Working Remotely on a Windows Machine from VSCode on a Mac


Mingze Gao, PhD

Macquarie University


May 22, 2020

Now I only need a MacBook (1.3 GHz dual-core i5) to do all my work anywhere, thanks to a powerful workstation provided by the university. Yet the workstation is based on Windows 10 and sitting behind the university VPN. I don’t want to use Remote Desktop every time I need to do some coding, so I decided to make it so I can code remotely on the workstation but from the lovely VSCode on my little MacBook.

1. Set up the Windows 10 host machine

The first step is to enable remote SSH login on the Windows machine. It is now super easy to do with the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). I use the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS distro but other Linux distros should work just fine. This will be the remote environment that I work in. Then I follow the instruction in SSH on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). The post is in great detail with step-by-step guidance. So I won’t repeat it again.

2. Set up the VSCode on Mac

The second step is to install the Remote-SSH extension on VSCode. Then simply ssh into the Ubuntu environment on Windows 10 host machine using the username and password created for the Ubuntu distro. In my case is A password prompt will of course kindly show up.

3. Use SSH key to avoid using password login

The annoying thing is that each time the window reloads and when I start VSCode, I need to manually type in my lengthy password. The better way must be using a SSH key instead.

To do so, open up the Terminal on the Mac and run:


A public-private key pair will be generated as ~/.ssh/ and ~/.ssh/id_rsa. Then we need to tell the host machine that this key can be used to identify myself so i can skip entering password next time:


It will ask for the password on the host machine to confirm I am who I am. But after this, starting VSCode will never ask my password again. What a relief!


Because the host machine is inside the university network, I need to first connect to the university VPN, otherwise the host address will not resolve. Still, it’s really great that I can code and run my programs remotely on the powerful 8-core 16-thread machine without feeling the hotness and noise, which turns out to be really important in the summer of Australia……

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