The Best PuTTY Alternatives for Connecting to UNIX Servers

Are you a developer or IT pro who remotely connects to UNIX servers? Do you find yourself irritated by PuTTY‘s limitations? If so, keep reading!

I want to share my top 7 recommendations for PuTTY alternative tools to use instead. I‘ll compare their features and capabilities in-depth, so you can determine which solution best fits your needs.

But before diving in, let‘s step back briefly to understand why UNIX server access matters in the first place.

Why Remote UNIX Server Access Matters

As an experienced sysadmin know, UNIX-based operating systems like Linux and macOS power many servers, devices, and systems. As a result, developers and tech professionals like us frequently need remote access to administer, troubleshoot, or manage UNIX servers.

Common scenarios include:

  • SSH access to manage Linux web servers in the cloud or on-premises
  • Serial console access to configure network routers and switches
  • Transferring application files and deployment scripts
  • Running diagnostics tests to pinpoint connectivity or hardware issues
  • Updating server configs and security certificates

And while the ubiquitous PuTTY tool works for basic terminal access, it has some gaps in ease of use and features.

That‘s why we need to examine some compelling alternatives that make connecting to and handling UNIX servers much more efficient.

But first, let‘s recap PuTTY‘s capabilities and downsides…

PuTTY In a Nutshell

PuTTY is an open source terminal emulator for Windows enabling connections to remote UNIX servers over protocols like SSH, telnet, and rlogin.

Here are some of its main capabilities:

  • Text-based access – Send commands and view text output in the terminal
  • File transfers – Transfer files and scripts with SCP and SFTP
  • Port forwarding – Forward ports between local and remote systems
  • Lightweight – Small installation without needing admin rights

However, PuTTY lacks conveniences like:

  • Tabbed sessions
  • Saved connections and credentials
  • Robust search for finding sessions
  • Scripting and automation

This is where the PuTTY alternatives I‘ll cover make big improvements in day-to-day use and efficiency.

Let‘s check them out! I‘ll be making recommendations based on years of experience managing UNIX environments.

MobaXterm – All-in-One Remote Computing Tool

My first recommendation is MobaXterm for an all-purpose solution covering all the key remote access capabilities you‘ll need.

MobaXterm calls itself the "ultimate toolbox for remote computing". And based on several years of hands-on usage, I definitely agree with that assessment!

Here are some of the features that make MobaXterm so useful:

Flexible SSH client

  • Tabbed SSH sessions – Open multiple terminal connections as organized tabs
  • Port forwarding – Forward traffic securely between ports
  • Remote X11 display – View GUI apps through integrated X server
  • Scripts and automation – Automate commands, transfers, logins with scripts

Convenient SFTP browser

  • Two-pane file browser – Navigate files like desktop file explorer
  • Edit remote files – Open and modify files with syntax highlighting
  • Download/upload – Transfer files easily between systems

Comprehensive preferences

  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts – Tailor shortcuts to your needs
  • Themes & styles – Personalize colors and UI fonts to your liking
  • Session permissions – Control access to sessions and configs

And much more! Seriously, Mobaxterm has hundreds of settings so you can fine-tune everything.

Now let‘s talk about pricing and availability:

  • The Home Edition is 100% free with all the core features
  • A 1-year subscription to MobaXterm Professional Edition costs $99. This adds capabilities like:
    • Collaborative SSH session sharing
    • Remote desktop (RDP) support
    • Integrations with productivity tools like text editors
  • Available for Windows, macOS, and Linux

With its unmatched flexibility and breadth of features for managing remote UNIX environments, MobaXterm is absolutely worth trying out.

Next up…

MTPuTTY – Tabbed Multisession PuTTY

If you‘re already familiar with PuTTY and want to retain its functionality while consolidating sessions, MTPuTTY is for you.

Think of it as a souped up PuTTY delivering tabs and multi-session capabilities.

The main value of MTPuTTY lies in its convenient tabbed interface for handling multiple PuTTY sessions in one window rather than constantly switching between separate app instances.

Additional handy features include:

Flexible session handling

  • Tabbed sessions – Open multiple PuTTY sessions as tabs
  • Session search – Quickly search tabs by session name
  • Session sorting – Sort tabs by name, date, status
  • Bulk export – Backup all sessions for import into other apps

Task automation

  • Auto-login – Store usernames/passwords to skip manual login
  • Send commands – Sendsame command to multiple tabs at once
  • Scripting – Automate workflows by writing scripts

And of course full support for core PuTTY protocols like SSH, telnet, and rlogin.

Pricing and availability:

  • 100% free with no limited trial
  • Windows-only (for now)

If you want to stick with the PuTTY paradigm you already know, grab MTPuTTY for simplifying session and tab management.

Moving on…

Solar-PuTTY – Enhanced PuTTY from SolarWinds

For another souped up free PuTTY alternative, SolarWinds offers Solar-PuTTY. Think of it as PuTTY on steroids!

SolarWinds added handy session management and automation features like:

Simplified Access

  • Saved credentials – Securely store account credentials for fast access
  • Search sessions – Quickly search for specific sessions by name

Enhanced Control

  • Portable app – Run directly from USB – no install needed
  • Import PuTTY sessions – Reuse existing session configurations

Free PuTTY Upgrades

  • Available 100% free forever
  • Frequent updates from SolarWinds dev team
  • Integrates value-added SolarWinds tools

As you can see, Solar-PuTTY focuses mainly on simplifying session management rather than adding completely new protocols or interfaces.

But for streamlining PuTTY access with new convenient capabilities, it‘s certainly worth evaluating.

