Home Computing Advice for COMP1511 Windows Users

There are four different methods on this page:
    If you have an internet connection:
  1. If you have an internet connection one easy way to use a Windows computer to work on COMP1511 is to connect to VLAB using instructions here

  2. If you have an internet connection another good way to use a Windows computer to work on COMP1511 is via ssh using the program PuTTY and the instructions below.

  3. If you don't have an internet connection:
  4. If you won't have an internet connection available or want to try working directly on your own computer see the instructions further on for help

  5. If you are adventurous try Linux on your Windows computer - many students in computing degrees do this eventually.

1. Connecting to CSE using VLAB

If you have an internet connection, one easy way to use a Windows computer to work on COMP1511 is to connect to VLAB using instructions here.

2. Connecting to CSE using PuTTY

Many COMP1511 students find PuTTY a good way to work on COMP1511 from home.

Download and install PuTTY from one of the links below:

PuTTY installer for Windows (32-bit) PuTTY installer for Windows (64-bit)

Once you have downloaded and installed it, find and run the PuTTY application. In the “Host Name” section, type in your-zID@cse.unsw.edu.au (but using your actual zID instead of your-zID).

You can then type a name such as CSE into Saved Sessions section and press the save button, so that you can use it later. (To use it later, select it from the menu and press Load).


You will then be asked to accept a connection key. You will only need to do this the first time you connect.


Then you will be asked to log in. You will need to type in your zPass. Remember that when you type your password, nothing will show on the screen.

PuTTY Login

You will then find that your terminal window is working from the CSE machines. If you use commands like pwd, cd, and ls, you will find all of the files that you can normally access from the CSE lab computers. You can also use all the programs and commands you would normally find on the CSE lab computers.

PuTTY logged in

Try practicing using the lab machines by creating a program with nano and compiling the program with dcc before running it.

To disconnect from the CSE computer, type the exit command.

  • You can also install Xming. Xming will allow you to run from home graphical (X windows) programs on CSE's servers such as gedit.

  • Configure PuTTY and Xming as described here more info here about accessing CSE's login server (scroll down to section 4).

    Make sure you can:

    1. log into your CSE account (login.cse.unsw.edu.au) as Host Name in putty and click open
    2. run
      gedit example.c &
      and see if the window appears on your home machine
    3. compile one of your C programs using dcc

    The combination of PuTTY & Xming should be sufficient to perform all COMP1511 work.

    If you get a message "Error: Can't open display:" when you try to run gedit that means Xming isn't running or you haven't in configured X11 Forwarding in PuTTY

    3. Writing + Compiling code on Windows

    Editing Files on Windows

    It can be helpful to be able to create and edit files on your home machine. This will let you work without an internet connection - e.g. on a laptop on the train home.

    You can download gedit for Windows.

    Many other editors are available.

    Transferring Files to/from CSE on Windows

    Many students use WinSCP to transfer files to/from CSE.

    Here is a comprehensive HOWTO.

    PuTTY PSCP provides similar capabilities to WinSCP.

    Summary (all platforms) for transferring files to/from CSE here.

    Compiling code on Windows

    There are number of C compilers and development environment available for windows - all should be suitable to compile and test programs for COMP1511.

    TDM-gcc provides a very easy to install version of gcc. You can download it here.

    4. Trying Linux on your Windows computer

    If you want more Linux features available trying installing CSE Ubuntu virtual machine. Beware you need a virtual machine may be slow unless you have a reasonable new computer with at least 4GB of memory. CSE Ubuntu is several gigabytes in size. If you have limited download capacity, you might like to bring a memory stick into one of the computing labs and transfer it that way.

    After you have installed it. Check that you can:

    1. create a local subdirectory (under the Work directory)
    2. transfer a file from your CSE account to the local directory
    3. edit it locally using gedit
    4. compile it locally using gcc
    5. transfer the edited file back to your CSE directory

    Once you are comfortable with Putty/Xming and/or CSE-Ubuntu, and if you are feeling ambitious, you can could try installing Wubi or a full installation of Linux in a separate partition (make sure you have backups!). CSESoc periodically has installfests where they'll assist you with installing Linux, Wubi or just PuTTY/Xming.

    Yet another way to compile programs on your personal computers is to install Cygwin and WinSCP. For Cygwin, you should start by installing just the base, devel and util packages. You can install more packages later, as you need them.