PuTTY is an SSH client for Windows; it allows you to connect your computer to remote servers safely, without the risks that would come with doing so over an unencrypted connection.
Using PuTTY, you can connect to a remote server for a wide range of purposes. You can execute commands, update software, access resources, and a lot more.
While Mac devices come with an SSH client pre-installed, it is a bit more complicated if you have a Windows device (before Windows 10). That’s where third-party SSH clients like PuTTY come into the picture.
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SSH stands for Secure Shell. It is a network protocol for connecting two devices remotely.
There are a number of ways to connect to another machine remotely. However, some methods, such as connecting over the internet, come with security risks.
For example, when you connect without encryption, your connection can be intercepted and perhaps even be altered.
SSH employs encryption to secure access to the remote server from the client. Using SSH, you can do pretty much anything — for example, you can execute commands on the server from the client.
You can even run applications from the server on the client without having the server available next to you. Using SSH, you can connect Windows machines to Unix.
If you have an unsecured network and want to transfer files between two machines on the network, SSH allows you to encrypt and secure that connection.
PuTTY is also a Telnet client in addition to being an SSH client.
The difference between Telnet and SSH is that Telnet, which is the standard protocol for virtual terminal service, is not secured and sends the data in plain text, making it vulnerable to interceptions. SSH presents the data in an encrypted format to take care of potential security issues.
Which one is better?
Telnet was one of the main ways computers communicated with each other back in the early days of computers. However, if you’re looking for security, it’s just not the best choice, as the data sent can be intercepted pretty easily.
SSH, or Secure Shell, came around later, and it quickly became more popular than Telnet due to its encryption.
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While you don’t need an SSH client on a Mac, you will need one on older versions of Windows. That’s because up until Windows 10, there was no built-in terminal for SSH.
SSH is a multiplatform protocol. It is not something limited to Windows; you can install an SSH client on Android, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and any other platform.
However, Windows 10 does come with a built-in SSH client terminal. You can read instructions on how to set it up here.
You will have to enable it because it is an optional feature that is not enabled by default.
So, up until Windows 10, everyone was using SSH clients like PuTTY. PuTTY was, by far, the most well-known and popular, but it had some problems — that’s why so many PuTTY forks and alternatives kept popping up.
Indeed, there are a few downsides to PuTTY. For example, you might need a bit more functionality.
PuTTY is a simple tool if you only have to run an SSH connection and nothing more — but it lacks the advanced features of many other alternatives.
There are many PuTTY alternatives that offer support for multi-tab sessions. Tabbed sessions allow you to get more done, and it can be pretty frustrating to work with PuTTY at times due to its lack of tabbed support.
Many people also face the common issue of PuTTY garbling text interfaces and giving you gibberish.
Nevertheless, there are a number of awesome PuTTY alternatives out there. If you don’t want to use PuTTY for any reason, read on to learn about the best PuTTY alternatives.
Even if you have a Windows 10, you should read this article. That is because the built-in Windows 10 client is very simplistic, like PuTTY — if you need a full remote networking solution, you will discover many of them in this article.
Let’s get into it.
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MobaXterm, formerly known as MobaXVT, is an excellent PuTTY alternative. Unlike PuTTY, it comes with a multi-tab Windows terminal.
In addition, MobaXterm is an awesome alternative to PuTTY if you run an application that uses X Windows on your server. That is because it comes with an X server based on X.org.
In addition, using the free plugins that are compatible with MobaXterm, you can increase the functionality of the tool. Check out all the useful plugins on this page.
Overall, MobaXterm is a useful remote networking software to use if you have to connect to remote servers often.
SSH is not the only remote networking tool it provides; it also includes support for FTP, RDP, VNC, and many protocols, as well as simple Unix commands for your Windows computer — as a multipurpose tool, it’s superior to PuTTY.
Using MobaXterm, you can import the display from a Unix server to your Windows computer, making it perfect for connecting to Unix servers from Windows.
Have you been dreaming of a tool that allows you to manage all of your remote network connections in one app, regardless of the protocols they are using? With the MobaXterm Session Manager, it is easy to take control and manage your connections, including those using SSH, RDP, X11, MOSH, or other protocols.
For SSH, MobaXterm is based on PuTTY but includes tabbed support.
MobaXterm is entirely free to use. It is not open source like PuTTY, and it does have a commercial version, which you might want to buy if you need to use the software for your business and would like the added functionality that comes with the commercial version.
You can get MobaXterm by downloading a small, portable EXE file, which you can then run from a USB stick. You don’t need any other special software or administration rights.
So, do you need the upgraded, premium version of MobaXterm? It depends on your needs.
The free version comes with access to most features. However, there are still some limitations — for example, you are limited to 12 sessions and two SSH tunnels.
