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The 5 Best SSH Clients for Mac

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SSH, or Secure Shell, is a network protocol that allows you to remotely access another computer via an encrypted connection. You use SSH to open files and run programs on one computer while using another.

SSH comes built into most modern computers, including Macs. This is great for working remotely and getting easy access to files. But which SSH client is the best one for Mac?

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite Mac SSH clients below. Check it out to see which one is best for you so you can start using it as soon as possible!

1. Terminal

Your Mac comes with an application that will let you access and run SSH built into it. This application is Terminal, which you can usually find by heading to your Applications folder and looking inside Utilities, though there are a few ways to open Terminal on a Mac.

With Terminal open, you can log into a remote computer via an SSH connection by inputting ssh user@IP-Address, where user is replaced with your username for the system, and IP-Address is replaced with the IP address of the remote server.

From there you can input commands to access files and run programs on the other computer. There is no graphical system for this—Terminal is text based—so you type out your commands and hit Enter to access, run, and make changes on another system.

We have a Mac Terminal commands cheat sheet if you need ideas or reminders of what you can input and run via command line in Terminal.

If you don’t know a ton about coding, or haven’t used Terminal much before, it might be a tough SSH client to use. But if you do have some background in these areas, you should be fine. Plus, it’s free, and already on your Mac! For us, any SSH software for Mac would have to be very impressive to beat it.

2. PuTTY for Mac

PuTTY is a Windows application for connecting to SSH servers that has a Mac port. PuTTY for Mac, like Windows PuTTY, allows for SSH connections by creating Terminal windows that run command line inputs for logging into and using remote computers.

Unlike Unix-based Macs, Windows doesn’t have Terminal built into it. PuTTY fills that gap. So PuTTY for Mac isn’t necessary to make an SSH connection or run command line on a Mac, but it does come with features that make it useful as an SSH client on Macs.

PuTTY for Mac has a graphical user interface (GUI) that you can log in with instead of using the Terminal windows. The GUI has options for saving your SSH login information, so you don’t have to keep passwords written down everywhere to remember them.

You can also use PuTTY for Mac to save your SSH session information—the IP address and port number you’re logging into. This saves a lot of time when logging in and switching between remote computers.

Ultimately, though, PuTTY for Mac works much like Terminal in terms of operation and what actions it can perform. It’s also recommended to use Terminal to install PuTTY onto a Mac. It might make sense to just use Terminal rather than downloading a totally separate application for the same basic functions.

But if you know PuTTY from Windows, or really want your login and session information saved, PuTTY for Mac is great, and we’d still recommend it.

Download: PuTTY for Mac (Free)

3. iTerm2

If you’re familiar with Terminal and have some complaints about it, or feel it has some limitations, iTerm2 is the SSH client for you. iTerm2 is a complete Terminal replacement. In addition to letting you establish SSH connections, it lets you perform functions on your Mac that Terminal performs, but with a bunch of extra useful features.

iTerm2 supports split panes, so you can have multiple Terminal windows open and operating right beside each other or on top of each other. It also lets you search through an iTerm2 Terminal window for a particular word or command, so you can get to that bit of code you need in seconds.

Copying and pasting in iTerm2 is a lot easier than it is in PuTTY for Mac, and it keeps a paste history for you so you can quickly find the second-to-last item you copied. It also lets you go back and recover text you deleted or changed with an Instant Replay feature.

In terms of SSH, iTerm2 will keep you informed of which directory you’re in, and will let you navigate back to previous commands by hitting Shift + Cmd + Up or Shift + Cmd + Down.

iTerm2 also keeps track of which directories you visit most often on your SSH connections, so you can get into them again much faster. And it lets you set up and quickly switch between profiles, so you can utilize different permission levels or quickly go to different SSH connections.

With autocomplete code options (which work in SSH connections and in normal Terminal windows) and the ability to pull up the application with a hotkey, iTerm2’s features are incredible for making and utilizing SSH connections, and for completing Terminal functions in general.

It may have a bit of a learning curve if you don’t know Terminal commands fairly well already. But if you want to learn Terminal—and have a little help with it through an autocomplete feature—iTerm2 could be a great Mac SSH client, though it might spoil you with its many great features.

Download: iTerm2 (Free)

4. Termius

Termius is an SSH client that works not only on Mac, Windows, and Linux computers, but also on mobile devices. So you can use it to connect to SSH servers on your Mac, but also on your iOS devices. This means it’s a solid method for encrypting and sending data between devices you own, as well as any remote devices you need to access.

Termius isn’t a Terminal replacement like iTerm2, but it does have a similar autocomplete feature for typing out command line text, as well as the ability to save frequently used commands, which you can share with others on the SSH server.

In addition to Terminal-like windows and controls, Termius has a GUI for SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), a secure method of sharing files between devices. So you can upload and download files via an SSH connection in Termius without needing to use command line!

This, in our view, makes Termius an easier SSH client to understand and use than many options on this list. To get the SFTP feature, though, you need to pay $8.33 per month for the Premium version of Termius. Termius does have a Basic version that is free, but without the SFTP GUI, it’s pretty similar to the other options on our list.

If not learning command line is worth it to you, or to a team of people you’ll use this with (Termius also has a Teams version that’s $29.99 per month per team member), Termius Premium might be worth the money. Otherwise, Termius Basic is still a really good SSH client for Mac!

Download: Termius (Free, subscription available)

5. ZOC Terminal

Another Terminal emulator that works incredibly well as an SSH Mac client is ZOC Terminal. This is an emulator that is really great for staying organized when using and moving files around in SSH connections.

ZOC Terminal lets you open multiple Terminal tabs and color code them to remind yourself what you’re connected to and where. It also maintains an “address book” of folders and hosts for you that are also color coded for quick access and maintenance of different servers.

You can easily scroll back through commands you’ve input in ZOC Terminal and see everything you’ve input in a session as well. So you can go back in a session as well or use the same commands over and over again as quickly as you need.

ZOC Terminal also allows for a ton of customizing. You can fully remap your keyboard inside ZOC Terminal to create hotkey shortcuts for certain command line functions and text inputs. It also allows for F-Macro keys and customized button bars for commands.

Once again, we have SSH software for Mac that requires a lot of knowledge of Terminal and command line to use. But if you have that knowledge and want something that, like iTerm2, can replace Terminal with more organization and customization features, ZOC Terminal is for you.

Download: ZOC Terminal (Free)

There Are So Many SSH Clients to Use on Mac

Macs have a built-in way to make SSH connections with Terminal. But plenty of other SSH clients exist for Mac as well, and they each have their own features that make them great ways to use SSH connections to remotely access other devices.

We hope you find an SSH client that works well for your needs on your Mac. We know we’ve found ours, and we’ll be sharing files and data securely and safely from here on out!

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