Windows 7 on a Raspberry Pi (sort of)

Microsoft Windows, you say? Love it or hate it, some of you are stuck with having to use it, thanks to decisions made higher up the tree at work. As you probably know, the Raspberry Pi can’t run Windows – but the guys at Citrix have come up with a third way.

This video shows Citrix’s XenDesktop remote desktop running a Windows 7 virtual desktop session. Run a bunch of instances of Windows on your server, push the displays out to many Raspberry Pis, and you’ve got a cheap way of getting Windows onto desks at work, without having to fork out for a full-cost PC. We’re beginning to understand that there are ways to lower the cost of ownership using a Raspberry Pi even for businesses which aren’t prepared to switch over entirely to open-source software – neat, isn’t it?



John Lawman avatar

Errrr, this is news how?

With software like tightvnc & rdesktop (MS Windows) this is hardly a big deal.

The only difference with XendDesktop is the remote desktop is a “cloudy” saas.

liz avatar

It’s kind of important to realise, John, that there are people out there who aren’t familiar with VNCs, and who aren’t aware that this sort of option’s open to them – those are, largely, the sort of people we hope will be buying Raspberry Pis. For people who aren’t lucky enough to be like you, it’s news.

Fang avatar

Sorry to point this out to you Liz, Citrix is way more obscure than VNC.

adrian.oconnor avatar

Hahaha! Are you serious? Sorry to point this out to you, Fang, but just because you haven’t heard of something does not make it obscure.

Citrix was *THE* software to run virtual desktops all through the 90s. Citrix came before Microsoft’s remote desktop (in fact, Windows’ Terminal Server was based on a Citrix product). Citrix are still very import in the world of enterprise virtual desktops, which is why this news story makes sense.

How, do you suppose, would you create and manage 200 remote desktops from one server using VNC? That was rhetoric, of course because you wouldn’t, you’d use Citrix.

ttgrules avatar

And we have these flame wars why? We should all just address the main topic: The Raspberry Pi is AWESOME!

Jeff avatar

Is this how geeks fight?

adrian.oconnor avatar

@ttgrules: Ah, something about Fang’s tone of voice riled me. I should have left it, you’re quite right.

@Jeff: Hell yes.

It’s like the XKCD comic — I can’t come to bed now… Somebody on the internet is *wrong*.

Steve avatar

Confused…someone who doesn’t know about VNC et al, but will have a Citrix server available ? Can’t be too many of those around :-) Surprised so many Pi’s have been sold if they are the target market !

Chris H avatar

Well said, Liz.

Robert avatar

Of course this is very big, R Pi sets a new standard for a thin client!! Although I think you’d need a hefty server to cope with multiple client instances for it not to feel “slow”.

Chris H avatar

“I’ll make a flippant comment holding everyone else to my own high standards so they can see how clever they should be, just like me!”

…or not.

Matt avatar

Hey John,

How do you plan to run separate sessions to windows servers with VNC or how do you plan to run RDP on the PI?

Peter avatar

but what if you make a Beowulf cluster out of, say, 10 Pi’s and then run a virtual machine on them….wouldn’t that work?

James Scott avatar

That’s not how Beowulf works. So no.

This could have advantages over VNC and other remote desktop solutions, like acceleration and acting like a full Windows terminal. Citrix for Playbook for example is awesome compared to other remote desktop solutions.

Nicholas Flynt avatar

That wouldn’t work even if you could process in parallel. The biggest issue is that Windows is compiled for an x86 processor, and the R-Pi has an ARM processor. The only way to run windows is to do a very slow sort of emulation by translating each individual opcode from one set to the other. Doing this on the fly is called “Interpretation” and another technique that works well is called JIT, which is short for Just-In-Time compiling. They’re both very complicated and not nearly fast enough to run windows.

The other main issue is the lack of RAM; while the cluster would solve this issue partly, any newer version of windows consumes nearly a Gig (!) of RAM just by itself, and you’d be swapping pages across the network constantly to do anything. You might be able to get some performance out of Win 98 or Win XP (which are much lighter on memory consumption) but it’s still going to be very slow.

If you’re bent on trying, what you want is something more like Qemu, which can do the kind of emulation needed to simulate x86 on another platform.

Peter avatar

windows 8 will be able to run on ARM processors…so couldnt you run it on a bunch of raspberry pi’s?? (ten would give 7Ghz and 2 GB of RAM…)

Jonathan C avatar

Well significantly cheaper than Wyse terminals… Not sure they’ll be too worried about the competition yet though since businesses can only buy the one and have to wait a couple of months for it to arrive ;)

sab avatar

Well, that’s just cheating!

Peter avatar

hahahaha!!!(smiley face)

cnxsoft avatar

I’ve run Windows 8 with FreeRDP in the emulator.
Still waiting for my Pi to test it in the real hardware :).

PS: It seems the forum login is not sync with wordpress anymore. Maybe it;s a side effect of moving to phpBB.

