PuTTY for Mac: 5 Free Alternative SSH Clients to Use

Last Updated: September 29, 2016

If you are the owner or the manager of a website, or a sysadmin, for that matter; you must have heard of (and probably used) PuTTY, at least once. While moving from Windows to Mac is mostly an exciting, and positive change, if you did use PuTTY, you will find yourself stranded in the dark, as there is no PuTTY support on Mac.

I, myself, don’t SSH into my website, and hence don’t really mind the absence of PuTTY. However, it does pose a problem to many people who use PuTTY and have only recently made the switch to Mac. Well, we have compiled a list of 5 free PuTTY alternatives that should let you SSH into a remote server:

1. Terminal

The Terminal app is the default CLI that comes bundled with the Mac, and is a rather powerful tool, in case you didn’t know. You can use the Terminal to SSH into a remote server, provided, obviously, that you have the valid login credentials.

Here’s a short example of how you can use the Terminal to SSH into a web-server. I’m using my website’s hosting server for illustration purposes. All you will need to do, is change the server name to your server and use your login credentials.

1. Launch Terminal.

2. Use the following command to connect to your web server using SSH:

ssh server_name -p port_number -l login_id

  • In my case, the command becomes:
    ssh server208.web-hosting.com -p 21098 -l my_username

PuTTY alternatives for Mac log in from Terminal

3. You will be prompted to enter your password. The typing will be hidden for security purposes.

PuTTY alternatives for Mac

4. Once you have entered the login password, hit Enter, and you will be connected via SSH. You can now run shell commands on your server.

2. iTerm2

iTerm2 is a Terminal replacement for Mac with a plethora of added features that the default Terminal app doesn’t offer. Notable among the various features that iTerm2 offers are:

  • Support for split-windows: Multiple independent terminals in the same tab.
  • Support for Annotation: Add notes and comments to shell commands that have been run.
  • Instant Playback: This feature plays back a history of everything you have done on iTerm2, in case you forgot to copy a number or some detail from older commands.
  • Better search: Searching on iTerm2 highlights all the matches for the word, like Safari and Chrome do.
  • Mouseless Copy: You don’t need to use the mouse to copy or paste text, anymore!
Multiple tabs open in iTerm2

There are a lot of other features that are offered by iTerm2. You can read about them on their official website. The process to SSH into a web server using iTerm2 is exactly the same as the process in Terminal, except, iTerm2 will make your life easier inside the Terminal.

Download here

3. vSSH Lite

vSSH is a premium app, but it also offers a Lite version, for free. vSSH is aimed at SSH or Telnet connections, or for Port Forwarding. Unlike Terminal and iTerm2, vSSH is not a Terminal replacement. However, it does offer a CLI once you have successfully connected to a website using SSH. The app offers a plethora of features, including the ability to either use a username and password for authentication, or even public/private key encryption. If you use SSH apps on other devices, like an iPhone or an iPad, vSSH Lite can create iCloud connections with those apps as well, and even share macros. It supports key and port forwarding, as well as logging and pseudographics support.

For basic usage, vSSH Lite will suffice, however, if you require multiple vSSH windows to be open simultaneously, you will need to buy the paid version of the app ($4.46).

PuTTY alternatives for Mac

Download here

4. DTerm

DTerm is another Terminal replacement app. It is a context-sensitive command line application that can be launched over any window you are working on, making it easy to run commands on the files that you are working with in the GUI, and performing command line actions on them. If you need to use a full terminal window for your tasks, you can simply press Command + Return and DTerm will launch a full Terminal window, already set up with the correct working directory, and you can get started right away. The app fully supports a standard command line autocompletion system as well, so you can simply hit F5 in the command field to get an autocomplete window with suggestions for the possible autocomplete options for the command you were typing.

PuTTY alternatives for Mac PuTTY alternatives on Mac

Download here

5. Shuttle

Shuttle is not so much an app as it is a shortcut menu for your SSH servers. Or at least that’s how it has been advertised. Since I don’t use SSH, I thought I wouldn’t really have a lot of use for it, but it turns out, Shuttle can be configured to run commands or scripts with just a couple of clicks.

Shuttle comes with a shuttle.json file that you can edit (using a Text editor of your choice) to add SSH servers and configurations to the shortcut menu that Shuttle adds to your menu bar, and in this json file, you can actually add an entry for any command you want to run, when the corresponding menu item is clicked. This is great stuff! Not just SSH, you can basically add commands to run custom scripts simply from the menu bar, and have them open in a new Terminal window, or a new tab in the same Terminal window.

PuTTY alternatives for Mac Shuttle config file

Download here

SEE ALSO: 40 Essential Linux Commands You Should Know

Access a Secure Shell Remotely using These SSH Clients

As it turns out, Mac users don’t really need a separate client like PuTTY for SSH purposes. The Terminal app already has what PuTTY gives to Windows users. However, for added features, and extra colour support, you can turn to any of the apps mentioned above. Learning how to use SSH can come in handy, if you ever want to run your own website, or manage a system remotely, in a secure manner, so get started today.

We would love to hear about your experience with SSH on a Mac, and the problems (if any), that you had to face due to the lack of PuTTY support for macOS. Give us a shout out in the comments section below.


Akshay has been a gadget freak since longer than he cares to admit and loves everything to do with technology. When he's not fanboying over the latest and greatest in the tech universe, he watches Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.