How to use remote desktop, SSH, and SCP

The most reliable single approach to using a POSIX system similar to the department machines is to use the department machines. This can be done can be done remotely using a secure shell and a secure copy or by using remote desktop via the NoMachine software. (We believe remote desktop option is probably most convenient.)

Tools exist for using these on just about all operating systems.

If you had a department account last semester, you should still have a department account this semester. For others students, accounts will be created by the second week of class; see your email for the initial password.

To reset your password, use the password reset tool at

About software on the department machines

The department machines use a “module” system to load software, like C compilers. See this guide for using that to load more recent versions of compilers, etc. when using them.

Remote Desktop on Windows, Mac, or Linux

You can use remote desktop to the UVa computer science department Linux environment using the NoMachine client. See this document for instructions.

This will give you a persistent environment to work on the department machines, even if you disconnect.

SSH on Windows

  1. Download PuTTY (get the putty.exe file)
  2. Run the putty.exe
  3. In the “Host name” field type
  4. When prompted, give your department account username and password (you won’t see the password as you type). (This is not your NetBadge password; see the notes in the grey boxes at the top of this page.)

At the end of this you will have a terminal running on a lab machine. You won’t be able to open windows (try nano, emacs or vim if you need an editor) but you can use cd, gcc, ./a.out, ./, and so on.

Windows is pretty nerfed when it comes to open-source tools. You can try the pscp.exe or psftp.exe from the PuTTY site, but results vary. See [Files to-and-from lab machines] for how to use pscp.

SSH in Chrome

We have had reports that this chrome extension works well for ssh, though I have not used it myself.

SSH on Mac, Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Haiku, etc.

ssh, scp, sftp, rsync, and the like are installed by default.

Working on lab machines remotely

  1. Open a terminal
  2. Type ssh (where mst3k is your user ID)
  3. Type your lab account password (you won’t see it as you type)

At the end of this you will have a terminal running on a lab machine. You won’t be able to open windows (try nano, emacs or vim if you need an editor) but you can use cd, gcc, ./a.out, ./, and so on.

Files to-and-from lab machines

  1. Open a terminal
  2. cd to the directory you want to share
  3. To send a single file (where mst3k is your computing ID):
    scp localFile.c

    To retrieve a single file:

    scp ./

    Note those are tildes ~ not hyphens -; the tilde stands for “my home directory on that machine”.

For more complicated file moves, try sftp or rsync. Learn more with man sftp or man rsync.

Cross-platform File Transfer with FileZilla

If you have trouble with scp, you might try FileZilla.

  1. Download and install the FileZilla Client
  2. Run FileZilla
  3. The top left icon is the “site manager”; click it
  4. If you already set up a site, you can reuse it; otherwise create a New Site
    1. Host
    2. Protocol “SFTP”
    3. Logon Type “Ask for password”
    4. User mst3k — your computing id
    5. Connect ()
  5. In the FileZilla window you have your local directory in the left pane and the portal directory in the right pane. Navigate to the files you want to move, then drag and drop.

Hint on changing passwords

Remember, once you log in to a linux machine, in person or remotely, you can change your password by typing (where mst3k is your user ID)

kpasswd mst3k

Due to a current issue with the password management server, password changes may not take effect for several hours after running kpasswd. This will be changed at some point, but probably not until after you’ve all set your passwords for the semester.

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