PuTTY vs. WinSCP: Which Is Better?

Last Updated: December 15, 2022By
Screenshot of WinSCP

What Is a Terminal Emulator?

A terminal emulator is software installed on your PC that makes it appear as an older terminal so that the user can access programs intended to communicate with the other older terminal.

This is done by allowing your PC to access another remote computer via a graphical interface such as SSH or a command line one such as telnet.

It requires installing special programs in the network that it is connected to and can make your PC run legacy programs that it would not be able to run because of them being outdated.

What Is PuTTY

PuTTY is an open-source terminal emulator that is free to use. It uses Telnet and SSH to operate a remote computer session over the internet. After you install PuTTY on your PC, whatever you run on it is sent to a Unix machine that runs it and sends it back to the display on your PC.

What Is Putty Used For?

PuTTY is generally used for 2 purposes

  1. To generate a hash key
  2. To be used, as a file transfer protocol

To Generate a Hash Key

PuTTY allows you generate an SSH key to protect your confidential data. It generates a combination of hundreds of special characters and alphanumeric characters.

PuTTY does this by generating two different types of key combinations. A private key that your PC doesn’t share with anyone and is encrypted into a particular server, and a public key that is used to access the terminal by people that have the key. You need the public key to decrypt the private key.

To Be Used as a File Transfer Protocol

Screenshot of Putty

Many of the hosting services are built on the Linux OS because the OS provides stronger security for sensitive data. This can be a problem for non-Linux users as they may not be able to use these hosting services. This is where PuTTY comes into play.

PuTTY acts like a windows terminal and allows your OS to interact with Linux servers. Although when using PuTTY, users will have to be aware of Linux commands to take advantage of the servers.

What Is WinSCP

WinSCP is an open-source file transfer software that is free to install on your PC. WinSCP uses secure copy protocol, secure shell file transfer protocol, and file transfer protocol (FTP).

WinSCP can be downloaded on windows and can also be used to context menu entries, drag and drop files, and jump list locations.

What Is WinSCP Used For?

WinSCP can execute some terminal commands, although the list is very limited. It is mainly used for downloading/editing files, browsing directories, and also as an FTP client.

Supported Internet Protocols

You can use WinSCP to securely transfer files to your computer or a remote server via a password or public key. WinSCP has two different file manager interfaces: Nordon commander and windows explorer.

Both of these file managers are graphical interferences that split files between the host and the client. You can choose from many file transfer internet protocols, with the most popular one being file transfer protocol (FTP).

Even though the most popular FTP is not encrypted and can easily be intercepted even with a password.

File Transferring With WinSCP

To send files to a host computer, you’ll need its port number, name, username, and password. Before logging into a server, you’ll need to create a username and password.

Once logged in, you’ll be able to transfer files between the host and the client by dragging and dropping. This can take somewhere from a few seconds to many minutes, depending on how much data you’re transferring.

Pros and Cons of PuTTY and WinSCP

PuTTYFree to use
It can be used even without windows rights
Portable and lightweight
One session at a time
Not able to save passwords
No log-in scripting
No global setting
Design looks outdated
WinSCPFree to use
Supports PPK keys
It can be automated with batch scripts
Can protect stored passwords
Integrated text editor
Supports Amazon S3
It is very slow
Cannot edit keyboard shortcuts according to preference
Weird keyboard selection handing
Does not support UNC

How Are They Both Different?

Screenshot of Putty

PuTTY is an SSH and telnet client that uses its network protocols to run remote sessions over a network. PuTTY is free and open-source and using it.

You can connect your computer to a Unix machine. Anything you type into your PC is sent to the Unix machine, and everything it receives is sent back to your PC display.

On the other hand, WinSCP is a free open-source SFTP, FTP, WebDAV, S3, and SCP client, and its main function is to transfer files between a local and remote computer.

WinSCP also offers file-managing functionality and scripting.

WinSCP Integration With PuTTY

When you open WinSCP, it automatically configures to ‘WinSCP temporary session’ for PuTTY. You can store your PuTTY settings with the same name as a WinSCP site, after which WinSCP will command PuTTY to start the session.

If the case that WinSCP is unable to find an executable path in PuTTY, the user is given the option to enter a path manually.

You can also command WinSCP to send a session password to PuTTY to make it work, although a more effective approach would be to use public key authentication with Pageant.

How to Integrate WinSCP With PuTTY

  1. Open a session in WinSCP
  2. Go to options > preferences > integration
  3. Enter the path you copied from PuTTY (file with PuTTY.exe.)

You can change WinSCP settings to remember the password for the PuTTY session, and it will automatically log you in when you start PuTTY from WinSCP.

You can even configure WinSCP to open a PuTTY session every time you open a WinSCP session to avoid the hassle of manually doing it all the time. This can be especially time-saving.