How to use X-Win32

Reviewed by Alan Forrest 6/17/2014

This file describes how to get an X server running on Windows to connect to department UNIX machines.  You can then display X applications back to your Windows machine.

We use the application X-Win32 within the department to provide a UNIX style X-Windows server on Windows machines.  This is installed on all department Windows machines when they are first set up. It can be installed or upgraded at a later date if necessary.   Before doing an upgrade, we recommend that you remove your old version of X-Win32.

To install X-Win32, you can get the latest software from the campus software distribution server.  You will need to enter your Onyen username and password required.  There are instructions for installing X-Win32 at this page.  Once installed, run X-Win32 from the Start Menu.

Warning! Do not enable windows firewall or any other firewall software to open the X11 server port! Enabling this poses a significant security risk.  If you get prompted to open the port, decline.  You should check your firewall settings to make sure the “X-Win32 PC X Server” is not enabled.  Please contact help@cs.unc.edu if you are not sure how to do this.

To access a host, you need to set up X-Win32 through its X-Config GUI program.  This program can be started from the Start Menu or from X-Win32 itself by choosing XConfig from the right-click menu of X-Win32’s notification area icon.  That is, right-click on the X icon in the lower right of the screen and choose Xconfig.

The online help for this product is excellent. It gives a nice intro to X Windows. Click on Help from the X-Win32 Configuration tool.

Second warning!  Make sure there are no extra hosts in the X-Host list, as follows:  The first time you start X-Win32, click on the Security tab of the Xconfig GUI. Click the “Add…” button and add the IP address to the X-Host list.  Make sure there are no other hosts in the list, and make sure any check boxes below the list are NOT checked!  The only secure way to use this product is to use the built in StarNet ssh to tunnel X connections to remote hosts.  If you do not follow this configuration, anyone on the internet can connect to your X server and see your screen and capture your keystrokes!


Setting up a session


X-Win32 can be set up to connect to several different UNIX machines and launch a program on the remote machine to be displayed back to your Windows machine.  For example, to create a connection to launch an xterm terminal back to your Windows machine click on the Sessions tab in the Xconfig GUI. Click the Wizard button.  The only safe supported way to make a connection is to select “StarNetSSH” to make your X connections!  Follow the Wizard to create an xterm connection to your favorite linux machine.  A typical program to enter in by “Command”
is “/usr/X11R6/bin/xterm -ls”.

To access your session connection left mouse click on the X icon in the lower right. A pick list of sessions will be displayed. Left click the session to start it.


Frequently Asked Questions


How do I copy and paste? Like UNIX, the left mouse button copies and the middle pastes. If you have a two button mouse, the third button is emulated by clicking BOTH buttons at the same time.  Also, sometimes X-Win32 is not set correctly to copy and paste as usual.  Make sure that (in X-Config) the option Other->Clipboard->Auto Copy is turned on and that Input->3-button Simulation->Auto is turned on as well.

How do I make the ALT key work? In X-Config, you can change which of the ALT keys are sent to X-Win32, by setting Input->Keyboard->Left ALT to X (and Right ALT to X).  If one of these is unset, the keypress will go to Windows.

How do I get rid of the window borders in single window mode, so it looks like a full X-Windows setup? In X-Config, choose Options->Window Settings->Single and select “Full Screen”.

Now that I made the X-Win32 take up the whole screen, how do I get back to the desktop? This one’s tricky. You can hit ALT (left one), let go, and then hit return.   (This pops up the menu allowing one to maximize, close, and minimize the main window.)  You can also switch between programs with ALT-TAB.