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Best Free Telnet-SSH Terminal Emulator


Terminal emulators provide a telnet or SSH connection to UNIX like servers. Commercial products can emulate a wealth of terminal types, provide GUI face-lifting etc. All very nice, but this can leave the emulator feeling sluggish. Free implementations are more focused on the job at hand — providing a fast no-frills connection.

There is no shortage of candidates so I am presenting a couple of mature offerings followed by some modern projects.

Most free products only offer a narrow range of screen emulations, typically vt100, linux or xterm. As a full time support analyst, I considered support for the following features as my essential criteria.

  • Configureable function key sequences
  • Configureable answerback message
  • Local printing

Without the abovementioned accessing or supporting legacy-green-screen-systems is likely to be problematic.

In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide


Dave's TelnetDave's Telnet was the only package to offer all three essential criteria—albeit some manually. It offers emulation for linux/xterm/vt100/vt220/vt320/vt440.

Dave’s Telnet replaced my commercial product for a week with only a couple of minor points. Copy and paste functions seemed clunky and it failed to connect to one hostname, I had to specify the IP address.


PuTTYPuTTY is another very popular mature package, but only offers xterm emulation.

It does not appear to support an answerback message or configurable function keys. However, in the case of function keys this may not be applicable to xterm emulation. PuTTY has been incorporated into many related projects.

Both choices are maintained, but new releases are infrequent.


Other Free Terminal Emulators:

The following two packages I reviewed just missed a recommendation, but remain on my watch list.

Poderosa provides a modern tabbed environment offering vt100/xterm/kterm emulations and the ability to extend with plugins. It offers no obvious support for my criteria, but proved robust as a basic terminal emulator with a useful context menu available from right click. Another interesting feature is auto complete based on previously typed commands. This may be of interest to system administrators or those requiring basic remote access. Requires .NET v2 to be installed. Unfortunately this project seems to have gone the way of the Dodo with no updates since 2006. This is a great shame for a project that could easily have become my hands down winner over time.

Terminals is a more general remote access package including a vt220 terminal emulator. It provides a tabbed environment offering the ability to connect using telnet/Remote Desktop/VNC and others. It also provides over a dozen network analysis options, including ping, traceroute and whois. Again no obvious support for my criteria. I encountered stability issues using Windows 2000, although no definitive list of supported versions is given. This may be of interest to system administrators looking after a wide range of machine types. Currently being actively developed.

Quick Selection Guide

Dave's Telnet
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Offers all three essential criteria, emulation for linux/xterm/vt100/vt220/vt320/vt440
Copy and paste functions seemed clunky, have to specify the IP address.
114.6 KB
Open source freeware
This product is portable.
Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Vista

v1.2.7.32 released 03 June, 2013
View changelog here

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Another very popular mature package.
Only offers xterm emulation.
1.3 MB
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Vista, Unix

View the changelog here


This software review is copy-edited by Ian Richards. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.


free, terminal, emulator, ssh, telnet

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by MD (not verified) on 30. August 2012 - 2:17  (98482)

Have you looked at FireSSH at ?

And how would you rate it / would it make this list now?

by Anupam on 30. August 2012 - 5:31  (98485)

At present, this article does not have any editor.

by ssybesma on 24. April 2012 - 6:07  (92508)


You may want to give Terminals a second shot.

When you first tried it, it was at 1.9a and now it's at a full 2.0 release with apparently a lot of fixes.

The other thing is the documentation says you have to have at least Windows XP, so I think that's why you had problems running under Windows 2000.



by Anupam on 24. April 2012 - 6:11  (92510)

site.editor means that the category is without an editor.

by AchillesK (not verified) on 15. March 2012 - 9:30  (90642)

Poderosa aint dead.
check it out

by jerick70 (not verified) on 10. February 2012 - 21:13  (88646)

You should take a look at MobaXterm. Here is a small feature list.

MobaXterm is an enhanced terminal for Windows with an X11 server, several network tools for remote computing and all the essential Unix commands packaged into a single portable exe file.

MobaXterm has been designed to suit the needs of computer users, sysadmins, developers and webmasters by providing:
- a multitab terminal with embedded Unix commands (ls, cd, cat, sed, grep, awk, rsync, wget, ...)
- an embedded X11 server for easily exporting your Unix/Linux display
- a session manager with several network utilities: SSH, RDP, VNC, Telnet, Rlogin, FTP, SFTP and XDMCP

You can also use some of the free plugins in order to extend MobaXterm capabilities!

by Ghost_Archer (not verified) on 14. March 2012 - 22:49  (90623)

For some reason, I can not have the MobaXterm to work for serial connection. I can not find the place to set the parity bit, etc.

by Neil Parks from Ohio (not verified) on 13. January 2012 - 4:01  (87104)

If you are running Windows and you want to log on to a Linux box with SSH in console mode, try Kitty, an improved version of Putty. It adds features such as an optional automatic login so you don't have to type in your password every time.

