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How to fix ‘Cannot currently show the desktop’ on Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi VNC Cannot Currently Show the Desktop

Time needed: 3 minutes.

If you installed a remote connection to your Raspberry Pi using VNC, it can happen you get a black screen with an error message ‘Cannot currently show the desktop’ on your next connection attempt. In this short tutorial we’ll see how you can fix this issue easily.

For this tutorial, our Pi is running on Raspberry Pi OS. And we assume you already established a remote connection using the RealVNC software. Have a look at our tutorial ‘Access your Raspberry Pi remotely from another computer‘ if this isn’t the case or if you need additional information.

  1. Reconnect temporarily a monitor to your Raspberry Pi

    The black screen comes when you boot your remote Pi while it isn’t connected to a monitor and you left the default screen resolution. To solve this issue and be able to boot without a monitor connected to your remote Pi, we have to change the Pi’s screen resolution.

    So, to be able to change the configurations, you temporarly need to have a monitor connected to your Pi and forget the remote connection for a short while.

    Or, another option is to connect through a ssh connection. If you do it this way, the ssh interface has to be configured as ‘enabled’ on your Pi.

  2. Boot your Raspberry Pi and open a terminal window

    Once you have back your screen on your Pi, click on the terminal icon on the taskbar (left upper corner of your screen), a terminal window will appear.

    Raspberry Pi terminal icon

  3. Find out your Raspberry Pi OS version

    Depending on the version of your Raspberry Pi OS, the fix will be slightly different. So before fixing the issue we have to find out which OS version we are running. If you didn’t change the default wallpaper, it’s easy to recognise:
    – wallpaper with tempels (see picture above) : version 10 (Buster)
    – wallpaper with lake (see picture below) : version 11 (Bullseye)

    Raspberry Pi OS 11 wallpaper
    If you changed the wallpaper or if you are accessing your Pi through a ssh-connection, enter the following command:
    cat /etc/os-release
    and look for the number after ‘VERSION_ID’.

  4. Switch to root user

    First, enter :
    sudo -s

  5. Only for version 10 : Change the display settings in your config.txt file as follows :

    Enter or copy and paste :
    echo 'hdmi_force_hotplug=1'>> /boot/config.txt
    echo 'hdmi_group=2'>> /boot/config.txt
    echo 'hdmi_mode=51'>> /boot/config.txt

    Raspberry Pi VNC screen error commands
    There are different ways how to change your display settings. In any case, these settings are kept in your config.txt file.

    It’s optional, but if you want to visualise the changes you just made in your config.txt file, enter :
    nano /boot/config.txt
    Have a look at the bottom of the file.

  6. Only for version 11 : Change the display settings in the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool (raspi-config) as follows :

    To open the raspi-config tool, enter :
    raspi-config
    Then, to be sure, we first update the tool to the latest version. Navigate with your keyboard arrows to :
    8 Update
    After the Update operation, the tool will restart automatically.
    Now we navigate to :
    2 Display Options
    then to :
    D5 VNC Resolution
    and select a resolution that suits you best. I always choose the maximum resolution :
    1920x1080
    Click on your ‘Tab’ and then ‘Enter’ key to select the choosen resolution.
    Click on ‘OK’ and then ‘Finish’ to save your settings.

  7. Reboot

    Now you can remove the HDMI-cable from your Pi if you want. A monitor directly connected to your Pi isn’t necessary anymore to have your screen back on the VNC viewer.
    Finally, enter :
    reboot

  8. Reconnect remotely with your VNC viewer.

    That’s it ! Now you can establish a remote connection to your Raspberry Pi again. And if you executed previous steps carefully, the black screen with ‘Cannot currently show the desktop’ won’t appear any more.

    Raspberry Pi VNC_authenticate

Remark

If you want to change the display settings to a lower resolution for example, you can do it with the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool (raspi-config). You’ll find more information how to use this tool in the Raspberry Pi documentation : https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/computers/configuration.html

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1 thought on “How to fix ‘Cannot currently show the desktop’ on Raspberry Pi

  1. Thanks for this : I was pulling my limited hair out.
    You can also ssh into the pi and tun your commands.

    Thanks again.

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