WinSCP Tutorial


WinSCP is a secure file copying program for Windows. This tutorial includes:

  1. Getting Started
    1. Get & Install WinSCP (first time only)
    2. Set Up WinSCP to Connect to Acme (first time only)
  2. Connect to Acme
  3. Transfer Files to & from Acme
  4. Disconnect from Acme

Getting Started

The following steps will get you started using WinSCP for the first time. After that, you will not need to go through the first steps again (unless you want to transfer files to computers other than Acme).

Get & Install WinSCP

First, download WinSCP (here) to your desktop. Once it's downloaded, minimize this window, double-click the installer, and click Next until the installation is complete.

If WinSCP doesn't start automatically when the installation is complete, run it by clicking Start, Programs, WinSCP2, WinSCP2.

You should see this screen (Fig. 1) when WinSCP first starts up. If you don't, it's probably because you're a PuTTY user and already have PuTTY sessions saved; nevertheless, click Session in the left pane of the screen so that you see the screen shown here.

Fig. 1: Blank Session Screen

The next section explains how to configure this screen (and other settings) to set up your session preferences for Acme.

Set Up WinSCP to Connect to Acme

To configure WinSCP to connect to another system, you first have to tell it some basic information about what you want to do. Fill in the text fields on the Session screen. You do not need to change the Port number, and you do not need a Private key file.

You should now have a completed Session panel similar to Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Completed Session Screen

Warning! Skipping the next paragraph will cause you and your TA a big headache. Don't skip it.

The following error is caused by failing to follow the instructions in the next paragraph:

Error skipping startup message.

(Details: Can't detect command return code.)

Now find and select the Advanced options checkbox at the bottom left corner of the WinSCP window; more options appear in the left pane. Among them is Shell; click it.

To the right, now, you will see that the top entry box says Shell. Change this option from Default to Enter, and type /bin/sh in the text field, as shown in Fig. 3. Leave everything else unchanged.

Fig. 3: Customized Shell Screen

Finally, you're done setting up the connection. It's time to save so you won't have to do this every time! So, uncheck the Advanced options checkbox in the bottom left corner of the window, and then select Stored sessions in the left pane, as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4: The Stored sessions Screen

Click Save on the right side of this window. In the Save session as, enter, as shown in Fig. 5, and click OK.

Fig. 5: The Save session as Window

All right, you're finished setting up your connection to Acme... now continue on to learn how to connect and transfer files!

Connect to Acme

To connect to Acme, simply select Stored sessions in the left pane of the WinSCP window, then select your connection to in the right side (it's probably the only one), and, finally, hit the Login button at the bottom (see Fig. 6). You might be prompted for your password again; if so, enter it.

Fig. 6: The Stored sessions Screen with a Saved Session

Transfer Files to & from Acme

Once connected to Acme, WinSCP will present you with a view similar to that shown in Fig. 7. The files in the listing are all of the files in your home directory on Acme; this is often referred to as the remote file listing.

Fig. 7: WinSCP Remote File Listing

Transferring files with WinSCP is as simple as dragging the file from a folder on your computer into the WinSCP window, or vice versa. Let's try it:

  1. On your desktop, create a file called winscp-test.txt. Type something short into this file (e.g., "Hello!") and save it.
  2. Now, drag the file from your desktop into the WinSCP window, and drop it (let go of the left mouse button). You will be prompted with a Copy dialog box. This is just to confirm that you really want to copy the file; hit OK.
  3. The file now shows up in the remote file listing. You've just copied the file from your computer to Acme!
  4. To transfer a file from Acme back to your computer, you simply reverse the process. First, delete the file winscp-test.txt from your Desktop.
  5. Then, drag the file from the WinSCP window (Acme) back to your Desktop. You will be presented with another confirmation window, just as before; confirm by clicking the Copy button.
  6. The file will be transferred back to your Desktop. Open it to see it's the same as the one you just created, only this one has been copied to Acme and back again.

In short, for any file you want to transfer to Acme, just connect with WinSCP and drag it into the WinSCP window. Very simple!

Disconnect from Acme

This isn't really a step at all! Just close WinSCP when you're finished, and it disconnects from Acme automatically.