The premium version removes those limitations and allows for an unlimited number of sessions, as well as advanced customization features, including the ability to customize your startup message and logo.
Also, the premium version comes with enhanced security features.
Overall, MobaXterm comes highly recommended. It has a fantastic interface, it is easy to use, it has great tabbed support, and its support for other protocols will definitely come in handy, even if you only use them once in a while.
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One of the cool things about PuTTY is that there are a lot of great forks as well, which are good alternatives to the original. Since PuTTY is open source, creating a fork is not that difficult.
In case you were wondering, the term “fork” in software means that the creators of the fork took the original code and altered or added to it to improve it. Think of it as a fork in the road.
These forks serve different purposes, but they are designed to retain the original functionalities of PuTTY while adding a certain functionality or changing something to improve it in some way and appeal to a certain user base.
One of the PuTTY forks that I recommend as a PuTTY alternative is KiTTY. In particular, it forked off from the 0.74 version of PuTTY.
KiTTY not only gives you what you would get from PuTTY but adds new features, too. Let’s go over some of KiTTY’s features to help you understand what you would gain from switching to KiTTY.
- You can auto-save passwords and use them to log in quickly without filling them out manually. Save time as compared to using PuTTY; passwords are still encrypted.
- It is possible to save even more time by configuring an automatic command to be sent to the server as soon as an SSH or Telnet connection is established to the remote server. There are some command shortcuts, and you can execute several commands if you separate them by \n.
- You can integrate KiTTY with Internet Explorer, Firefox, or other browsers.
- The software allows you to run a script that you saved to your local client on the remote server.
- Using CTRL + SHIFT, you can launch a duplicate session by left-clicking on any window.
- Select any text in a terminal to instantly print it.
One of the cool things about KiTTY is that when you have multiple sessions running, and you want to quickly identify which window is for which session, you can add a customized icon to each window. The system will pick an icon for each window by default, but you can customize each icon based on your preferences.
In addition, if you want a specific session to stay in the foreground, you can set its window to “Always Visible.”
To make KiTTY even easier to work with, the creators allow you to set a specific shortcut for each of the menu options.
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Once we’re on the topic of PuTTY forks, let’s talk about ExtraPuTTY, another fork of PuTTY. This one is based on the 0.67 version of PuTTY — so it’s a bit of an earlier fork.
ExtraPuTTY is entirely free to use. Not only does it contain all the features of PuTTY, but it also adds new features.
Here are some of the main features you can enjoy when using ExtraPuTTY:
- Create shortcuts for predefined commands
- Automatic command sequencing
- A session manager for managing PuTTY sessions
There are also some great graphical features, such as a menu bar and a status bar added to the PuTTY window. ExtraPuTTY also adds file transfer features with integration with SCP, SFTP, FTP, and more.
If you like PuTTY but want something a little extra, ExtraPuTTY is a good choice.
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Solar-PuTTY, by Solar Winds, is a good PuTTY alternative if you need tabbed support. The tabbed interface allows you to manage multiple sessions, and you can also save your credentials for easy login to save time when starting sessions.
In addition, you can quickly access your most used sessions. Also, it allows for post connection script automation, unlike PuTTY.
Finally, Solar-PuTTY integrates with the Windows Search feature. That allows you to find your saved sessions quickly.
Solar-PuTTY is entirely free. If you feel like PuTTY just doesn’t do it for you, and you require an alternative that allows you to save time, try out Solar-PuTTY.
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5. Royal TS
Royal TS is another great alternative to PuTTY if you need more functionality. In fact, its terminal is based on PuTTY — it includes a putty.exe binary that automatically launches, without the need to install anything else.
At the same time, it also includes a Rebex terminal, and you can use that instead of the PuTTY terminal.
Also, Royal TS has many other features as opposed to just being a PuTTY terminal. Let’s talk about some other connections possible with Royal TS:
- VNC based on TightVNC and UltraVNC
- Remote Desktop Protocol based on Microsoft RDP Activex
- File transfer with support for FTP, SCP, and SFTP
- The ability to connect to Hyper-V and VMWare instances, slice and dice Windows events, connect to and manage TeamViewer sessions, and a lot more!
A lot of people use Royal TS for the credential management feature. You can assign credentials to connections to share documents containing the connection but with your credential in a private, hidden document.
The best part is that Royal TS is free for up to 10 connections.
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Bitvise is a great PuTTY alternative. In fact, it is listed as a suggested alternative on the PuTTY website.
Nevertheless, the website makes it clear that the suggested alternatives are not outright endorsements by the PuTTY project.
Bitvise has some helpful features, such as auto reconnecting capabilities and an FTP to SFTP protocol bridge.