If you want to run graphical programs on the Linux, you will need a terminal program with an X server. I don't think you can find a better one than freeware Mobaxterm.

by J_L on 15. October 2011 - 22:48  (81481)

Does Dave's Telnet have any form of security or encryption?

by dbaptista (not verified) on 14. September 2011 - 13:36  (79594)

Definitely Tera Term.

by IronMike (not verified) on 23. November 2010 - 23:50  (61586)

Going to look at some of these other telnet clients, as puTTY is lacking in the macro area. However, it does support answerbacks. Under the "Terminal" setting, there is a line that says "Answerback to ^E". On the textbox below, you can put what the answerback should be. For example:

sends the text "MyAnswerback" followed by a carriage return

by JeffB (not verified) on 6. October 2010 - 14:15  (59113)

I like MobaXterm. It has much more than just a terminal emulator though. Check it out here

by Anonymous on 10. June 2010 - 4:40  (51799)

Does anyone know where I can find the Windows telnet client for XP?

by Anonymous on 17. March 2010 - 13:23  (45711)

FoxTerm is a free emulator that provides access to Telnet and COM port connections. The pro's are that it is really easy to use for many connections (tile windows for each connection within the same instance of FoxTerm) and provides a session capability. It's like Poderosa but I find it more useful because you can manually edit the session XML file to do all sorts of things. It also has really great time stamp functionality and flexibility - you can specify whatever time stamp format you want. The cons are that the emulation support isn't all there and it doesn't support SSH. It really only supports plain text. You can download it from

by Ghost_Archer (not verified) on 14. March 2012 - 22:52  (90624)

Good things:

It is small. And it works.

Bad things:

It add time stamp to each line of serial connection in my test.
And \r is translated in some way like a tab.

by Anonymous on 10. March 2010 - 10:39  (45291)

A **BIG** thank-you to the person who pointed me to Cryptoterm!!!
Boys, that is a real killer app. I'd only appreciate an easier way to profile/model/choose connections' profiles but, besides this, it's the king of terminal emulators and it's flexible and customizable in almost every way.
Finally I can enjoy midnight commander and yast the way the should, also on a remote plain text terminal! :-D

by Anonymous on 25. January 2010 - 20:05  (42045)

Try CryptoTerm at it meets all 3 criteria and is freeware too. Version 1.2 was released 1/5/2010 with Win 7 compatibilty and FTP client and it does SSH, SSL and TLS. The only thing strange is that the "about" screen has "This program will work to: 2010.12.31"

Larry B

by Lynagh11 (not verified) on 22. September 2011 - 17:27  (80121)

Larry -

I just got employment with a company that uses handheld computers and I want to learn all there is to know about Terminal Emulation. Do you have any recommencations as to how to go about learning TE?

Thanks for your time.


by Anonymous on 27. May 2010 - 15:17  (50467)

There is new version of CryptoTerm: 1.3.
It will work to: 12/21/2012.
Till the end of the world?

by Anonymous on 6. January 2010 - 9:46  (40378)

Terra Term doent support SSH version 2 so putty ftw

by Ghost_Archer (not verified) on 14. March 2012 - 23:01  (90626)

I think there are 3 major version available for tera term.

1. Original developer's final version 2.3 -
2. Ayera's mod version 3.1.3 -
3. project based on version 2.3 current verson 4.7.3-

the first 2 only support com port up to 4, which is normal hardware specification in old desktops. The new computer use USB to serial adapter will feel embarrassed on that. 4.7.3 has some minor but annoying bug in serial communication in which the current input is invisible, and other strange behavior when lots of data get pushed into it. (Xshell doesn't have that).

by Anonymous on 16. June 2010 - 17:58  (52260)

Another version of Tera Term that also supports SSH.

by Anonymous on 16. June 2010 - 17:57  (52259)

This version of Tera Term supports SSH.

by Anonymous on 7. September 2009 - 18:10  (32297)

I would just like to have some Remote software thats easy for ANYONE to use

by Anonymous on 27. July 2009 - 6:13  (25808)

check out the xshell 3, which is free for home/school use. very powerful client for telnet/ssh

by Its me (not verified) on 21. October 2010 - 12:16  (59850)

I second xshell - awesome. leaves securecrt for dead

by Anonymous on 29. April 2009 - 23:12  (20801)

Take a look at UniTTY and Remote Desktop Manager they are both very nice.

UniTTY -


by Anonymous on 13. January 2009 - 21:31  (13841)

Terminals doesnt release a specific version for x64, but is fully compatible.

Thanks for the reference!

-Rob Chartier

by Anonymous on 9. November 2008 - 12:36  (10254)

I like SSH 3.2.9 from, but that is an older version that they have released free with restricted license use (personal use) and is not on their website for download.

The online user manual is here:

and you can download it with a google search:

and find it here:
direct link here:

and some install info here:

by amarillier on 9. August 2008 - 17:11  (5859)

An interesting twist on putty is a code fork named Kitty - it adds some new features, mostly aesthetic, some kind of nice.

I use only putty exclusively for serious Unix/Linux administration, all day every day and have no reason to use anything else, along with X-ming for those occasional times when I need an X display. putty does all I need, and does it well, but we're all different. One of the real key features for me with putty is pageant key based authentication, which works hand-in-hand with WinSCP for authentication. With just one key and proper configurations, I never have to put my name and password into a server anymore wen I log in. Yes, I have the right security configs, and it is safe and is no problem with audits! :-)