WinSCP Setup

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Introduction

WinSCP is a FREE application (for Windows) that allows you to make connections to remote computers for (primarily) transferring files using any of these three protocols; SCP (as its name implies), FTP and most importantly SFTP . In this tutorial we'll concentrate on using the SFTP protocol as that's what we'd recommend that you use. FTP is insecure and outdated and SCP has been superseded by SFTP.

It's an easy to use yet very powerful application that can do much more than just transfer files and best of all it's FREE! Once you've got it installed I'd recommend checking it out thoroughly to find out everything it can do.

WinSCP Setup and tutorial

This brief tutorial assumes that the WinSCP software has NOT already installed on your computer. We'll walk you though the process from beginning to end on this one. If you have not done so please download the installation file from their web site. I'd recommend downloading the most current (non-beta) version available. WinSCP is available only for Windows at this time (sorry you other folks).

Installation & Setup

Once you've got the installation file downloaded, run it and follow along as I walk you through the installation in these screen shots.

On the first screen click on the "Next" button to continue...

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To signify that you agree to the license agreement click on the "Next" button to continue...

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Choose the "Typical installation" option and click on the "Next" button to continue...

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Choose the "Norton Commander interface" option and click on the "Next" button to continue...

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Review the installation setup options and click on the "Install" button to continue...

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Assuming that the installation was successful make sure that the "Launch WinSCP" box is checked and click on the "Finish" button to launch the application.

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Making your first connection

You will initially be given a dialog box to enter the parameters to make your first remote server connection (session). Fill in the appropriate information for your server according to the instructions as shown in this screen shot.

NOTE: If the remote servers user account is not configured to accept SFTP connections then you will get an error!

WinSCP-setup-screenshot07.png

"Warning" dialog box

As you can see in this screen shot you'll be warned that you've received a new host key from the server you've just connected to. This will always happen the first time you make a connection. Click on the "Yes" button to accept the host key and to save it to your cache for future reference. You'll only have to do this once (unless the servers host key ever changes). If your server is ever "failed over to new hardware" you'll probably be prompted with this warning again the next time you connect. The host key usually changes when the hardware is swapped. You can check your SSH keys in the "Users > SSH Keys" page of your control panel to compare against this warning.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot08.png

Getting to know your way around

Once you've successfully connected you'll see this screen. In the left hand panel you'll see your local drives, directories and files. In the right hand panel you'll see the directories and files on the remote server. Double-clicking on any of the directories will expand them. Directories are typically listed at the top and files below (but you can change the sort order if you like). Double-click on the top folder (with the up-turned arrow) to go up to the parent directory. You can also use the drop-downs above to move between directories.

At this point you can Drop & Drag directories and/or files between panels.

NOTE: The lock icon in the lower right hand corner indicates the type of encryption you're using for this connection. YELLOW = ENCRYPTED, GREY = INSECURE. You can click on that icon for more information. It also shows that "SFTP" is the protocol being used.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot09.png

Copy dialog box

Once you've initiated a copy (or move) operation you'll see a dialog box like this. Review the information displayed and make sure that you're doing the right thing. You can "Cancel" now or make changes if something is not right.

Once everything is correct you can click on the "Copy" button to continue.

If you checked the "Transfer in background" option you can continue working while the transfer is done in the background. Otherwise you'll see that dialog box showing the actual transfer progress in the foreground.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot10.png

Setting up "Sessions"

"Sessions" are basically the connection parameters WinSCP uses to connect to various remote servers. You can set up many "sessions" and store them for quick easy access to other remote servers.

To access the "Session" manager click on the "Session" menu option then click on the "New Session" option.

NOTE: When logging into your account using SFTP you may notice some differences from what you would normally see when you logged in with a normal FTP client! This is true, things are a little different. DO NOT PANIC! Please see the NOTES section of the SFTP Wiki article for more information on this.

NOTE: In order to enable/disable the "Tree" view for either the local or remote panels click on the "Options" menu item. Then click on either ("Local Panel" or "Remote Panel") then click on the "Tree" option.

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Click on the "New" button to continue setting up a new session.

