwin's xwin), but compiled with Visual C++ 2012 Express Edition.
  • Cygwin/X (free).
  • Xming (free or donation-ware). An older version of Xming is available for free, but access to the latest version require a small donation (about $20 is recommended). Note that the access (including updates) is limited to one year only, although the right to use is apparently perpetual. The license is granted to individual users, not institutions, but an Academic Site License is available. (IANAL statement: Even if you donate, it may not be legal to use your license on a university-owned machine, i.e., a machine that you do not personally own. To be safe, you should probably stick with the Public Domain release.)

There are a number of commercial X servers, some of which are very good, but they tend to be priced at about $70 and up. A sampling:

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