Peter avatar

another problem I noticed today is that all the images in the forums are squished

Jancis avatar

statement, “not everyone is lucky enough to be nerd”, makes me feel special.

Steven Sumpter avatar

As soon as I heard about the Raspberry Pi I thought it would find a good purpose as a thin client. Apart from possible use in business, schools could roll out Raspberry Pies to all the desktops and use them to access Windows servers or Edubuntu via LTSP as well as teach programming with them. I’m going to have a Pi that will be used to access my PC in another part of my house.

XenGi avatar

I won’t use it, but I think this is the cheapest thin client someone could get. 35$ RPi + 10$ ModMyPi case. Nobody can beat this.

oztrailrider avatar

My thoughts exactly. Once video drivers come along and the issues with SD cards settle down this could be a very cheap application for businesses that already use thin clients, they could make their own locked down images simply to allow launching of virtualised desktops as seen in the video above. A ModMyPi case has VESA mount holes ready to go so that the Pi’s could be mounted to the back of monitors all neat and tidy while using very little power and space. Interesting for sure.

Lee Dowling avatar

Well, actually it’s RPi + power adaptor + monitor + case + SD card + setup time + all the usual overheads (cables, etc.). Which could easily bring it into the £100+ category before you even start if you’re intending to sell them to businesses, or even if you do all the work and support yourself (business time != free).
And then, let’s be honest, all you’ll be running is Linux “fat”-clients, not thin-clients and you’d spend you’re life updating the software, diagnosing software faults, fsck’ing the SD card, etc.
For business use, a purpose-built thin-client would be cheaper, easier, less support hassle, more integrated and more standardised, and not one bit more expensive than using a RPi setup made to the same standard.
Sure you could Heath-Robinson something up quite cheaply but the expensive bits aren’t the “motherboard” (if you like) but the casings, standard attachments and most importantly time (support time, maintenance time, installation time, etc.)

Hans Harder avatar

nonsens, most thin client you buy are based on linux.
The best thing is that you can take a thinclient distro like ThinStation and you can tinker it to you linkings and make it perform as you wish.
The RPi is static, if it breaks replace it or replace the SD card.

AndrewS avatar

“For business use, a purpose-built thin-client would be cheaper”
Really? Every time I’ve (casually) looked at thin-clients, I’ve always been shocked at how expensive they are! Don’t they also need power adaptors, monitors and cables?
I’d love to see a concrete example of a commercial thin-client that’s cheaper than a RPi.

reiuyi avatar

I can back this up. A thin client can cost up to 200-300 euros and you still need to purchase individual licenses (which you must buy from the thinclient provider, otherwise you’re not getting the client). It’s a silly construction but keep in mind a thin client uses MUCH less power, much less ICT personnel; in 5 or 6 years it’ll be a fraction of the cost of a fat client (which can cost thousands for a company including maintenance, personnel, etcetera

babelmonk avatar

XenDesktop is a great corporate solution for Windows, though obviously comes at a price (and the price for the client software is high as well as you need terminal services licenses). I’m going to (when I get around to it) investigate / benchmark NXClient on the Pi – as this is a great open source alternative, especially when combined with something like OpenOffice or even Crossover Wine running Office (with the appropriate licenses of course!) – that has potential in the education environment.

MarcoA avatar

Thank you, but there is no need to run MS Windows on RPi. ;)

David avatar

And Windows 8? I think it can be very intressting an a Rasberry Pi and a touchscreen.

cnxsoft avatar

The problem with Windows 8 is that it will only allow one instance at a time. So if you are logging in you main computer, and do remote desktop with the raspberry pi, it will log you out.

FCary avatar

Ok, now the next experiment I want to see is the last KDE release over RasPi, if necessary with a USB working as SWAP memory… I would try myself but as everynow know is almost impossible buy a RasPi :’S

Samarth avatar

So turn the raspberry pi into a thin client?

That’s completely missing the point!

mahjongg avatar

Yes, but stranger things are done with the R-Pi.

Rob Thomas avatar

No its just another of the 101 uses for a Pi

Crundy avatar

I mentioned on the forums a while back that one of the first things I was going to do when I finally get my RPi is to set it up to boot a saved EC2 instance on startup and then RDP to it. That way you could have an entire office running windows with an active directory (virtual) server but each “PC” only costs $25 (excluding screen etc) plus $0.02 / running hour for admin machines or $0.12 / running hour for developer machines. Even cheaper with reserved instances, plus you can back up entire computers automatically.

Crundy avatar

Huh, just as I finished typing that I got my email allowing me to order my Pi :)

Gibbio avatar
RPI Thin Client project, all ready, just… board is still missing… ARR!

Cesar Ramirez avatar

To those people that are commenting that this is not new, well it’s is true, thin clients are not new but that does not mean that they should not mention it. There are a lot of people out there who are not familiar with the concepts and some technologies like pcoip and rdp that provide a really good support for remote desktops.

