For a long time Windows 10 hasn’t had a great command-line interface. As a result, developers and system admins have installed third-party options to emulate Unix style and other kinds of consoles. And while it’s possible to get a bash shell inside Windows 10 now, many users still prefer a more configurable terminal emulator. Check out the best terminal emulators for Windows below.
1. Windows Terminal
The newly launched Windows Terminal, while limited compared to some of the more feature-packed emulators in our list, is a powerful improvement over standalone Windows terminal applications. It merges Command Line, PowerShell, Azure Cloud Shell, Git Bash, and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) into one integrated entity. It also greatly improves the disadvantages of Command-line tools, such as not allowing copy-pasting without complicated tricks.
The main reason you should consider the free Windows Terminal is because it will form an important part of the upcoming Windows 11 experience. With extra functionalities in place, you get a more simplified yet modernized terminal experience. Also, Windows Terminal is most naturally suited to both Windows 10 and Windows 11. Unlike many third-party terminals, there are no delays, lags, or interruptions while running this native tool.
If you want to create a UNIX-like environment in Windows, FireCMD (Fire Command) is an advanced command interpreter. It is very easy to use even for non-technical persons because of its simple GUI which looks like just another Windows office application. There are documenting features, such as Command auto completion, aliases, snapshots, multiple copy-pasting, and find/replace.
With FireCMD, it’s very easy to customize font family, size, color and style, resize windows, zoom in and out, and copy-paste the text. This gives the terminal program the appearance and functionalities of a typical Microsoft rich text editor. The program supports tabbed windows, like Windows Terminal, and can run an entire gamut of screens, such as PowerShell, Command Line, Cygwin, Git Bash and more. The application isn’t free, though, and costs around $39 for lifetime usage.
You can’t get more versatile and customizable than MobaXterm. It supports sessions across a range of protocols, including SSH, Telnet, Rsh, Xdmcp (remote Unix), RDP, VNC (Virtual Network Computing), FTP and SFTP, Serial COM, Local Shell, Mosh, browsers, files, Amazon Web Services S3, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), and, of course, the normal command-line shell.
The intuitive interface lets you set up multiple SSH taps, split terminals horizontally/vertically, and has all the Unix commands you need, too, letting you work much as you would in Linux. Apart from a regular installer, MobaXterm also comes in a portable version. Remember to extract the zip folder and copy-paste a CygUtility plugin in the same folder. Otherwise, the emulator will abort on launch.
There’s only one drawback: MobaXterm isn’t free and only allows up to 12 sessions. The paid version costs $69 for a lifetime right-to-use.
4. ZOC Terminal
One of the best tools for people who need to access data on Unix accounts from Windows, ZOC Terminal, may not be free ($79.99) but is still a great value for more advanced users. It supports a range of connection types, including SSH, Telnet, Telnet/SSL, Serial/Modem/Direct, Rlogin, ISDN, Named Pipe, and Windows modem. All the commands you need are easily accessible from a help guide.
One of its key perks is tabs, so you can have several Terminal sessions going on at once in various terminals. ZOC is brimming with commands and is highly customizable to suit your personal terminal-tinkering style. Its emulations are robust and complete, offering features like mouse and keyboard support, print-through and line graphics. And it’s a cinch to search for specific bits of text in your work, then highlight them.
Cmder is a well-known portable terminal emulator for Windows 10 that was built from the “pure frustration” caused by the lack of a good alternative in Windows. It’s built on top of another well-known console emulator, ConEmu, and enhanced with Clink. Clink extends the power of ConEmu, adding shell features like bash-style completion. It’s broadly compatible, working with msysgit, PowerShell, cygwin and Mintty, bringing Unix capabilities to Windows.
Since it’s completely portable, you can run Cmder off a USB drive that you use on various machines without installing files on local hard drives, making it a support specialist’s best friend. As a bonus, it ships with the much-loved Monokai color scheme to coordinate your hacking with Sublime Text.
ConEmu is a Windows console emulator with tabs, multiple windows and a variety of customization options. Its lineage reaches way back in history: ConEmu was initially created as a companion to “Far Manager,” a file and archive manager released for Windows in 1996. But despite its age, the software is continuously developed. You can simultaneously run PowerShell, Command Line, Chocolatey, Git Bash, and other tools parallel to each other.
The emulator provides a deep menu of settings to tweak and hotkeys to assign, drawing in keyboard warriors from Vim and Emacs. If you install a DOS emulator like DosBox, you can run DOS applications in a 64-bit environment. But because ConEmu isn’t a shell, it doesn’t include helpful shell features, like remote connections and tab completion. While it retains many die-hard fans, ConEmu may not be the best console emulator for new users.
Putty is a free SSH and Telnet client for Windows. When you start connecting, it displays a text window, which prompts you to enter your username and password. You can use it for port forwarding in SSH, connecting using Rlogin and SUPDUP protocols and so much more.
Putty’s own command-line utility is called “Plink,” which can be launched from any other command terminal. This is especially useful for supporting automated connections. The main advantage of Putty is that it is seen as a highly secure protocol using public key authentication. This makes Plink a very popular terminal to manage web servers, remote hosts, and other online connections.
Terminus is an attractive freemium Windows emulator, which you’d simply love to have on your screen. It additionally supports Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. It is quite an advanced tool that requires a bit of self-learning. Even the likes of Steve Wozniak claims to use it. Not only because it has a beautiful user interface, but due to a team collaboration feature called Teams.
Terminus is also the only terminal on our list that provides suggestions while you type in the terminal. It has integrated support for various screens, including Git Bash, WSL, Command Line, PowerShell, and more. In many ways, Terminus represents the next generation of terminal emulation and many of its features are far ahead of the curve.
Mintty is a free open source terminal derived from Cygwin and other projects like WSL. It has a no-frills display with image, graphics, and emoji support. It allows easy text selection with mouse and keyboard while supporting underlining, shadowing, superscripting, and overstriking. It is one of the best free tools to support a full range of Windows desktop applications and works well even for legacy operating systems like Windows XP.
If you only use Cygwin for your Windows shell, then Mintty is an excellent choice. In fact, Mintty is installed as the default terminal emulator. Like the other options on this list, Mintty provides a collection of additional features, like drag and drop, full screen, copy-paste and theme support. It also works with MSYS and Msys2. MinTTY is the default terminal emulator of Git Bash and can be invoked there simply by typing
10. Git Bash Terminal
We’ll round off the list with Git Bash, which basically provides a BASH emulation to run Git from your command line. Considering the versatile uses of Git and GitHub in many open source projects, having a dedicated terminal emulator for Git is something to explore.
Once you correctly install Git Bash on your Windows computer, you will be able to experiment with various features, such as Git Aliases. Just like Windows Terminal, The Git Bash terminal tool is forward compatible with Windows 11. You will be able to immediately use Git Bash in the new operating system while other terminal emulators catch up.