Using PuTTY & Pageant with FileZilla on Windows

Updated: May 11, 2017

We are a bit more strict about our security than most hosts in that we do not use the traditional username/password combination to access web sites. Instead we use shared SSH keys. These are fairly easy to manage on Mac/Linux machines but Windows, not so much.

Here is a quick and dirty tutorial on how to set up a Windows machine to generate SSH keys and connect to a site using FileZilla.

You will need to download the following:

PuTTY – Allows you to manage connections (download the latest Windows MSI files – 32 or 64 bit)

Pageant (32-bit | 64 bit) – A background task that loads your keys into memory making them accessible to programs. (.exe files)

PuTTYgen (32-bit | 64-bit) – Key generator (.exe files)

FileZilla – An FTP client that support SFTP/SSH. Be sure to download at LEAST version 3.11. Do not download this (nor anything else) from SourceForge. The version of FileZilla distributed by SourceForge contains malware for both Mac and Windows.

After you have downloaded and installed all 3 the first thing to do is run PuTTYgen.

Select SSH2-RSA and make sure you are generating a 2048-bit key. Click Generate and run your cursor around the grey space to generate randomness.

Once the generation is complete you will see a bunch of gibberish at the top beginning with ssh-rsa. Copy all of this and paste it into an email and send it to us (right-click, Select All/Copy). We will then add this (your public key) to the server.

On the following screen click Save public key and save the key somewhere you can easily find it (we recommend Documents > PuTTY Keys (a new folder you will need to create). Name it “putty-public-key”. Do the same for the private key and save it as “putty-private-key”. It’s OK to save it without a passphrase (click yes). Close PuTTYgen.

Go to Start > PuTTY > Run Pageant

It won’t really do anything at first. You will need to right-click on the little icon that appears in the bottom right system tray. If the icon is not visible it may be hidden. Select View Keys.

In the next window click Add Key and select the private key you generated and saved above.

It’s safe to close Pageant at this point. Just make sure it is running in your system tray. If you ever try to connect to a site and it doesn’t work it’s likely because Pageant isn’t running or, if it is, the keys are not loaded.

Fire up Filezilla. At the top enter the IP address and username. Leave Password blank. Enter 22 for the port number and click Quickconnect. You should be able to connect directly to the server.

You can add the connection as a bookmark in Filezilla. Just make sure Pageant is running and your keys are loaded each time you wish to connect!

With Pageant running you can use most applications to connect to your server if they support secure FTP (SFTP) and SSH.