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I monerod running on headless node in my home. Let's say I want to use the GUI wallet as a light wallet on a different computer in my home, and I'll just use the node's daemon/blockchain. Is the process just as easy as downloading a pre-compiled binary? Would I have to also build from source?

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There are no pre-compiled GUI binaries released yet. When beta is released you will be able to download binaries but for now you need to build them yourself.

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After some experimenting, I have news on this question.

A trusted Monero contributor provided me with an unofficial pre-built binary (actually, it was a directory of files, plus an executable to run the GUI), since I wanted to help test the GUI. I ran into some difficulties, but got it working with community help.

The short answer is no, the GUI does not have to be built from source in order for it to sync with a daemon (monerod) built from source, but the short answer is misleading.

I found out that the GUI does need to be built from the same version of the daemon that the GUI is connecting to. In my case, I was able to enter my local IP address in the Settings tab of the GUI wallet, and then the GUI wallet connected to my daemon. Unfortunately, the GUI wallet was unable to sync due to the version mismatch.

This answer may not always be the case, but it was my experience.

Edit: evidence suggests that the term "version mismatch" is misleading, where a more accurate term may be "feature mismatch." That is, future official daemon releases will likely be compatible will dissimilar-version GUI builds, as long as both the daemon and GUI are beyond the version that contains relevant GUI wallet features.

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I have just downloaded the pre-beta binary for macOS.

When running it with the official release 0.10.0.0, it said "Network status: Wrong version". When running in conjunction with monerod from a recent GitHub build (did brew install monero --HEAD -v), it says: "Network status: Connected". Note that in both cases it was able to sync past transactions from the blockchain.

As explained on the above link, the current official release (v0.10.0.0) isn't fully compatible and won't allow you to send funds. I didn't try to actually send money from the GUI yet. However, based on the Connected network status, I would think it doesn't really check the specific version or build, but rather the feature compatibility.

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