How To Connect to a Remote Computer Using Telnet

The Telnet service gives you the option of making your computer a terminal for accessing another remote computer. Through this system, you can do various tasks using the remote computer like browsing files, accessing files and doing online activities like checking mail and accessing other online accounts. You can also use Telnet to test if a connection is working. For instance, you can try connecting to the POP3 mail port 110 or the SMTP mail sending port 25, to test if these are working on your network.

This system can also be protected using account registries and passwords set by the administrator.

Here's how you connect with a remote computer using Telnet:

  1. Download the Telnet software and install it to your computer. Older versions of Windows usually come packaged with HyperTerminal. But all modern versions of Windows can run a text-based application called Telnet.exe. Simply click Start, Run and type in telnet.exe to open the application.
  2. You will now see a prompt that says "Microsoft Telnet." This application accepts commands in a command-line format, similar to MS DOS, the Linux console or the Mac OS X Unix console. You can enter "help" if you need a list of commands.
  3. Input the Telnet address of the computer you wish to access by using the "open" command:

    Open hostname

    If the computer you are accessing uses a different port than the default 23, you can append the port to the command.

    Open hostname ###

    For example, you want to connect to Gmail using SMTP. Note that Gmail does not use the standard SMTP port 25, but rather the more secure 587.

    Open 587

  4. Most Telnet access involves a username and password combination. Be sure that you know how to input your log in username and password. Anonymous sites usually allow people to log in as guests using any valid e-mail address.
  5. Upon logging in, you will be prompted with a set of instructions depending on how the host has specified for the network.

    Most of the time, you will be logging into a Unix-type environment, as is the case with Linux-powered servers. You should be familiar with the command-line commands in these cases, such as commands for manipulating the server, checking for server statistics, and for copying, moving and even editing files. To exit from the system, you can simply close the Telnet window, or enter logout or exit in the prompt.

Depending on where you are connecting, you will sometimes be required to use a more secure client than the simple Telnet window. If you are running Mac OS X or Linux, you will have a console built in, and you can connect to remote locations by simply opening the host computer using this command:


This will usually open a "secure shell" or SSH to that computer using your username. You will then be asked to input the password once the computer is connected. On Windows, though, you will need to download a program for accessing SSH, such as PuTTY.exe. Remember that accessing remote computers through Telnet or SSH requires some knowledge of the command-line. If you need a graphical user interface, then you might require another means of accessing the remote computer.


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