I was just reading Chris Travers’…
…which discusses using SSHWindows in a minimal installation of Cygwin. I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable installing Cygwin for just a single function (even one as important as allowing secure SSH access). But, Chris’ analysis makes it worthwhile to look at this method if you want to use SSH to work with a remote Microsoft Windows system.
There is an alternative, however. freeSSHd is a freeware ssh server for Microsoft Windows. It seems a little unstable. So, I wouldn’t recommend it for serious systems work at this stage of its development. However, it does not need Cygwin to be installed to work and seems to work well enough when it is up and running (it has crashed on me a few times). I’m going to keep my eye on future freeSSHd development and hope it becomes more stable in the near future.
One other item: In his closing thoughts section of the paper, Chris says: SSH is not as useful on Windows as it is on Linux, in part due the differences between how remote access to graphical applications is handled, and in part due to the fact that Windows is not generally as command-line oriented as Linux.
While I agree with Chris in general, I think that Microsoft PowerShell is a game changer. Microsoft PowerShell gives system administrators deep system access at the command line level. It basically makes a command line window a usable shell in the way UNIX/Linux shells are. I found that I could start PowerShell up after logging in to a Windows XP box. xterm looked a little odd after starting PowerShell. However, switching the xterm color scheme from black-on-white to white-on-black (old school terminal look) took care of most of the viewing problems (though not all).
I’m may have a bit more free time than usual in July and August. So, I may take more time looking at remotely managing Windows workstations and servers from a command line (shelled in through SSH) using PowerShell. I think this is the way I will prefer to manage Windows servers in the future (especially since that is the way I work with Linux boxes right now).
FYI: The screen-cap above is a CentOS 4 Linux installing running in a Virtual PC 2007 virtual machine accessing the host Windows XP through an ssh session to freeSSHd running on XP.