How To Display X Applications On Windows

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In order to display an X application running on a Unix/Linux box on your Windows workstation, you need to do two things:

  1. when you connect to the Unix/Linux box with ssh, you must do so with the 'tunnel X11 connections' option turned on; and
  2. you must run an X server on your Windows workstation with appropriate permissions.

Below, you will find instructions on how to use X-Win32 as your X server for Windows. The demo of the latest version of X-Win32 is limited to only 30 minutes of operation at a time, at which point you must restart it and your ssh connection. X-Win32 is probably the most intuitive of the X servers available for Windows, but others do exist (see Notes, below). Instructions for these other X-servers is not provided.

Note that the terminology may be confusing: the "X server" (such as X-Win32) runs on your workstation, and the "X client" (the program you want to run, such as xclock) runs on the remote machine. Just remember that the X server is providing input and display services for the X client programs.

X-Win32 and SSH

Install and Configure X-Win32

  1. Install X-Win32: Download X-Win32 and install it. ECE has a site license for research use on certain subnets. Without the license, X-Win32 will run for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time in demo mode; you will need to purchase the product if you find this limit unacceptable.
  2. Configure X-Win32: Launch X-Config (Start Menu | Programs | X-Win32 5.4 | X-Config) and select the Security tab. Add to the xhost list as shown in this image.

Xapps xwin32-config.png

Download and Configure SSH

You may use either the commercial SSH Secure Shell client or PuTTY, as described in How To Use SSH.

  1. To configure SSH Secure Shell: Launch the Secure Shell Client (Start Menu | Programs | SSH Secure Shell | Secure Shell Client) and open the settings dialog box (Edit | Settings). Select Tunneling and enable "Tunnel X11 connections" as shown in this image: Xapps ssh-config.png
  1. To configure PuTTY: Launch PuTTY. In the initial dialog box, under Connection | SSH | X11, select "Enable X11 forwarding": Xapps putty-x11fwd.png


  1. Launch X-Win32.
  2. Launch the SSH client (SSH Secure Shell or PuTTY) and connect to the Unix/Linux server of your choice.
  3. In the SSH Secure Shell, enter an X command to launch the X application. (e.g.: type xterm & to launch an xterm)


  • Another, cheaper X-Server for Windows is MI/X.
  • Cygwin, a free unix-like environment for Windows, includes the free Cygwin/X X server.
  • Consider using Linux or Mac OS X instead of Windows. (The Mac OS X installation disc includes an X server, but it is not installed by default.)

See Also