PuTTY is a terminal emulator. It enables you to log into another computer, which may be on the same network, or that could be accessed over the internet. The basic program has no security, but you can combine it with SSH to add on authentication and encryption to protect remote connections across the internet.
The tool also includes a file transfer facility, which can be made secure by adding in SCP and SFTP. The original software was written for Microsoft Windows, but now there are also versions that run on Linux and Unix.
The program is old. It was originally released in 1999. System administrators & regular users have become reliant on the program despite its relatively unsophisticated interface. Nobody questions why the name is spelled with an irregular case as “PuTTY.” No one questions what the acronym means — the name doesn’t actually stand for anything.
Here is our list of the best PuTTY alternatives for SSH clients:
- SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY EDITOR’S CHOICE – An SSH utility for Windows that includes a protected terminal emulator plus SCP and SFTP.
- KiTTY – Fork of PuTTY that includes SCP and runs on Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac OS.
- ZOC – A paid terminal emulator for Windows and Mac OS with rlogin and SSH connection options and an SCP utility.
- SmarTTY – A free SSH-based terminal emulator for Windows with a tabbed interface for multiple sessions and an SCP utility.
- st Simple Terminal – A free PuTTY substitute for Linux that occupies very little disk space.
- z/Scope – A paid utility with a 30-day free trial specifically to connect to Unix and IBM AS/400 from Windows, Chromebook, or web browsers.
- XSHELL 6 – Free for home use with a paid version for businesses, this tool installs on Windows, but can communicate with Unix and Linux machines and it includes SFTP.
- iTerm2 – This terminal emulator runs on Mac OS 10.10 and higher — includes a split screen interface for multiple concurrent sessions.
- SuperPuTTY – Very similar to the original PuTTY, this tool is free to use, runs on Windows and includes SFTP and SCP utilities.
- WinSCP – A free Windows secure file transfer utility that includes an SSH-protected remote access facility.
The Best PuTTY Alternatives for SSH clients
Some of the criteria we took into consideration when ordering this list were reliability, ease of use, ease of installation and depth of support and documentation, how up to date the tool is maintained and popularity of use within the industry. We also chose at least one tool for each of the major operating systems.
SolarWinds is one of the world’s leading network software providers. The company excels at producing infrastructure monitoring tools. The company got to the top of the market by providing very high-quality tools. You would expect to pay top dollar for this level of software. However, sometimes, the user community gets lucky and SolarWinds decides to release a very useful tool for free. This is the case with the Solar-PuTTY utility.
This secure terminal program runs on a Windows environment and integrates the security of SSH. As with the original PuTTY, you can use this tool to log in remotely to a computer. You can also use it to transfer files. Solar-PuTTY integrates SCP and SFTP for secure file transfer and also has an implementation of the classic Telnet system.
You can download the program file from the SolarWinds website. This is not an installer, but the tool itself. You just need to click on the file to open up the application.
You can open several terminal sessions simultaneously with the tool. Each session opens a new tab in the interface. The interface will store your credentials for the servers that you log into regularly and sign you in automatically. The interface gives you the option to color-code each session so you can distinguish between them. It is also able to re-establish a link and log you in again if a connection gets dropped.
- Secure terminal emulator
- Telenet included
- SCP secure file copy
- SFTP secure file transfer
- Multiple simultaneous sessions
Solar-PuTTY is a great tool for remote SSH sessions and comes from one of the most professional software outfits in the business. It’s great for managing multiple sessions simultaneously from the one console in separate tabs. Scripts can be automated. The tools doesn’t require installation.
Download 100% FREE Tool: solarwinds.com/free-tools/solar-putty
KiTTY is a fork of PuTTY. That means that the source code of PuTTY was copied and altered some time ago to develop this separate utility. Since that copy was taken, the original program has been revised and updated. KiTTY also gets updated periodically, so this tool has gradually diverged from the functionality of the original PuTTY. KiTTY is only available for Windows and it is free to use. Although the interface only runs on Windows, you can log into remote devices that run Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac OS.
You can create scripts to log in automatically and run commands on the remote computer’s command line. The interface is able to represent multiple simultaneous sessions.
