I have run into a strange problem. I have a remote host running Windows 7. A VirtualBox VM instance is running Ubuntu.

The host runs a TightVNC server. The Ubuntu desktop is also VNC-enabled.

On a local Windows 7 system (a laptop), I use the TightVNC client to connect to either of the two systems.

  1. If I connect to the Ubuntu VM directly, the ESC and Backspace keys work fine.

  2. If I connect to the Windows 7 host, I cannot use ESC or Backspace in the Ubuntu guest. Nothing happens when these keys are typed; the key stroke events go to the proverbial bit bucket.

  3. The keys work fine locally: the issue shows up only when accessing the Windows system remotely via VNC.

  4. The issue is specific to the keys. I can obtain the ESC and backspace characters in the virtual machine by typing Ctrl-[ and Ctrl-H, respectively.

  5. The issue is not specific to the keyboard software layout or hardware. Switching among languages using the Windows language bar makes no difference, and it makes no difference whether I use the laptop's built-in keyboard, or plug in a USB keyboard.

  6. It is not a guest OS problem. The issue occurs not only in the Ubuntu machine, but in a VirtualBox instance running OS X, as well as a Solaris.

  7. The VirtualBox GUI itself accepts the keys and processes them normally. For instance if I invoke Machine/Settings, I can dismiss that dialog with ESC.


Looks like a two-year-old TightVNC bug: http://sourceforge.net/p/vnc-tight/bugs/1239/

The workaround worked for me: installing the 32 bit TightVNC on the remote Windows host, instead of the 64 bit build.

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You can also directly VNC into the virtual machine.

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  • Welcome to Super User. This is just a concept to pursue for the OP to develop their own solution, so it would be better as a comment. For an answer post, consider expanding it to make it more of an actionable solution. From review. – fixer1234 Jul 29 '17 at 5:14

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