SecureCRT – Advanced SSH/Telnet For Pros

If you‘re managing UNIX servers full-time and need maximum control plus strong security, SecureCRT deserves your consideration.

This is terminal emulator software built for professional use with advanced capabilities.

Let‘s look at why SecureCRT stands out:

Robust session handling

  • Tabbed sessions – Open multiple tabbed terminals
  • Saved credentials – Store account credentials securely
  • Session folders – Organize related sessions into groups
  • Search – Quickly search sessions by keywords

Scripting and automation

  • 130+ scripting commands – Embed in scripts to customize workflows
  • Macros – Record and replay tedious procedures

Broad protocol support

  • SSH, telnet, serial, rlogin
  • Support for IPv4 and IPv6 networks
  • Compatible with older legacy systems

And much more! One of SecureCRT‘s biggest advantages is its mature scripting engine for automation. Review the full scripting docs here.

Now for pricing and availability:

  • 30-day free trial
  • 1 year license = $105
  • Perpetual license = $295
  • Windows and Mac support

As you can see, SecureCRT sits at the premium end of the spectrum given the expansive capabilities. But for maximum power and customization, it‘s unmatched.

Moving on to the next option…

mRemoteNG – Open-Source Multi-protocol Terminal

If you need to connect to diverse server types and protocols beyond just SSH and telnet, mRemoteNG is an interesting option.

As open-source software, mRemoteNG is completely free while delivering support for many connection types, including:

  • SSH
  • Telnet
  • Remote Desktop (RDP)
  • VNC
  • ICA
  • rlogin

With this breadth of protocol support, you can use mRemoteNG to access Windows and Linux systems equally effectively.

Other useful features include:

Organized connections

  • Connection tree – Visually organize connections
  • Folder structure – Group related servers
  • Favorites – Pin preferred connections

Encrypted storage

  • Encrypted database – Securely store credentials
  • Per-entry encryption – Layer encryption for added security

Portable installation

  • No install needed – Run directly from USB stick
  • Works across Windows versions

When it comes to pricing and availability:

  • 100% free and open-source
  • Windows-only for now

If you need to handle diverse server operating systems and protocols, mRemoteNG brings it together in one platform.

Tabby – Elegant Multi-Platform Terminal

For connecting to UNIX servers from Windows, Mac, or Linux desktops, Tabby provides an integrated experience.

As a fairly new tool, Tabby modernizes terminal usage across platforms with features like:

Refined terminal

  • Smooth scrolling – Lag-free display
  • Multi-tab support – Open multiple terminals
  • Visual tab previews – Identify tabs easily
  • Smart search – Instantly search output

Multi-pane views

  • Split panes – View multiple terminals
  • Adjust sizing – Custom fitting panes
  • Quick swapping – Rearrange panes smoothly

Integrated SFTP file access

  • In-terminal SFTP – Two-pane file browser
  • Syntax highlighting – Code preview for scripts
  • Edit remote files – Modify and save

And more! I especially appreciate the consistent multi-platform experience Tabby delivers.

In terms of availability:

  • 14-day free trial
  • Subscription options:
    • Monthly – $9.99
    • Yearly – $6.25 per month
  • Apps for Windows, macOS, Linux
  • Stable iOS and Android apps

For an elegant terminal accessing UNIX servers across desktop and mobile, Tabby is packed with polish.

Finally, let‘s examine one more contender…

Xshell 7 – User-Friendly SSH/Telnet

Developed by NetSarang, Xshell has been around for over two decades. It now up to Xshell 7 delivering a fast, user-friendly SSH and telnet client for Windows.

Some interesting features in Xshell 7 include:

Refined interface

  • Tabbed terminals – Open multiple sessions
  • Themes & customization – Personalize colors and styles
  • Translation – Display text in other languages

Protocol support

  • SSH and SSH2
  • Telnet, rlogin, serial
  • SFTP, scp, FTP

Port forwarding

  • Local & remote forwarding – Redirect network traffic as needed
  • Dynamic port forwarding – Socks proxy through SSH

Scripting and automation

  • 200+ script functions – Automate workflows
  • Send text/keystrokes – Simulate keyboard input

And more! Xshell also offers strong encryption and data integrity verification for secure connections.

In terms of availability:

  • Free 30-day trial
  • Single user license – $99
  • Volume discounts available
  • Windows only

So for a long-standing option with in-depth scripting capabilities, Xshell still delivers the goods.

Key Differences and Takeaways

I‘ve covered a lot of ground detailing these 7 feature-packed PuTTY alternatives!

To recap the key differences at a high-level:

Tool Protocols Platforms Automation Price
MobaXterm SSH, telnet, RDP Windows, Mac, Linux Good scripting Free – $99/yr
MTPuTTY SSH, telnet, rlogin Windows Decent scripting Free
Solar-PuTTY SSH, telnet, serial Windows Minimal Free
SecureCRT SSH, telnet, serial Windows, Mac Excellent scripting $105+/yr
mRemoteNG SSH, HTTP(S), RDP, VNC Windows Basic Free
Tabby SSH, telnet Windows, Mac, Linux Basic $9.99+/mo
Xshell SSH, telnet, serial Windows Very good scripting $99

As you assess each tool, pay close attention to:

  • Available protocols – Will it handle all your server types?
  • Platform support – What OSes do you need clients for?
  • Automation abilities – Can it speed up repetitive tasks?
  • Pricing model

My goal was to arm you with a complete overview comparison so you can confidently choose the right PuTTY alternative for your needs.

All the tools listed here will serve you much better than barebones PuTTY in terms of convenience and efficiency.

I‘m happy to provide any other advice based on your specific environment and use case too. Just let me know!

Talk soon,
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