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I have a Linux server at home and would like to set up a Windows virtual machine on it that my girlfriend would access using her old laptop as a "thin" client. Her laptop is really old and my server is quite powerful so I feel this would be a good alternative to buying a brand new laptop for her.

Ideally, her laptop should boot directly into the VM (I'm not sure if such a thing is possible) so that it is totally transparent to her.

Is such thing possible? My best solution so far is to set up VNC server on the virtual machine and a VNC client on her laptop but I was wondering if there were better alternatives. I've read a bit on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure but most information I found was targeted at large enterprises.

I would prefer to use open source software that runs on Linux but I will consider proprietary solutions if not open source alternative exists.

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You want to be able to boot to a remote virtual machine that's tough even with the correct hardware it's an unrealistic goal. – Ramhound Mar 6 '14 at 11:28
How old is the laptop ? I have a 'really old' laptop (about 10 years old) and it runs Linux fine. – Lawrence Mar 6 '14 at 12:15

You can run virtual machine in VirtualBox in headless mode (without visible screen and RDP connection enabled) on you linux server. On old laptop you need to setup Netstation Linux (small unix distribution targeted specifically for thin clients). Netstation automatically connect thru RDP to virtual machine. Easy :)

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Thanks for the Netstation Linux recommendation. – Olivier Lalonde Mar 6 '14 at 12:50

Yes, it is possible.

Depending what you use you can setup VNC in the installation of the VM (VirtualBox). No further installation of any software inside the VM like VNC server is needed. (VMWare has a similar option somewhere)

On the Laptop you install a minimal Linux with graphic and a VNC client. Then you configure the VNC client to start right after the login. Use the IP and port of the host system (not the VM itself). Configure the Linux on the Laptop to autologin and your girlfriend will probably not recognize that she is not on the Laptop directly ;-)

Hope it shows you a way. If you need more details please ask.


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Sounds right! I just found out about which seems to be a Linux distro that can boot directly into a VNC/RDP client. – Olivier Lalonde Mar 6 '14 at 12:49

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