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Installing SFTP/SSH Server on Windows using OpenSSH

Recently, Microsoft has released an early version of OpenSSH for Windows. You can use the package to set up an SFTP/SSH server on Windows.

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Installing SFTP/SSH Server

On Windows 10 version 1803 and newer

  • In Settings app, go to Apps > Apps & features > Manage optional features.
  • Locate “OpenSSH server” feature, expand it, and select Install.

Binaries are installed to %WINDIR%\System32\OpenSSH. Configuration file (sshd_config) and host keys are installed to %ProgramData%\ssh (only after the server is started for the first time).

You may still want to use the following manual installation, if you want to install a newer version of OpenSSH than the one built into Windows 10.

On earlier versions of Windows

  • Download the latest OpenSSH for Windows binaries (package OpenSSH-Win64.zip or OpenSSH-Win32.zip)
  • As the Administrator, extract the package to C:\Program Files\OpenSSH
  • As the Administrator, install sshd and ssh-agent services:
    powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -File install-sshd.ps1

Configuring SSH server

  • Allow incoming connections to SSH server in Windows Firewall:
    • Either run the following PowerShell command (Windows 8 and 2012 or newer only), as the Administrator:
      New-NetFirewallRule -Name sshd -DisplayName 'OpenSSH SSH Server' -Enabled True -Direction Inbound -Protocol TCP -Action Allow -LocalPort 22
    • or go to Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Firewall1 > Advanced Settings > Inbound Rules and add a new rule for port 22.
  • Start the service and/or configure automatic start:
    • Go to Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools and open Services. Locate OpenSSH SSH Server service.
    • If you want the server to start automatically when your machine is started: Go to Action > Properties. In the Properties dialog, change Startup type to Automatic and confirm.
    • Start the OpenSSH SSH Server service by clicking the Start the service.

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These instructions are partially based on the official deployment instructions.

Setting up SSH public key authentication

Follow a generic guide for Setting up SSH public key authentication in *nix OpenSSH server, with the following difference:

  • Create the .ssh folder (for the authorized_keys file) in your Windows account profile folder (typically in C:\Users\username\.ssh).2
  • For permissions to .ssh folder and authorized_keys file, what matters are Windows ACL permissions, not simple *nix permissions. Set the ACL so that only a respective Windows account have a write access to the folder and the file (what is the default access level, if you create the folder and the file, while logged in using the respective account).

Connecting to the server

Before the first connection, find out fingerprint of the server’s ED25519 key by running .\ssh-keygen.exe -l -f "%ProgramData%\ssh\ssh_host_ed25519_key" -E md5 from the OpenSSH installation folder (%WINDIR%\System32\OpenSSH or C:\Program Files\OpenSSH), as the Administrator (with PowerShell, use $env:ProgramData instead of %ProgramData%):

C:\Windows\System32\OpenSSH>.\ssh-keygen.exe -l -f "%ProgramData%\ssh\ssh_host_ed25519_key" -E md5
256 MD5:0d:df:0a:db:b4:e9:f1:08:d5:59:2b:91:8e:08:1c:78 martin@example (ED25519)

Start WinSCP. Login dialog will appear. On the dialog:

  • Make sure New site node is selected.
  • On New site node, make sure the SFTP protocol is selected.
  • Enter your machine/server IP address (or a hostname) into the Host name box.
  • Enter your Windows account name to the User name box. It might have to be entered in the format user@domain, if running on a domain.
  • For a public key authentication:
  • For a password authentication:
    • Enter your Windows account password to the Password box.
    • If you Windows account does not have a password, you cannot authenticate with the password authentication (i.e. with an empty password), you need to use the public key authentication.
  • Save your site settings using the Save button.
  • Login using Login button.
  • Verify the host key by comparing fingerprint with the one collected before (see above).

If you cannot authenticate to the server, and you are using Windows 10 Developer mode, make sure that your OpenSSH server does not conflict with an internal SSH server used by the Developer mode. You may need to turn off the SSH Server Broker and SSH Server Proxy Windows services. Or run your OpenSSH server on a different port than 22.

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Further reading

  1. Windows Defender Firewall on Windows 10.Back
  2. Windows Explorer does not allow you to create a folder starting with a dot directly. As a workaround, use .ssh., the trailing dot will allow you to bypass the restriction, but will not be included in the name.Back

Last modified: by martin