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WinSCP: The Most Important Tool to Manage Servers

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When it comes to managing a Linux server, most newbies are confused with what to do, how to do it, and what is needed to do it. This usually happens to Windows day-to-day users, including me at the beginning.

This article explains about WinSCP, why you need it, and how to use it. Let’s start with some introduction to the tool.

What is WinSCP?

According to its official site, WinSCP is an award-winning file manager tool. Well, sort of. This is because WinSCP offers a file explorer window similar to Windows Explorer. Except, it has two panels: One for local directories and another for remote ones.

WinSCP is a popular SFTP client and FTP client for Microsoft Windows. The tool allows you to easily copy files (and folders) between a local computer and remote servers using FTP, FTPS, SCP, SFTP, WebDAV or S3 file transfer protocols.

Previously, we used to use Filezilla tool. WinSCP, on the other hand, offers a better experience. It is simpler and easier to use.

Why Will You Need WinSCP?

Two things you will need to manage Linux servers from your own local computer remotely. First, PuTTY which is a free and open-source terminal emulator, serial console and network file transfer application. Second, a remote file transfer tool.

WinSCP gives you the second part while also being integrated nicely with PuTTY. Personally, what I like about WinSCP is its integration with PuTTY allowing me to continue my login session in PuTTY directly.

You will need PuTTY for:

  • Transferring files from a local computer to remote servers or vice-versa.
  • Managing and organizing files stored on remote servers.
  • Changing file and directory permission on remote servers.
  • Setting file and directory ownership.
  • Easily edit and automatically sync edited files to remote servers.
  • Storing all your servers’ information including login and SSH keys.
  • and so on.

Frankly, I like WinSCP for its three latest reasons above.

This is what I usually do: I log in to my server through WinSCP, then transfer the login session to PuTTY from WinSCP. Hence, each time I want to login to my other servers, I don’t need to open PuTTY one by one.

Download WinSCP

You can download WinSCP tool from its official download page here. You can also download it from mirror link below:

DOWNLOAD WINSCP V1.17.7 INSTALLER

DOWNLOAD WINSCP V1.15.5 INSTALLER

Download the installer and install it as usual. WinSCP is a freeware. You’ll need no serial code to use it.

How to Use WinSCP?

1. Open WinSCP by double-clicking its icon or through the Start Menu.

2. Click “New Site”, choose “SFTP” in the File protocol option.

3. Enter Host Name if you’ve defined one. Otherwise, enter your IP address along with the default SSH port (usually 22).

4. Enter the username and password. The default username of a newly deployed server is “root” generally. Also, type in the password for the username.

5. Click the “Save” button. You’ll see something like this:

6. Change the “Site Name” field with the name of your server. Any name will do. This helps you in recognizing which server to log in to in the future. Especially if you have many servers.

7. Checkmark the “Save password..” option. This is not recommended but this could be useful for newbies. You can disable this option later if you have set up a passwordless SSH login (using SSH key) in the future. Hit the “OK” button.

8. It’s time to log in. Simply double-click the newly added site in the list of all your servers.

Doubleclick the newly added server name
The login process in WinSCP client

9. Once logged in, you’ll be in the root directory by default. The left panel is your local computer while the right panel is your remote server (VPS/Cloud).

WinSCP Interface: Logged in

10. Now, do whatever you want to do.

More basic tutorials on using WinSCP can be found on its official page here.

Log in to PuTTY from WinSCP

Another common task that you will do it regularly is accessing your server through the SSH serial console. PuTTY is the most common tool to help to do the task.

Requirement: Download Putty and install it on your computer. Choose a 32-bit or 64-bit installer depending on your computer system architecture(*).

1. Login to your server as explained above.

2. Once logged in, click the PuTTY Session icon or press Control+P on the keyboard:

3. Simply type in your password.

Personally, I prefer to log in using SSH key. Therefore, the process will be seamless and I no longer need to type my password. Moreover, that way it becomes safer.

We’ll cover the passwordless SSH login in the next article.

(*) How to find out the system architecture of your Windows computer? Go to Settings > System > About. You’ll something similar to this:

Conclusion

PuTTY and WinSCP are the two most important tools essential to manage Linux servers remotely from a Windows computer. Installing WinSCP itself helps you to have both functionalities.

A blogger by hobby. He is an ordinary worker at day, a hybrid sys-admin at night. Sharing knowledge through blogs is his passion. He likes ice cream BTW.

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