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What's really the difference between the RDP and VNC?

They both provide the same function and features?

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up vote 75 down vote accepted

RDP is semantic. The RDP is aware of controls, fonts, and other similar graphical primitives. This means that when rendering a screen across a network, this information is used to compress the data stream significantly. For instance, if you know that this region of the screen if occupied by a button, with the color grey, then you don't need to send an image of the button across the network, but merely information such as location of this button, size and color.

VNC is "dumb" in this respect, and largely functions by sending the actual images across the network.

RDP is tightly coupled to the Windows platform, where as VNC is availble for most platforms. RDP is also seen as far more performant then VNC, due to the semantic advantadge.

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One more thing: VNC allows you to share a session on the target machine (good for tech support and demos) where RDP does not. – J.T. Grimes Nov 27 '09 at 18:25
If you have the privileges, you can shadow another user's RDP session or the console session. It's not automatic, but it is possible. – Stephen Jennings Nov 27 '09 at 18:48
See this page for instructions on how to shadow RDP sessions:… – Stephen Jennings Nov 27 '09 at 18:51

RDP stands for Remote Desktop Protocol, and is a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft. (More from Wikipedia)

VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing, and is platform-independent. (More from Wikipedia)

Although I've seen the terms interchanged, RDP is usually used to refer to connecting to a Windows PC. Windows PCs have the RDP built into them, but there are clients for both Mac and Linux. Linux users can use rdesktop to connect to a Windows computer.

VNC requires a separate client running on a PC, but is platform-independent, so I can have a VNC client on my PC and connect to a Linux box running a VNC server. VNC programs can usually inter-connect with one another, and often include other features that RDP doesn't, like file-sharing/transfers and chatting with the person on the other computer.

Our very own Jeff Atwood even has a Coding Horror article from 2005 about the two protocols.

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Both RDP and VNC require a server on the remote system and a client on the local system. Not all windows pc's have the RDP Server built in. – menns Dec 11 '09 at 17:12

RDP logs you into the remote system just like being at the console (just with lag and DirectX support isn't that good)... VNC just transmits keystrokes and mouse inputs blindly and receives the desktop in what amounts to a streaming video.

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Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft, which provides a user with a graphical interface to connect to another computer over a network connection. The user employs RDP client software for this purpose such as logmein, on premise R-HUB remote support servers etc. while the other computer must run RDP server software. On other hand, Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is a graphical desktop sharing system that uses the Remote Frame Buffer protocol (RFB) to remotely control another computer.

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