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10 best SSH Clients for Windows: free alternatives to PuTTY

Best SSH Clients Windows - PuTTY Alternatives

written by Anand November 19, 2015

I thought I was pretty happy with PuTTY as my Windows SSH client but these 10 best SSH clients made me rethink. And I am no longer using PuTTY for SSH on Windows 10 machine. Linux based systems are becoming more and more common. As examples, DD-WRT router administration, ASUS router hacks, and Raspberry Pi management, all require SSH work. SSH or Secure Shell, in simple terms, provides commandline access to a remote system running SSH server. For any admin level hacks you will be required to SSH into your remote system. For several years I used PuTTY, but early this year I switched to MobaXterm Home Edition, a free SSH client for Windows, and I am more than happy. I have shown you how to install SSH on Ubuntu Server. In this post, I will cover some of the best SSH clients for Windows and some free alternatives to PuTTY.

Best SSH Clients for Windows

A big missing piece in Windows is the lack of a Linux compatible shell. There are several top SSH clients that fill this void. To cut to the chase: PuTTY is the most common free SSH client for Windows. My personal favorite is MobaXterm, which is free for personal use with up to 10 hosts. Read on to find out more about other free Windows SSH client options. [Read: Best SSH clients for Android: 10 free SSH Apps for remote admin]

1. PuTTY (free; open-source)

Before we talk about PuTTY alternatives, let me first talk about PuTTY, which offers a great free SSH / Telnet shell for Windows. Some would probably say PuTTY is the best SSH client. I have shown you how to install PuTTY on Windows. Connecting to a remote SSH server is as simple as just typing in the IP address or domain and port and hitting open.

SSH Access with PuTTY for Windows

SSH Access with PuTTY for Windows

You may be asked for username and password to connect to the remote SSH server. Alternatively, you can use PuTTY with SSH keys to connect without passwords. You can even create Windows shortcut to PuTTY sessions to open an SSH session with one click. Now that we have seen what is PuTTY let us look at some best SSH clients that can be great PuTTY alternatives.

PuTTY Like Programs for Windows

The 3 SSH clients listed bellow are based on PuTTY and they look like PuTTY but provide added features to take PuTTY to next level. If you want to stick with PuTTY environment, then one of these SSH clients for Windows is worth a look.

2. SuperPutty (free; open-source; based on PuTTY)

SuperPutty is a Windows PuTTY alternative that aims to make a better version of PuTTY. However, it requires PuTTY to run. In other words, SuperPuTTY makes existing PuTTY install better. It allows tabbed sessions as well as SCP file transfers between remote and local system.

SuperPuTTY Windows SSH Client

SuperPuTTY requires PuTTY to run

SuperPuTTY’s features include:

  • Docking user interface allows personalized workspace and managing multiple PuTTY sessions easy
  • Export/Import session configuration
  • Upload files securely using the scp or sftp protocols
  • Layouts allow for customizing session views
  • Supports PuTTY session configurations including Private Keys
  • Supports SSH, RLogin, Telnet and RAW protocols
  • Supports local shell via MinTTY or puttycyg
  • Supports KiTTY
Recommended Guides:

3. PuTTY Tray (free; open-source; based on PuTTY)

PuTTY Tray, as the name suggests, is based on PuTTY. It adds cosmetic changes and extends PuTTY further using addons that make it better than PuTTY. But in many ways it looks very much like PuTTY. Some of its features include:

  • Minimizing to the system tray (on CTRL + minimize, always or directly on startup)
  • Icons are customisable
  • Blinks tray icon when a bell signal is received
  • Configurable window transparency
  • URL hyperlinking
  • Portability: optionally stores session configuration in files (for example: on a USB drive) like portaPuTTY
  • Easy access to the ‘always on top’ setting (in the system menu)
  • Android adb support

If you are big PuTTY fan, then PuTTY Tray is a great alterantive to PuTTY SSH. [Read: Connecting to Ubuntu Server using SSH Keys and Putty]

4. KiTTY (free; open-source; based on PuTTY)

KiTTY is a fork of PuTTY designed to function as a Windows SSH Client. KiTTY has all features from PuTTY and adds many more features.

KiTTY SSH Software for Windows

KiTTY looks very similar to PuTTY

While the entire list of features can be found on KiTTY’s website, some key added features are listed below:

  • Sessions filter
  • Portability
  • Shortcuts for pre-defined command
  • Automatic password
  • Running a locally saved script on a remote session
  • An icon for each session
  • Send to tray
  • Quick start of a duplicate session
  • pscp.exe and WinSCP integration

KiTTY is another great alternative to PuTTY.

Alternatives to PuTTY

PuTTY is great and is one the most common free Windows SSH clients. That said, PuTTY looks pretty pedestrian and one of the biggest missing features is the inability to open sessions in tabs. Some of the PuTTY alternatives listed below not only allow tabs but also combine other protocols such as FTP, SFTP, and more into one single tool, which can be handy for a home server user or server administrator. So let us have a brief look at some best Windows SSH client options.

