So, you are the brand new owner of a Linux Virtual Private Server. You’ve got an idea of what you want to do and the software you have to install, but what’s really important is: how do you actually connect to it
Secure Shell (SSH)
Linux servers use a program called Secure SHell (SSH) to connect and manage them. There is a daemon that runs on the server, and listens for connections from clients that wish to connect. Once connected, you are presented with a command line terminal similar to the one you would receive if you were sitting at a computer with a monitor and keyboard plugged in. While an SSH client comes as standard with Linux computers, Windows PCs do not.
One of the most popular programs for Windows to replicate this is PuTTY, and is available as a free download here.
Downloading PuTTY for Windows
Download and run the relevant installer according to whether you are running 32 or 64 bit Windows. If you are unsure which you have, open the start menu and type “about”. An option should appear for “About your PC”. Click on this option and the settings application should open with a page of information about your computer. Look down the page for a section called “System type” and it should show either 32-bit or 64-bit.
When it is downloaded and run, the installer will present a wizard to install PuTTY to your system. You can just click “Next” through the wizard unless you want to specify a different install location.
Once installed, a folder will be added to the start menu for PuTTY and its associated applications. Launching PuTTY will present you with a window displaying a number of options: on the left are menu headings for the different settings you can change, with the settings themselves being displayed on the right. For the most part, you shouldn’t need to change any of these settings in normal use.
The default selected option is session, and this displays a screen with a text box asking for a “Host Name (or IP address)”, next to which a box for a port will be pre-filled with the number 22, and beneath which an option will be checked for SSH.
When you create a VPS in the control panel, you will be shown the IP address for the VPS you have created as well as a password for it. You will need to copy the IP address and paste it into the “Host Name (or IP address)”, then click on the “Open” button at the bottom.
Next, a window will pop up with a security alert. This states that the server’s host key is not cached in PuTTYs host key registry. This is a warning that PuTTY can’t prove that the server you are connecting to is the server you want to. This is an expected step for the first time you connect to a server. To save your server’s host key to the cache, click the “Yes” button at the bottom of the window. This warning will not appear again when connecting to your server. If the host key for your server does change (due to a re-install for example), you will be presented with another warning that the host key doesn’t match the stored one.
After that alert, you’ll see a black window with white text and a green cursor. The first thing you will see is “login as:” which is prompting you for a username. For your first login, you’ll use the user account “root” unless another username is specified in your control panel. Next, it will ask you for the user’s password, which will be the one in the control panel, so copy and paste that into the PuTTY window.
After entering the password, you will be logged into your server and presented with the server’s default login message of the day, and finally left with a terminal prompt allowing you to start working on your server.
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