NOTE: If you had previously set up session(s) you could click on one of them them then click on either of the "Edit", "Delete" or "Rename" buttons to perform those actions.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot12.png

As you did when you initially made your first connection; enter the connection parameters for this new session. Fill in the appropriate information for your server according to the instructions as shown in this screen shot.

Once you're done click on the "Save" button to save it.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot13.png

If you filled in the password for that session a warning dialog will appear. If you want the application to save the password for this session click on the "OK" button to continue. Otherwise click on the "Cancel" button to go back and remove the password.

If you don't save the password for that session WinSCP will prompt you for the password each time you make a connection using that session.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot14.png

Next you'll be prompted for a name for this new session. The default name is probably perfect so I'd recommend using that (it's a combination of the user @ hostname which is a perfect description for that session). However you can rename it anything you want. It's best to use whatever makes the most sense to you as you'll be the one using it.

Click on the "OK" button once you're done.

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Connecting to a remote server using a saved "Session"

Connecting to a remote server is quick and easy using saved sessions!

Just open WinSCP and click on the "Sessions" menu, mouse over (or click on) the "Saved Sessions" option and your available saved sessions will appear. Click on the session that you want to use. WinSCP will immediately attempt to make a connection using those stored session parameters.

NOTE: If you saved the password in that session it will be entered automatically. However if you did not save the password OR the password for that account changed you'll be prompted for the account password.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot16.png

Changing the application "Preferences"

To make changes to the applications Preferences click on the gear icon at the top left. The following screen shots will show you some recommend changes you'll want to make to WinSCP.

NOTE: WinSCP can do much more than just transfer files and directories between computers! I'd recommend that you mouse over the icons and review the other menu options to find out all of the other things WinSCP can do! It's quite powerful if you know how to use it!

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Using the "Norton Commander" interface

The examples shown so far assume that you've chosen to use the "Norton Commander" interface. However if you've previously installed WinSCP and chose the "Explorer-like" interface this is where you'd change it! Personally I'd recommend using the "Norton Commander" interface because it looks and works like just about every other graphical FTP interface out there. It's very intuitive and simple. Local files & directories in one panel and remote files & directories in the other panel. Simple, elegant and clean.

However, if you prefer using the "Explorer-like" interface instead, that's OK too. If you're more comfortable with that. More information on that is coming up shortly.

Once you've finished with the "Environment > Interface" section click on the "Transfer > Background" section to continue.

NOTE: If you change from one interface to the other you won't see the change until you restart WinSCP. So don't freak out if you don't see the change immediately!

WinSCP-setup-screenshot18.png

Set the "Maximum number of transfers at the same time" to 4. You can probably leave the other settings with the default values. Once you've finished with the "Transfer > Background" tab click on the "Transfer > Resume" section to continue.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot19.png

These are the default settings regarding the "Resume" feature. I'd recommend leaving them as they are, but you can change them if you feel that it's necessary.

At this point click on the "OK" button to save the changes you've made so far.

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Using the "Explorer-like" interface

As promised; you change the interface option to "Explorer-like" under the preferences section as this screen shot shows. However you'll lose the two panel operation within the WinSCP interface. But hay, to each his own.

NOTE: If you change from one interface to the other you won't see the change until you restart WinSCP. So don't freak out if you don't see the change immediately!

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This is what the interface looks like when using the "Explorer-like" interface option. It pretty much looks and works like any other Windows Explorer window would.

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When you open a Windows Explorer window you can begin to drop & drag files/directories between these two systems.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot23.png

Once you've initiated a copy (or move) operation you'll see a dialog box like this. Review the information displayed and make sure that you're doing the right thing. You can "Cancel" now or make changes if something is not right.

Once everything is correct you can click on the "Copy" button to continue.

If you checked the "Transfer in background" option you can continue working while the transfer is done in the background. Otherwise you'll see that dialog box showing the actual transfer progress in the foreground.

WinSCP-setup-screenshot24.png

There's so much more!

As I mentioned before, WinSCP can do much more than just transfer files and directories between computers! I'd recommend that you mouse over the icons and review the other menu options to find out all of the other things WinSCP can do! It's quite powerful if you know how to use it!

External links

WinSCP home page

Notes