5. MobaXterm (free; paid Pro version available)

MobaXterm is a single Windows application that provides a ton of functions for programmers, webmasters, IT administrators, and anybody is looking to manage system remotely.

Best SSH Clients Windows - MobaXterm

MobaXterm Home – The Best Windows SSH Client

Some of its features include:

  • Support for several protocols (SSH, X11, RDP, VNC, FTP, MOSH, …)
  • Brings Unix commands to Windows (bash, ls, cat, sed, grep, awk, rsync, …)
  • Embedded X Server and X11-Forwarding
  • Tabbed terminal for SSH
  • GUI File / Text editor
  • Portable and light

It can be extended further with plugins. The thing I like about MobaXterm is that no intrusive ads / prompts to upgrade are displayed even on the free Home edition. The paid Professional version brings more features. [Read: How to SSH into Raspberry Pi for remote administration?]

6. SmarTTY (free)

SmarTTY is also one of the best SSH clients for Windows. It is my second favorite after MobaXterm and a solid PuTTY replacement. And best of all, it is free to use.

SmarTTY - Free Windows SSH Client

SmarTTY – Free Windows SSH Client

SmarTTY combines several awesome features into one application:

  • One SSH session – multiple tabs
  • Transfer files and whole directories
  • Edit files in-place
  • Built-in hex terminal for COM ports
  • Out-of-the-box public-key auth
  • Run graphical applications seamlessly with built-in Xming

SmartTTY is regularly updated and stands out among programs like PuTTY.

7. Dameware SSH client (free; paid options available)

Dameware SSH client is a free Windows SSH terminal emulator that allows multiple telnet and SSH connects from one easy-to-use console.

Dameware SSH Client for Windows

Dameware SSH Client for Windows

Dameware SSH client’s features include:

  • Manage multiple sessions from one console with a tabbed interface
  • Save favorite sessions within the Windows file system
  • Access multiple sets of saved credentials for easy log-in to different devices
  • Connect to computers and devices using telnet, SSH1, and SSH2 protocols

Dameware SSH client does not stand out from some of the other best SSH clients but it is comparable to them. On the free version it does show an ad prompting you to upgrade to their paid service. If you like the interface then definitely do give it a try.

8. mRemoteNG (free; open-source)

mRemoteNG, a fork of mRemote, is an open source, tabbed remote connections manager that combines multiple protocols into one application. Like some of the other best Windows SSH clients listed above, it also allows tabbed interface.

mRemoteNG - Alternative to PuTTY

mRemoteNG SSH Shell for Windows

mRemoteNG supports the following protocols:

  • RDP (Remote Desktop/Terminal Server)
  • VNC (Virtual Network Computing)
  • ICA (Citrix Independent Computing Architecture)
  • SSH (Secure Shell)
  • Telnet (TELecommunication NETwork)
  • HTTP/HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)
  • rlogin
  • Raw Socket Connections

It is completely free to use and worth a try, especially if you prefer open-source applications.

Recommended Guides:

9. Terminals (free; open-source)

Terminals is a secure, multi tab terminal services/remote desktop client. It is offers several features and competes with some of the paid or closed source SSH Windows clients listed above.

Terminals - Alternative to PuTTY

Terminals SSH Client

  • Multi tab interface
  • Open terminal in full screen, switch between full screen mode
  • Favorites
  • Networking tools: Ping, Tracert, DNS tools, Wake on lan, Port scanner, Shares, etc.
  • Connections history
  • Screenshot capture
  • Open custom application from Terminals window
  • Multi-protocol: Windows remote desktop (RDP), VNC, VMRC, SSH, Telnet, and more

Terminals definitely has a lot of tools and features compared to some of the other SSH client software listed above. The full list of features and screenshots are available on Terminal’s website.

10. FireSSH Addon

If for whatever reason you prefer not to use a separate software for SSH remote administration, then FireSSH addon for Firefox and Chrome can be a great alternative. A great example is when you are on a system that you do not have administrative privileges. While portable SSH clients could work on such Windows PCs, FireSSH extension is platform independent.

FireSSH for Firefox and Chrome

FireSSH for Firefox and Chrome

FireSSH is an extension written in Javascript and allows you to connect to remote SSH server through your browser. If your browser allows tabbed browsing then you can open SSH sessions in separate tabs.

Concluding Remarks

The above list of best SSH software for Windows is not by any means exhaustive. There are other good SSH clients such as XShell (paid), Bitvise SSH Client (free for individual use), and TeraTerm (Free) that may be comparable. Also, please remember that the above list is focussed towards home server or media center users for basic administrative tasks and not business environments. Some of the Android media players can even be administered using SSH with an SSH server app installed. As mentioned in the article, I have used and like PuTTY but I have moved on to MobaXterm and have been very happy. For many, this will be a matter of personal preference. But I hope that this list of best SSH clients summarizes a few options to choose from.

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