VNC vs RDP: Similarities and Differences

Remote desktop is the term applied to an operating system feature or software program that makes it possible for users to access remote devices from another location. Virtual Network Computing (VNC) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) are two of the more popular remote desktop standards. VNC is compatible across OSs; RDP used to be for Windows only, at least on the server side. In a VNC vs RDP scenario, which of these protocols is better? Let’s find out.

What Are the Purposes of VNC and RDP?

Just like other remote desktop protocols, VNC and RDP are used to connect to a remote device, whether it be at work, on the road or at home. Both protocols can enable the following:

Both VNC and RDP require software on the server and client side. The server is the device to be connected to, while the client is the connecting device. To enable client access to the server, the server software needs to be configured for remote access.

VNC server software works on all OSs. RDP server software is installed by default on all currently supported Windows Server versions, and Windows 10 Professional and above. There is already RDP server software for Linux and macOS. VNC and RDP client software is also widely available.

What Is VNC?

VNC uses the open remote framebuffer (RFB) protocol to access other devices remotely. RFB works on the framebuffer level, or that part of RAM used by video cards to display the data shown on computer screens. Framebuffer is present on all windowing OSs and applications, including macOS, Windows and the X Window System prevalent on Unix/Linux.

A typical VNC session starts with the client connecting to port 5900 on the server. Once a connection is established, the screen on the server is sent back to the client, pixel by pixel. Keystrokes and mouse clicks are also shared between client and server.

What Is RDP?

RDP is a proprietary protocol from Microsoft based on the ITU-T T.128 application-sharing protocol. A Windows device with an RDP server can receive remote connection requests from devices with RDP clients on either Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port 3389 or User Datagram Protocol (UDP) port 3389.

In lieu of framebuffers, RDP transmits sets of instructions for generating the server’s screen to the client. Once the instructions are sent over completely, the server’s screen appears on the client.

Windows NT 4.0 was the first Windows version installed with an RDP server. While Microsoft improved the RDP server in subsequent Windows versions, these were only backward compatible if the RDP in earlier Windows versions are also updated. RDP servers are now available on other OSs as well.

Windows XP had the first RDP client, then known as Terminal Services Client. All subsequent Windows versions came with their own client software. The current Microsoft RDP client is named Remote Desktop Connection. RDP clients are also available for other OSs.

What Are the Main Differences between VNC and RDP?

There are several major differences between VNC and RDP:

Enhance RDP with Parallels RAS

Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) provides an easy-to-install RDP client that can access digital workspaces securely from any compatible device, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, iOS, Android and HTML5.

The Parallels RDP Client lets users connect to Parallels RAS server farms and/or RDS infrastructures. It also allows you to work simultaneously on applications and desktops using multiple connection settings.

Drag and drop, multiscreen support and zoom are just some of the features in the Parallels RDP Client that are not available in Microsoft’s own RDP client. The Parallel RAS RDP client for Android and iOS also supports native gestures. For increased data security, the RDP Client also features integrated Touch ID and passcode capabilities.

With the peripheral redirection technology built into the Parallels Client, you can print locally on iOS and Android devices. Parallels RAS Universal Printing also enables users to print to their local printers directly without the need for additional configuration.

Download the trial to check the Parallels RDP Client for yourself.