I've always used PuTTY (win32) in order to access my servers through SSH. Yesterday I upgraded OpenSSH on my server from 4.3 to 5.8 and it seems that PuTTY doesn't work now. It asks for a password, then confirms that the password is correct, and then gives the fatal error Server refused to start a shell/command.

When I try to log on with cygwin's OpenSSH, I have no problems.

  • 2
    Can you paste the contents of PuTTY's Event Log? – nickgrim Apr 15 '11 at 8:28
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    Can you add -v to plink command and post output? – davey May 28 '11 at 7:55
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    The problem was a shortage on RAM. – iTayb May 31 '11 at 21:49

The problem was a shortage of RAM.

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    same issue on full RAM/CPU server – Donatello Dec 6 '13 at 14:37

It sounds like something in your putty configs is requesting a specific shell after login that is no longer approved. Try creating a new session instead of your saved one and input as few settings as possible, just the host and any authentication details. That should get you in. Then if you want to fix your previous saved session look through the settings for bits about remote command, preferred shell, etc.

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    plink user@ip -p 22 -pw pass alone gives me this error. I believe that something is blocking me at the sshd side and not the putty. – iTayb Apr 15 '11 at 7:58
  • Still have a look through your default setings. Putty is likely requesting something that is unavailable on the server that the cygwin openssh client is not asking for. – Caleb Apr 15 '11 at 8:00
  • Did you try creating a new session, as Caleb suggested? Are you running the latest Putty? – Eduardo Ivanec Apr 29 '11 at 17:27

You probably have the "remote command" set under the SSH settings in the putty config. Just remove this setting and try again.


I know it's an old thread, but as I had this issue and I came across these answers but... I could only fix it by updating PuTTY's version to 0.70. That was the only thing that worked for me. Cheers!


For users who encounter this issue: You can resolve this by killing the session of one of the users using

pkill -KILL -u username

NB: I used root access, since it was logging in successfully

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