I have a Raspberry Pi 3 running Raspbian OS version 9.3, with a small 3.5" touchscreen installed (as per these instructions).

Ideally, I would like to be able to have the RPI run two desktops, one local, which I can use to display information locally, whilst also being able to VNC into a larger one that I can otherwise use for development.

At the moment I have the touchscreen and RealVNC server setup and working well, however, this means that when I VNC in, I am met with a tiny 3.5" desktop, which is difficult to develop on.

How can I avoid this? I have tried to do so by running multiple desktops to no avail. I have tried to do this using a virtual desktop, but I can't seem to set up a full-sized virtual desktop alongside the small "physical" one.

Is this possible? If so, how is the best way to approach this?

  • If you state that you run the latest version, it will be untrue in the future. Please be precise (Jessie, Stretch and image date)!
    – MatsK
    Jan 26, 2018 at 12:35
  • Good point! How can I find the current OS version I'm running easily? Jan 26, 2018 at 14:37
  • cat /etc/debian_version 8.x=Jessie, 9.x = Stretch
    – MatsK
    Jan 26, 2018 at 15:02

2 Answers 2


I haven't got an answer as such but is it possible to configure the touchscreen as a separate display on a separate vncserver port(say port :1) so that VNC works as it should across the network to port :0


RealVNC is designed to mirror your desktop. While it can be setup to create a virtual desktop this is not its intended mode of operation. See VNC for setup setup instructions.

There are many VNC servers, tightvncserver is designed to create a virtual desktop which can be configured to match an arbitrary screen resolution. I normally use this to access a headless Pi.

The VNC servers are incompatible, you have to select one or the other.

  • That's not quite true, the RealVNC server package contains both service and virtual mode servers, you can use whichever one you need to, or both. Jan 26, 2018 at 16:06
  • So how would you do both? Do you need the enterprise version? Jan 27, 2018 at 8:44
  • @SLesslyTall I am not sure what (or who) you are asking. All VNC servers can create multiple virtual desktops. To mirror an existing physical desktop you need a x11vnc server, and matching client. You can find instructions for setting up a virtual desktop on RealVNC on their website.
    – Milliways
    Jan 27, 2018 at 9:17
  • @Milliways As mentioned in the question, my problem is that my physical desktop is displayed on a very small 3.5" touch-screen, whereas ideally I would like to have a much larger virtual desktop for development on that I can vnc into. Feb 4, 2018 at 23:36
  • @SLesslyTall so just setup a new virtual desktop
    – Milliways
    Feb 4, 2018 at 23:45

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