Review: PuTTY terminal application

PuTTY is a free, open source terminal application providing services like serial terminal communications, telnet, SSH, rlogin, as well as secure file transfers via SFTP and SCP.

PuTTY is a free, open source terminal application that is highly configurable. In addition to the basic chores of serial terminal communications, telnet, SSH, rlogin, and so on, it is also able to perform secure file transfers via SFTP and SCP. It is also able to act as an SSH tunnel for X11 traffic.


  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 2003, 2008, *Nix, Mac OSX (as an xterm application)
  • Supported Protocols: Serial communications, Telnet, SSH, rlogin, SCP, SFTP, xterm
  • Additional information

Who's it for?

System administrators, developers, network engineers, and other IT pros that need to connect to remote systems will find PuTTY useful.

What problems does it solve?

PuTTY fills the gap that was left when Microsoft Windows stopped shipping with HyperTerminal. In addition, its extreme configurability, combined with the ability to save connections, makes it a far more usable option than what Windows ships with (currently, a plain command line telnet client which is not installed by default). *Nix users will appreciate that it puts a lot of functionality into a single package.

Standout features

  • Cost: As a free, open source application, PuTTY is a no-brainer compared to most commercial terminal applications.
  • Choices: Between the wide variety of protocols that it supports and the options for connections, PuTTY fills many needs, particularly less common tasks like using SCP and SFTP.
  • Reliability: PuTTY is an extremely reliable application.
  • Cross Platform Support: PuTTY is available on Windows and *Nix platforms, and it can run on Mac OSX as an xterm application.

What's wrong?

  • Dense configuration: The variety of configuration options feels a bit overwhelming when you first see them.
  • Not a "version 1": Despite the maturity of PuTTY, it (like many open source projects) is not billing itself as "Version 1" (currently it is a "beta" of version 0.60, which has been the current version since 2007).
  • No Scripting: Users who need to script their sessions will be disappointed with PuTTY.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Most system administrators and network engineers, and many developers, have a need to connect to remote systems on a regular basis. Unfortunately, Windows does not ship with the tools to do this, leaving these IT professionals on their own. PuTTY neatly fills this gap.

Primarily users find PuTTY is useful for connecting to routers and switches (via telnet, SSH, and serial connections), and *Nix servers and mainframes, which are quite useful via text-only terminal sessions. For people working with X11 over the public Internet, PuTTY can tunnel their sessions via SSH, protecting sensitive data in transit.

Users with more demanding needs, such as writing macros or support for additional protocols, will want to look elsewhere. PuTTY can make every common type of connection and its feature set is strong enough to meet the needs of most IT professionals, and for the price it can't be beat.

User rating

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Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

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