You can use the built-in OpenSSH package in Windows to easily enable secure file transfers between the client and Windows server using the SFTP (Secure FTP) protocol. In this article, we will show how to install and configure an SFTP server on Windows 10 or Windows Server 2022/2019/2016/2012R2.
The main advantages of SFTP:
- Files and commands are transferred within a secure SSH session;
- One connection is used to send both files and commands;
- Symbolic links, interrupt/resume the transfer, file delete functions, etc. are supported;
- SFTP connection is much faster and more reliable on WAN links where FTP is slow or intermittent;
- Possibility to authenticate using SSH keys.
The win32 port of OpenSSH (Win32-OpenSSH) is built into all modern versions of Windows by default. You can use it to configure a secure SFTP server instead of using third-party products like Core FTP, FileZilla, CYGWIN, FTP Shell, IPSwitch, etc.
How to Install OpenSSH on Windows?
The OpenSSH package is a part of the operating system in modern builds of Windows 10 (starting from 1803), Windows 11, and Windows Server 2022/2019 as a Feature on Demand (like RSAT).
On these versions of Windows, you can install the OpenSSH server using PowerShell:
Add-WindowsCapability -Online -Name OpenSSH.Server*
Or using DISM:
dism /Online /Add-Capability /CapabilityName:OpenSSH.Server~~~~0.0.1.0
Also, you can install OpenSSH server from Windows 10 GUI (Settings -> Apps -> Optional Features -> Add a feature -> Open SSH Server -> Install).
To check if a package is installed:
Get-WindowsCapability -Online | ? Name -like 'OpenSSH*'
- OpenSSH executables are located in the directory:
- The sshd_config configuration file is located in
C:\ProgramData\ssh(this directory is created after the first start of the sshd service);
- Log file:
- The authorized_keys file and keys are stored in a directory:
On the previous earlier builds of Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and on Windows Server 2016/2012 R2, you will have to download Win32-OpenSSH for Windows from GitHub and install it manually (https://github.com/PowerShell/Win32-OpenSSH/releases). We need a version for Windows x64: OpenSSH-Win64.zip (4,15 MB).
- Extract the archive to the target folder: C:\OpenSSH-Win;
- Open an elevated PowerShell prompt and switch to the OpenSSH folder:
- Add the path to the OpenSSH directory to the Path environment variable (System Properties -> Advanced tab -> Environment Variables -> Select and edit the Path system variable -> Add the path to the OpenSSH folder);
- Install the OpenSSH server:
.\install-sshd.ps1(a green message should appear “sshd and ssh-agent services successfully installed”);If running PowerShell scripts on your computer is blocked by your PowerShell Execution Policy, you can run the script with this command:
powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -File install-sshd.ps1
How to Configure SFTP Server on Windows Using OpenSSH?
Now you need to configure OpenSSH on Windows for SFTP mode.
Enable autostart for the SSHD service and start it using the following PowerShell service management commands:
Set-Service -Name sshd -StartupType 'Automatic'
Use the PowerShell to open TCP port 22 in the Windows Firewall for incoming SSH traffic:
New-NetFirewallRule -Protocol TCP -LocalPort 22 -Direction Inbound -Action Allow -DisplayName SSH
netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name='SSH Port' dir=in action=allow protocol=TCP localport=22
# only allow users in this domain group to connect to OpenSSH AllowGroups corp\sftp_users # enable password authentication (SSH keys cannot be used) AuthenticationMethods password #default (chrooot) directory for SFTP users (by default, the user connects to the directory with his profile in the C:\users\username folder) ChrootDirectory C:\SFTP ForceCommand internal-sftp #You can set an individual chrootdirectory for each user: Match User abrown ChrootDirectory c:\SFTP\abrown ForceCommand internal-sftp X11Forwarding no AllowTcpForwarding no Match User jsmith ChrootDirectory c:\SFTP\jsmith ForceCommand internal-sftp X11Forwarding no AllowTcpForwarding no
Connecting to SFTP Server Using WinSCP or PowerShell
Now you can connect to your Windows SSH server using the SFTP protocol. Next, we’ll show you how to connect to an SFTP server using the free WinSCP client, the PowerShell console, and the built-in sftp.exe tool.
In the connection configuration window, select the SFTP as the file transfer protocol, specify the server name and the credentials of the Windows account (use the
user@domain format for domain users), which is used for connection (it is also possible to configure public key authentication).
When you try to connect for the first time, the following notification of the host key not found in the local cache appears.
If everything is configured correctly, a client should connect to the SFTP server and display the list of files in the user’s home chroot directory (by default, it is the user’s profile directory).
Using the familiar file manager interface (like Total Commander), you can copy files between the server and the client using the secure SFTP protocol.
You can use the Posh-SSH module to connect to an SFTP server from PowerShell. You can download and install the module from the PowerShell Gallery or offline:
Install-Module -Name Posh-SSH
To connect to the SFTP server using a password, you need to get the username and password via Get-Credential:
Now you can connect to your SFTP server:
$SFTPSession = New-SFTPSession -ComputerName 192.168.3.20 -Credential $usrCreds
Now you can list the files in the remote directory on the SFTP server. In this example, I will get a list of files on the user’s Desktop (the user’s profile will be the root user folder/chroot in this case)
Get-SFTPChildItem -SFTPSession $SFTPSession -Path "desktop" –Recurse
Download a file from a remote SFTP server:
Get-SFTPItem -SessionId $SFTPSession.SessionId -Path "desktop/OpenVPNScript.log" -Destination c:\PS
To upload a file from your computer to a remote SFTP host:
Set-SFTPItem -SessionId $SFTPSession.SessionId -Path C:\PS\mytestfile.log -Destination "desktop"
Close the SFTP session:
Remove-SFTPSession -SFTPSession $SFTPSession
On Windows, you can use the built-in sftp.exe console command (installed with the OpenSSH client) to connect to an SFTP server.
Connect to sftp server:
Connect using ssh private key:
sftp -i .ssh/id_rsa firstname.lastname@example.org
List files in a remote directory:
Download the file from SFTP to a local directory on your computer:
Upload a file from your computer to an SFTP server:
Configuring SFTP Public Key Authentication
You can enable SFTP key-based authentication in Windows. In this case, you can authenticate to the SFTP server without entering a password.
- Create SSH keys on your computer (SFTP client) for the user under which you will connect to the server:
ssh-keygen -t ed25519
- The ssh-keygen tool will generate two files id_ed25519 (private key for the client computer) and id_ed25519.pub (public key for the SFTP server);
- Now you need to add your SSH key to the Windows server (SFTP host). Copy the file id_ed25519.pub (or id_rsa.pub depending on the key type) to the .ssh directory of the user profile under which you will connect to the SFTP. Rename the file to authorized_keys (for example, the following key file is used for the user
Now you can use the
id_ed25519 file to authenticate on the SFTP server. You can set your key in the WinSCP settings (Advanced -> to SSH connection settings > Authentication page -> Private key file).
If you want to use an SSH key when connecting to SFTP from PowerShell, use the following command:
New-SFTPSession -ComputerName 192.168.3.20 -Credential remoteuser1 -KeyFile C:\Users\max1\.ssh\id_ed25519" -Verbose