The KiTTY interface includes two SCP implementations. These are pscp.exe and WinSCP. The tool also includes a chat system and a text editor.
- Based on PuTTY
- Two SCP versions
- Chat facility
- Text editor
- Can operate through scripts
ZOC is a terminal emulator for Windows and Mac OS. The software is free to use and, although it can’t run on Linux, it can connect to computers running that operating system. The system includes a powerful scripting language that can help you automate processes such as information gathering on remote systems. The terminal emulator can be set to use the xterm, VT220, Wyse, QNX, TN3270, or TN5250 standards. The interface allows multiple sessions to be open simultaneously.
Security for connections is provided by SSH. Unprotected connection methods, such as rlogin are also available for private networks. ZOC offers a wide range of file transfer standards that includes Kermit, Xmodem, Ymodem, and Zmodem. However, the option you should probably select for file transfers across the internet is ZOC’s SCP implementation. Unfortunately, ZOC is not free. The software is distributed by a company in Europe and another in the USA, so you can choose to pay in Euros or US Dollars.
- Secure SSH terminal emulator
- SCP secure file copy
- Multiple simultaneous sessions
SmarTTY v3.0 is free and runs on Windows. This SSH-based terminal emulator also includes the secure SCP file transfer system. A lot of PuTTY alternatives employ tabs to allow you to access several sessions in the same panel of the interface. However, SmarTTY has an unusual design. Rather than arraying the tabs along the top of the display panel, this tool’s designers placed the tab space along the left side and the bottom edge of the screen. An index panel to the left of the main terminal panel shows the directory structure of the computer in the currently displayed session. This directory explorer is responsive, so you can move through the file storage by clicking on the directory icons.
SCP is a secure file transfer system, but it doesn’t have many functions — just a straightforward copy to, or copy from action. SmarTTY adds usability to SCP by enabling you to move whole directories at once. A couple of other useful features of this tool are an embedded file editor and a hexadecimal terminal type to monitor traffic on ports.
- SSH-based terminal emulator
- Simultaneous multiple sessions
- SCP secure file copy
The developers of st aimed to produce their own terminal emulator code instead of relying on traditional terminal protocols, such as xterm. Their motivation for this work is that they believe the regular terminal emulation systems are over-engineered and inefficient. The assumption is that st’s tight and effective code will use a lot less of your CPU and memory than the more widely-distributed staple emulators.
This is an open source project and the PuTTY substitute is free to use. It was written to run on Linux. There isn’t any file transfer facility included with st.
- Lightweight program
- Secure terminal emulator
The z/Scope terminal emulator is written to run on Windows, ChromeBook, and web browsers. The tool specializes in connections to Unix and IBM AS/400. This utility is not free, but you can get it on a 30-day free trial. Connections are protected by SSL/TLS security. There are five different editions of z/Scope and only three of them integrate SSH.
All versions use a tabbed layout to allow multiple simultaneous sessions to be viewed in the same window. Only the web version of z/Scope includes a file transfer function. Users of the Classic edition can pay extra to get file transfer capabilities added. However, the utility available is FTP, which is not secure.
- Connects to Unix and IBM AS/400
- SSL protection for terminal emulator
- SSH available with some editions
XSHELL is free for home use and there is a paid version for businesses. This tool runs on Windows, but it can communicate with Linux and Unix servers. Security options let you choose between SSH1 and SSH2. There is also an rlogin option. However, that doesn’t include encryption, so you would be better off sticking with the SSH session options. The tool is able to give you a terminal on to remote computers and it will store your credentials in encrypted format for frequently-visited remote servers. You can open multiple connections and switch between them, using the tabs that display at the top of the interface terminal window.
The file transfer function that is built into XSHELL uses the SFTP system, which is secure. You can also be on the lookout for the Open Beta 7 which is availab le on the Netsarang website.
