PuTTY toolset offers more than just an SSH terminal

The PuTTY project offers more than just an SSH terminal. It offers a full suite of SSH encrypted network clients and associated tools.

Many who use both MS Windows and open source Unix-like systems are familiar with the most well-known SSH client applications on MS Windows, PuTTY and WinSCP. PuTTY is the standard choice for an SSH terminal application, and WinSCP provides a graphical interface for file transfer operations using SFTP and SCP protocols. As hinted in the recent article, "How to use WinSCP with public key authentication," the PuTTY project offers more than just a terminal application, however. Binary downloads for MS Windows on the PuTTY download page tell the story of a set of tools that offer quite a bit more than just an SSH terminal.

  • putty.exe: The putty.exe binary is the core terminal application component of the PuTTY suite, and is the tool the PuTTY project offers with which the most people are familiar. It offers unencrypted Telnet functionality as well.
  • puttytel.exe: Specifically for jurisdictions where acquiring and using encryption software such as PuTTY itself is illegal, the PuTTY project offers PuTTYtel. It provides the PuTTY-style terminal application without the SSH encryption capabilities.
  • pscp.exe: For one-shot or easily scriptable file transfer commands using SSH encryption, PSCP is the PuTTY project's command line SCP client, offering functionality similar to the OpenSSH suite's scp command.
  • psftp.exe: If you prefer a console based interface over the GUI window of WinSCP, PSFTP might be the tool for you. It provides a text user interface similar to old-school FTP for the SFTP encrypted file transfer protocol. As PSCP is to OpenSSH's scp, so PSFTP is to OpenSSH's sftp.
  • pageant.exe: For those who want to automate much of the process of authentication when using PuTTY tools, Pageant is PuTTY's authentication agent, similar in purpose to ssh-agent on Unix-like systems.
  • puttygen.exe: PuTTYgen is an SSH key generation tool, useful for setting up key-based authentication with remote systems running SSH servers, as described in "How to use WinSCP with public key authentication."
  • plink.exe: Plink is a command line interface to PuTTY functionality, for those who want to do everything from within a cmd window or have access to easily scriptable commands.

The whole suite can be downloaded in a single ZIP file, with the exception of the redundant puttytel.exe file — and of course, it is all available under the terms of a copyfree license.


Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

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