How to Use the Telnet Client in Windows

Telnet connects your computer to a remote computer

Telnet is a network protocol that provides a command-line interpreter to communicate with a device. It's used most often for remote management, but also sometimes for the initial setup for some devices, especially network hardware such as switches and access points.

How Does Telnet Work?

Telnet originally was used on terminals. These computers require only a keyboard because everything on the screen displays as text. The terminal provides a way to remotely log on to another device, just as if you were sitting in front of it and using it like any other computer.

Nowadays, Telnet can be used from a virtual terminal, or a terminal emulator, which is essentially a modern computer that communicates with the same Telnet protocol. One example of this is the telnet command, available from the Command Prompt in Windows that uses the Telnet protocol to communicate with a remote device or system.

Telnet commands can also be executed on other operating systems, such as Linux and macOS, in the same way that they're executed in Windows.

Telnet isn't the same as other TCP/IP protocols such as HTTP, which transfers files to and from a server. Instead, the Telnet protocol has you log on to a server as if you were an actual user, then grants you direct control and all the same rights to files and applications as the user that you're logged in as.

Although not the same as Telnet, free remote access software tools are an alternative way to communicate with another computer remotely.

How to Use Windows Telnet

Although Telnet isn't a secure way to communicate with another device, there are a reason or two to use it, but you can't just open up a Command Prompt window and expect to start executing commands.

Telnet Client, the command-line tool that executes telnet commands in Windows, works in every version of Windows, but, depending on which version of Windows you're using, you may have to enable it first.

Enable the Telnet Client in Windows

In Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista, turn on the Telnet Client in Windows Features in Control Panel before any relevant commands can be executed.

Telnet Client is already installed and ready to use out of the box in both Windows XP and Windows 98.

  1. Open Control Panel by searching for control panel in the Start menu. Or, open the Run dialog box via WIN+R and then enter control.

  2. Select Programs. If you don't see that because you're viewing the Control Panel applet icons, choose Programs and Features instead, and then skip to Step 4.

    Programs icon in Windows 10 Control Panel
  3. Select Programs and Features.

    Programs and Features in Windows 10 Control Panel/Programs
  4. Select Turn Windows features on or off from the left pane.

    Turn Windows features on or off link in Programs and Features Control Panel on Windows 10
  5. Select the check box next to Telnet Client.

    Telnet Client checkbox in Windows Features dialog box
  6. Select OK to enable Telnet.

  7. When you see the Windows completed the requested changes message, you can close any open dialog boxes.

Execute Telnet Commands in Windows

Telnet commands are easy to execute. After opening Command Prompt, enter the word telnet. The result is a line that says Microsoft Telnet>, which is where commands are entered.

Telnet command in Windows 10

If you don't plan to follow the first telnet command with additional commands, type telnet followed by any command, such as the ones shown in the examples below.

To connect to a Telnet server, enter a command that follows this syntax:

telnet hostname port

For example, entering telnet 23 connects to on port 23 using Telnet.

The last portion of the command is used for the port number but is only necessary to specify if it's not the default port of 23. For example, telnet 23 is the same as running the command telnet, but not the same as telnet 95, which connects to the same server but on port 95.

Microsoft keeps a list of telnet commands if you'd like to learn more about how to do things like open and close a Telnet connection, display the Telnet Client settings, and more.

Telnet Games & Additional Information

There are a number of Command Prompt tricks you can perform using Telnet. Some of them are in text form, but you may have fun with them.

Check the weather at Weather Underground :

Telnet weather forecast for New York City

Use Telnet to talk to an artificially intelligent psychotherapist named Eliza. After connecting to Telehack with the command below, enter eliza when asked to choose one of the listed commands.

Eliza telnet AI commands

Watch an ASCII version of the full Star Wars Episode IV movie by entering this in Command Prompt:

Telnet Star Wars in Windows 10 Command Prompt

Beyond the fun things that can be done in Telnet are a number of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). A BBS provides a way to message other users, view news, share files, and more. The Telnet BBS Guide lists hundreds of servers that you can connect to using this protocol.

  • How is SSH different from Telnet?

    SSH is a network protocol used for remote access and uses encryption. Telnet is another network protocol used for remote access but does not use any encryption. It will display data (including usernames and passwords) in clear text.

  • How do I Telnet into my router?

    Make sure Telnet is turned on, then ping your network. In Telnet, enter telnet IP address (ex. telnet Next, enter your username and password to log in.

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