On the Bitvise website, you can download both the Bitvise server and the Bitvise client. The Bitvise client is always free to use, regardless of the purposes for which you are using it; you can try the Bitvise server for free with its 30-day free trial.
One of the benefits of using Bitvise over other SSH clients, including PuTTY, is that it has an excellent track record when it comes to security. It uses its own SSH protocol implementation, so many of the security flaws that are present in other SSH clients using other SSH protocol implementations are not present in Bitvise.
Bitvise’s track record is pretty long. As it started only two years after PuTTY (in 2001), it is one of the oldest SSH clients on the market.
While there have been minor security issues along the way — which could only be expected — they have been fixed quickly.
One of the reasons for that is that Bitvise hires people carefully and doesn’t hire new people often, focusing on maintaining a high retention rate of a small team of developers.
Bitvise, unlike PuTTY, is not open source. They ensure they only hire developers with extensive skills in C++, which is the language Bitvise uses.
All of its team members are dedicated to the project, and most have been on the team for quite a while. They take all security issues seriously and investigate and deal with them in depth.
Again, while it’s not open source, and the Bitvise server costs money after 30 days, that helps ensure Bitvise remains a secure software. You can still use the Bitvise client for free forever, as I explained above.
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mRemoteNG is another good PuTTY alternative if you are looking for an SSH client with a tabbed interface. Also, it is a good choice if you need additional connection protocols in addition to SSH, as mRemoteNG is multiprotocol.
mRemoteNG is actually a fork of a tool called mRemote, but mRemoteNG comes with improved features and fixed bugs.
In addition to SSH, mRemoteNG supports Remote Desktop Protocol, Virtual Network Computing, Telnet, Remote Login, HTTP, HTTPS, and other protocols.
Unlike many other PuTTY alternatives, mRemoteNG is actually open source, just like PuTTY! That means you can inspect the source code yourself or even create your own fork — you can alter it as you wish.
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SecureCRT is a fantastic alternative to PuTTY. While not free, it offers advanced features and ultra-secure connections for remote networking.
Using SSH, it includes advanced session management features, so you can stay better organized. You can also highlight keywords in a terminal, as well as IP addresses, to discover errors and more.
Not only does SecureCRT support a tabbed interface, unlike PuTTY, but you can organize the tabs either vertically or horizontally. Whether you want to compare two sessions or work on one while monitoring the other, SecureCRT makes it easy to be productive.
To save time, you can organize commands into folders and double-click on them to launch them. It’s great for repetitive commands.
To save even more time, you can use Python to automate scripts on Windows without ever leaving the SecureCRT interface. In addition, you can automate repetitive tasks with VBScript and JScript (not just Python).
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A PuTTY alternative worth considering is AbsoluteTelnet. Despite its name, it is not only a Telnet client but an SSH client as well, just like PuTTY.
However, as opposed to PuTTY, it comes with a tabbed interface.
AbsoluteTelent is produced by Celestial Software. Despite being a somewhat older software that can look a bit outdated, it has an active forum on the site, where people post from time to time, and where you can get help about licensing and installation issues.
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Tired of PuTTY’s lack of support for tabs? With MTPuTTY, that issue is solved.
MTPuTTY is just like PuTTY — it supports all of its protocols, and it is pretty much the same software — except that it supports multiple tabs. It’s a small download and free to use, so there’s nothing to lose!
Another awesome alternative to PuTTY is XSHELL, which dubs itself “the industry’s most powerful SSH client.” Indeed, it has several features that make it somewhat superior to PuTTY for efficiency and time management.
For example, there is the Session Manager, which allows you to create, edit, and launch sessions easily. With the Remote File Manager, you can view a directory of the files on the remote server, upload files, download files, and more.
XSHELL, as opposed to PuTTY, has a tabbed interface. Not only that, but it makes it easy to customize your interface with drag and drop.
To be more efficient, you can set shortcuts for commands you use often. You can highlight keywords or terms in the terminal, and there are a lot of customization options available, from aesthetics to mouse behavior.
If you want to automate tasks to save time, you can do so with Java, VB, and Python automation scripts.
The downside of XSHELL is that it is not free; you have to buy a license to use it. However, if you find that PuTTY is hampering your productivity, buying a license might be something worth considering.
Another good alternative to PuTTY is SmarTTY. With a multi-tabbed interface, you can open new sessions in new tabs.
It allows you to upload and download files while displaying a remote directory — you can also transfer entire directories. You can even open a file remotely to edit it, all in a Windows-style GUI.
SmarTTY is entirely free to use.
If you have Windows 10, you don’t even need a PuTTY alternative, as you have it built-in right on your computer.
Nevertheless, if you have an older version of Windows, or if both PuTTY and the built-in SSH client don’t offer enough functionality for your needs, I recommend MobaXterm as an advanced terminal and remote networking solution.
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.