Sometimes you are sitting at the office, or are away on vacation and you need to either get to files on a computer at home, or you need to login to a machine and do some work. There are some great paid options, such as GoToMyPC which will allow you to do this. There are downsides to that kind of solution, they cost money and they usually use Java, which brings with it a whole bunch of security issues.
A free alternative
I was looking around for free alternatives to the commercial products someone recommended trying out a product called Bitvise which would allow me to tunnel a remote desktop session over SSH and login to home completely securely, without needing Java.
Bitvise seemed to have everything I wanted, and it is free for non-commercial personal users. Sounds like a bargain. But does it work? It sure, and here’s how to get it up and running with the minimal amount of fuss.
Install the Bitvise SSH Server
Download WinSSHD server from Bitvise and open up the installer.
Accept the license term, leave the defaults and hit the install button.
Next choose the edition. We’ll be going with personal (which does have limitations, but as this is for personal use we aren’t going to run into those).
The installer will then go about it’s merry way and complete in under a minute leaving you with a message box letting you know that you are good to go.
Configure Bitvise SSH Server
Once the installation has completed you will be presented with the SSH Server control panel. In here you can manage the SSH Server service, work with your host keys and manage your settings.
Hit the Open easy settings link to configure access.
Leave the defaults for the Server Settings. This will allow you to listen on IPv4 & v6 on port 22 and open up a hole in the Windows Firewall for access.
On the Windows account page uncheck the “Allow login to any Windows account” box (this is good for security) and add only the users that you want to give access to.
Hit ok to add the user and then save the changes.
That’s it, you are now ready to go.
Connecting to the Bitvise SSH Server
Now that the SSH Server is setup and configured we need to be able to access it somehow. The simplest way to do this is to download and use the Bitvise SSH Client.
The installation is as straightforward as the SSH Server install, just accept the license and the default settings (do this on a different machine in your house to ensure that it is working as intended)
Then attempt to connect and see if you can get in by entering the IP of your SSH Server and the username.
You will be asked to accept the host key and then to enter your password.
If you entered your information correctly you will be logged in and a terminal session and SFTP session will be launched on the client machine.
This completes your basic connectivity tests from inside your network.
In part two I will go over configuring some basic router settings so that you can access the SSH Server from outside of your home network, and how to utilize these tools to give you remote access on to your Windows machine.