- Secure terminal emulator
- Choice of SSH1 and SSH2
- Credentials locker
The iTerm2 system is available for Macs. Specifically, the program can run on Mac OS 10.10 and higher. This interface shows different terminal sessions through a split screen method, allowing you to tile sessions side by side. To lessen confusion, the active panel shows in full resolution, while the others dimmed. You can set up keyboard shortcuts to navigate through the functions of the tool quickly.
The current session text can be searched with a search text field that is embedded into the upper frame of the session window. The emulator also remembers previous commands issued in the session and offers a popup with autocomplete suggestions when you type in a new command. A recording function lets you watch though a replay of everything that has happened in the session. The interface includes a password manager to securely store your credentials for all of the computers that you log into remotely regularly. The tool doesn’t include a file transfer utility.
- Secure terminal emulator for Macs
- Session search facility
- Session recorder
SuperPuTTY is a very close copy of the original PuTTY. In fact, it is a replacement of the user interface of PuTTY and requires the original program to be installed and operational. It is an enthusiast-written utility that runs on Windows and is free to use.
The SuperPuTTY interface enables multiple sessions, with each connection running in a tabbed page. The terminal protocols that the program offers are SSH, Telnet, rlogin, and RAW. The SSH option is the better choice because it includes user authentication and encryption. Secure file transfer functions follow the SCP and SFTP methods.
- A close copy of PuTTY
- SSH option
- SFTP and SCP secure file transfer
WinSCP is a file transfer utility, written for Windows. The utility is free to use and it has been downloaded more than 113 million times to date. SCP, which is the protocol that the tool is based on, doesn’t include any capabilities to issue commands on the remote device, so you would think that it would not be a very good basis for a PuTTY replacement.
This is a very popular tool and it offers more than just SCP. The tool also includes FTP, SFTP, and WebDAV implementations. Fortunately, for this review of PuTTY substitutes, the tool includes a remote command facility. This is an SSH-protected remote access system.
- SCP and SFTP secure file transfers
- SSH-protected remote commands
- Includes WebDAV
Choosing a PuTTY Alternative terminal emulator
The market for terminal emulators is very well supplied. As you can see from our list, the category of PuTTY alternatives for Windows is oversupplied. Although this list of options seems very long, there are actually a lot more out there. Don’t worry about whether or not there will be an SSH server when you try to create a remote SSH session because just about every operating system has SSH capabilities.
Remember, if you are connecting over the internet, you should only choose a terminal emulator that is protected by encryption. The same advice also holds true when you transfer files across the internet – don’t rely on FTP, use SCP or SFTP.
You certainly don’t need to stick with PuTTY just because you’re used to it. There are lots of better systems out there and most of them are free. Just about all of the paid options offer free trials. So, explore these great alternatives to PuTTY and you will find a remote device access system that beats PuTTY and wins your admiration.
Do you have a favorite terminal emulator? Are you determined to stick with PuTTY? Leave a message in the Comments section below and share your user experience.
PuTTY Alternatives FAQs
What is the difference between Telnet and SSH?
telnet and SSH seem to have a lot in common in terms of the user interface and the function of getting access to a remote computer. However, SSH applies encryption to the connection so all data passed back and forth is secure. Telnet transfers data in plain text.
What is the main alternative to SSH?
Telnet is the clearest alternative to SSH – the big difference between the two is that Telnet is not secure. Mosh is another similar system to SSH and it is secure. Mosh was created to be an improvement on SSH, particularly in the way the service handles changes in the client’s IP address during the connection. This is particularly important on mobile devices.
How do I test a serial port with PuTTY?
You can test a serial port (also known as a COM port) through a PuTTY loopback. You will need a loopback connector to do this. If you haven’t got one of those, you can improvise with a paperclip. To do this your port needs to be a female coupler. If it isn’t, get a male-to-female adapter and plug it in. Unwind a paper clip and stick one end in pin 2 and the other in pin 3. Then do the following:
- Open PuTTY and go to the Configuration screen and click on Session in the left-hand tree-structure menu.
- In the Serial Line field, enter the label of the port that you are testing (eg COM3). Enter 9600 for Speed and click on the Serial radio button for Connection Type.
- Click on the Open button. This will start the session.
- Type anything in at the prompt. If those characters appear, your serial port is working.