Security

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.

About

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.

15 comments
craverii
craverii

I like PuTTY and WinSCP. They are relatively simple to use and reasonably feature rich. Unfortunately, we found PuTTY and, consequently, WinSCP to be much too slow for large file transfers and remote X Windows sessions. This is a known problem (http://marci.blogs.balabit.com/2009/11/putty-performance.html) that remains unfixed since its last release in 2007. Our tests consistently found PuTTY to be 70% slower than alternative SSH file transfer and tunneling solutions. The slow (or halted) release cycle is also cause for concern.

kcbaltz
kcbaltz

If you use UNIX and you are responsible for many similar machines, you're probably familiar with Cluster SSH, a tool that lets you control multiple SSH terminals simultaneously. Although it doesn't work quite as well as Cluster SSH, PuTTY Command Sender (PuttyCS - google it) is a usable alternative if you're stuck in Windows without access to Cluster SSH.

Brad Morrison
Brad Morrison

If PuTTY were to suddenly stop working, most corporations would grind to a halt. I like, like, like that it's free, but I really think that multinational, for-profit corporations could pay a nominal fee, say, 0.01 USD annually per user.

Arazmus
Arazmus

Why Not use Tunnelier? It does every thing putty can and its all in one app.. not a handfull..

seanferd
seanferd

I think something is missing from the telnet client description. Something like "is unlawful", I'm guessing. But also just for old stuff that requires telnet as an interface. I think some packages require that you download puttytel separately if you want it.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I use pscp.exe from the prompt instead of WinSCP. It's more natural to me now.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I saw two releases of PCLinuxOS that actually included Putty as an ssh client in the default install. Still don't understand why. :D I noticed a while back that putty has a lot more than just ssh client tools, still don't really use it, but then, I am comfortable to the tools putty is an interface for, so that's no suprise, nor is it a knock on putty.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That would round it out very very nicely but there are sftp clients that do pretty much the same as rsync (general file size versus hash value to decide if file is to be replaced but otherwise the same..).

apotheon
apotheon

I wasn't aware of KiTTY. I'll have to look into that.

apotheon
apotheon

I've been thinking of writing an article about ClusterSSH. I should mention PuTTYCS in that article, too.

apotheon
apotheon

I think that's going to be a new policy of mine for consulting with business ventures: recommend that they annually donate small amounts like that to every open source project whose software they use heavily, for the good of the business. After all, keeping the software up to date and in good repair is definitely in the best interests of such a business -- and it would still be cheaper than typical licensing rates for most (if not all) closed source commercial software by a couple orders of magnitude at least. It's win-win.

apotheon
apotheon

> Why Not use Tunnelier? I don't use it because it's not trustworthy. By contrast, PuTTY chose the right licensing model for security software.

apotheon
apotheon

> I think something is missing from the telnet client description. Something like "is unlawful", I'm guessing. Thanks for pointing that out. I made sure it got fixed. I wrote it that way in my head, but somehow it failed to get into the article when I was typing it up.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

On *nix, you have native OpenSSH but with Windows, your limited to whatever crutches you can hobble along with.

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