I'm currently using RealVNC to remote from Windows to Mac. However, the one thing I cannot get to work is copy/paste between Windows and Mac. I literally have to copy content into a file that both machines have access to.

Current Configuration

Here are my VNC Viewer settings:

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My Mac is configured as follows (I have blurred out user name):

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Things I've Tried

  • running VNC Viewer as admin
  • setting a VNC password in the Mac configuration
  • turning off my Firewall temporarily
  • rebooting both machines
  • hunting around my Mac for any other settings related to copy/paste
  • following the troubleshooting docs:
    1. I am copy/pasting small amounts of text well under 256KB
    2. I don't know what they are referring to when they say "VNC Server" and "check global permissions on the VNC Server Options > Users & Permissions page". As far as I can tell, no such thing exists on the Mac.
    3. Again, I don't know what they mean by "VNC Server".

Can anyone tell me the secret sauce to fixing this?

  • 1
    Perhaps the Software Recommendations Stack exchange might be better for this question
    – Lawrence
    May 7, 2019 at 3:54
  • added something to my answer responding to your edits.
    – DGoiko
    May 14, 2019 at 22:27
  • 1
    Btw, do not use that in untrusted networks, as the connections are not protected enough in vnc default protocol
    – DGoiko
    May 14, 2019 at 22:37
  • Did it work? I' not sure if copy paste is included in default vnc protocol, soy maybe it depends in software implementation?
    – DGoiko
    May 16, 2019 at 18:12
  • I tried Vncviewer from Ubuntu Linux to Mac OS X El Capitan standard VNC server. Copy paste to and from does not work. When connected to a Raspberry Pi/Raspbian with realvnc server, copy paste to and from works. Same problem using Remmina, another VNC client for Linux. The problem is surely on the Mac OS VNC server. Feb 15, 2021 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


Please, make sure you fullfilled the checklist referenced in the documentation:

  • Does the amount of text being copied and pasted exceed 256kB? If so, the entire paste operation will fail, and the last text copied to the Clipboard will be pasted instead.
  • Has VNC Server been configured to disable copy and paste? If you have access, check global permissions on the VNC Server Options > Users & Permissions page.
  • Has VNC Server been configured to prevent you copying and pasting? If you have access, check permissions for the user you are registered as on the VNC Server Options > Users & Permissions page.

If all the settings are correct, all I can say is that it should work out of the box without further configuration, so either you have something not properly installed or you have some short of firewall or sandbox protecting one of your clipboards, preventing the entire operation from succeding. I'm no mac or Windows expert, but Windows firewall SHOULD NOT be doing this (although, never tested it under W10).

I've little experience with RealVNC (never cross-platform), but with pure VNC it was straight-forward between linux and windows, so I see no reason for RealVNC missing the feature, specially considering they explicitly state it in their docs.

All this said, the most reasonable thing is to suppose you have a configuration issue or some unwanted interaction with other software. I suggest you the following, in order of difficulty and probability of success:

  1. Try executing VNC as admin in Windows side (I don't know if you can do it in MACs GUI, but I supose you can too, so try there too).
  2. Review the settings. Check if copy-pasting is disabled, either at user-level or system-level, in both sides.
  3. Do you have any software (not only antivirus) that may be interfering? If so, check the documentation in order to allow VNC to do its job.
  4. If it doesn't work, do a PROPER uninstall in both sides. Track the installation manually or use some deletion software, there're plenty of them.
  5. Reboot.
  6. Install latests versions. Try to have the same version in both computers. Use a lowr-than-the-last in one computer if needed.
  7. Reboot.

As a rule of thumb, network programs usually give less problems if used with the same version, however, the developer will probably state the compatibility range somewhere.

Edit to answer your modified question:

When we call about "clients" and "servers", to make things simple, you can say that the client is the one which MAKES A CALL (in this case connect to a remote machine) and the server is who RECIEVES such calls (in this case, sharing a desktop). To sum up, a VNC server is a program which waits for VNC clients to make a request and then shares it's screen with them.

VNC client is the windows software you use to connect, while VNC server seems to be a built-in mac software. In the past you could use the same RealVNC executable to act as a server and a client, but now they made a more commercial-driven software, VNC Connect, which is what you need to install in your MAC in order to share your desktop and copy paste with RealVNC. I'm not sure if this is free, though, but I think it isnt, check it out anyway.


  1. Disable screen sharing in your mac, using the window you pasted.
  2. Download VNC Connect in your mac here.
  3. Configure it for desktop sharing. It must be easy, however I'm not used tot hat piece of software.
  4. Use your VNC Client to connect. Most likely the settings on Windows will be exactly the same

Before all this, you could also try different VNC clients for Windows (like UltraVNC), maybe you're lucky and the problem is that RealVNC does not understand how your mac tries to send the clipboard info, but I think is a problem with the built-in vnc server of your mac.

  • 2
    Your answer seems to suggest installation of a server component (to ensure versions match and to configure its settings), but I know of no such thing. I'm just using the built-in Screen Sharing. Please see my updated question because I've added a lot of detail.
    – me--
    May 13, 2019 at 23:46
  • Thank you for your edits. It is crazy that after reading everything I could find on this subject, I had seen not one single mention that VNC Server was required over the built-in VNC software for copy+paste to work. It seems kinda crazy to me that it's 2019 and custom software is required for copy+paste, but there you go.
    – me--
    May 16, 2019 at 2:59
  • 1
    I' not sure if copy paste is included in default vnc protocol, soy maybe it depends in software implementation?
    – DGoiko
    May 16, 2019 at 18:12
  • I tried to find a free VNC server for Mac - and thought that TigerVNC does it, but apparently that one only offers the server for Linux and Windows, for Mac, it only has a client. I didn't really like RealVNC but eventually, I came across: superuser.com/questions/164576/… ... and that pointed me to NuoRDS, which is based on the remote desktop (RDP) protocol. It's also commercial but for me, it works better than VNC because of consistency (I use RDP for everything else).
    – Jashan
    Jan 6, 2020 at 11:58
  • I confirm that copy paste to and from Mac OS X Real VNC server works with vncviewer for Linux. It works even if screen sharing is disabled in Mac OS sharing preferences. However, a login seems is necessary so an internet connection seems necessary too. Let me shut down my internet connection to try this. Feb 15, 2021 at 17:41

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