I am really excited and I am awaiting for my rpi really badly. At my university I worked in a project that developed a client and server platform for deploying low-cost thin client(I mean really low cost, no HDD, 256mb of ram, pentium d/4) and I would really love to get my rpi to keep working in this project see what else I could come up.

Thanks Liz and the entire RPI Foundation for the great work!

YungBlood avatar

I’m curious if it’s possible to run WinCE on RPi…

mahjongg avatar

If someone buys a license, and ports windows CE to the R-PI its theoretically possible, obviously the first part of the above sentence makes this very unlikely

Saif avatar

Of course you would need to pay for for the Windows 7 licenses on the server and presumably also for the XenDesktop licenses…But this would be ideal for something the LTSP (, requiring little storage on the pi at all to distribute an environment all around the office/house/classroom. Does the pi have PXE network boot? if it doe,s an SD-less boot beckons.

mahjongg avatar

An SD-card is needed in any case, because its the only medium the R-PI will boot from, after that the boot can continued via another medium, but initial boot is always from the SD-card.

Ray avatar

Is this what Mac users call a “Windows downgrade”?

mahjongg avatar

The R-PI only functions as an intermediary for screens of a windows system running on another (x86 based) system, and sends keyboard and mouse events back, it doesn’t itself run windows. It is still just running Linux.

Lucas avatar

??? Why do all this complicated stuff with Citrix when you could just download Oracle Virtual Box And Install Windows OS’ from there???????

reiuyi avatar

The OS is not running on the raspberry pi, it’s running on a huge fat xenon-based server which will outperform any CPU-emulating program you can think of

Rob Thomas avatar

Well I posted this a couple of days ago ….

No need for Citrix …. but still a need for Windows ;-)

No comments though :-(

Dale Mitchell avatar

Using remote desktop software and connecting to another machine is not “running” Windows on the Raspberry Pi.

JamesH avatar

Hence the tag line ‘sort of’…..or did you miss that?

Dale Mitchell avatar

There’s no such thing as sort of. It’s either the real thing or not. The title of this article is misleading.

Malvineous avatar

Is this running an existing ARM binary of the Citrix client, or did the Citrix people actually compile a specific version just for the Pi? If so, it’s almost newsworthy itself that an enterprise-focused company like Citrix is paying attention to the Raspberry Pi!

Matteo Bernardini avatar

just to leave more open and free alternatives: qemu-kvm windows virtual machines with spice ( ) and virt-viewer on the raspberrypi.

Lennie avatar

Yep, Spice & KVM was my idea too, I just need to setup a build environment for the spice client…

Wouter Rademaker avatar

A big problem with remote desktops is that they are very bad in fast changing things on the screen, like movies and animations. If you want to do that right, it will need massive amounts of processing power, all decoding must be done in software on the server, and network bandwidth. Much educational software is based around movies and animations. That makes remote desktops less usable for schools.

JamesH avatar

Indeed. Which is why you would run the animations directly on the device. This post was simply to show something that is possible.

Sheepman avatar

Possible, yes. Useful to 99% of the Pi users currently I would suggest is approaching zero. Tech people will already be aware of this sort of technology, Non techy people will now think they can run Win 8 on thier Pi’s because they don’t understand the technicalities involved.

Mitchel avatar

Citrix XenApp/Desktop can redirect multimedia to local resources, this means that your video is not running on the server but on the raspi itself via virtual channels in the ICA protocol. Like to see if citrix can make that working, if so… HP, VXL, NEXTerminal etc should worry about it, a good performing thinclient costs around 180-300 euro’s…

Peter avatar

windows 8 will be able to run on ARM processors…so couldnt you run it on a bunch of raspberry pi’s?? (ten would give 7Ghz and 2 GB of RAM…)

eggbox06 avatar

Thanks Liz, one of the things about the RPi is it should encourage experimentation no matter what platform you use, because at the end of the day it benefits us all.

Jungle-Boogie avatar

Low power computing and access to tons of storage:
raspberry pi pxe booting with pogoplug with arch linux arm.

Anyone think this is possible?

Mike Alexander avatar

It’s occurred to me recently that the R Pi could make a very cheap print server, what with the built-in ethernet and USB host – another potential business use.

Aaron avatar

Thin clients, eh? At least they won’t be connecting to a server the size of a room this time round…

Kevin Gibson avatar

Remmina works fine on the Pi.


apt-get install remmina

and you have a GUI for Windows RDP, VNC, SSH, SFTP etc. It also offers to act as a VNC server, though I haven’t tried that.

I use it all the time from Linux Mint and it seems to work similarly well on the Pi.


Woo avatar

Continuing the RDP theme, every recent Windows PC has a free RDP client and Linux has a Free RDP server called xrdp available. Though I’m having trouble getting it running on Ubuntu at the moment, ‘your Mileage may vary’.

Derek avatar

How do you install this on a raspberry pi?

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