MobaXterm, from Mobatek, is a feature rich connectivity client. In the networking world, we might make use of such a client to connect to multiple routers, switches, and firewalls… there are many pieces of software that can provide this (such as Putty, Kitty, Cisco Network Assistant etc).
As network engineers, we are rather spoiled for choice… so maybe this little intro and guide to MobaXterm will help you decide if this is suitable for your use.
The first thing of note, is there is a portable version of the MobaXterm software for Windows:
Portable software is often a plus point for network engineers, who often have multiple devices, sharing saved sessions and customized settings across these devices – and even with other people – is a benefit and a time saver.
So we will use the portable edition here! Why not?
After downloading and unzipping, we run the program:
Let’s get stuck in and connect to a telnet router:
I notice here there are 3 options for ‘Telnet client’ – the default is ‘PuTTY’, which we will stick to (Note: I changed this setting later, and it switched back to PuTTY by itself, so this may be relevant only to some kind of servers/devices)
There is also a ‘Username’ field, this did not work for this telnet test – a pop up box does note that it is not compatible with all types of session… but you can use the ‘Execute macro’ option to create a script that does the same thing:
Above, I have entered the router’s username, and then added an line to say ‘press RETURN’.
I could take this further, and add the password, and other commands… but for now, let’s connect to the device…
When clicking our new session, it executes the created ‘macro’, and takes us straight to our password prompt.
But rather than creating a custom macro for each device, we can create ‘centrally managed’ macros, that could be used by other sessions… so let’s take this opportunity to try this feature out. We go to Macros on the left, where we see the option to ‘Record new macro’.
I record a macro as I enter the password, and then enter enable mode, and enter the enable password, and then I stop the macro recording. I have saved this macro as the IP address of the device.
In order to see what this macro looks like, we can right click it and go to Edit:
First thing of note is that the passwords typed are in clear visible text. This could be an issue for some users, it could be a benefit to others. Above, I have blanked them out (security first!)
There are also lines for SLEEP, the macro appears to have also recorded the delay I took to type some commands. It is worth noting that some commands may take some time to go through the terminal, so this SLEEP entry could be important for some things.
Here though, I am editing this macro as such:
I have added the username at the top, and removed the delays…
Now if we go back to our saved session, right click on it and go to Edit:
We can use our newly created macro in the list:
While I am editing the saved session entry, let’s have a look at the ‘Bookmark settings’:
Above, I have changed the Session name, the Session Icon, and changed it to open in a Detached tab. All nice options for our individual preferences.
Now when we click our saved session, it launches within its own window, and executes the macro, which takes us straight into privileged exec mode:
Let’s have a look around the program at some other things…
Right clicking a session, we see a Ping host option:
There’s a text editor under ‘Tools’… that could be useful…
Often, I find it’s necessary to launch notepad when managing network devices… notepad becomes an area to enter new commands for review – so let’s try the same here…
Note also, I spot the Special Tools menu, where there is a text compare tool… this might be useful for comparing configs etc. I am not testing this right now, but handy:
Above, I have used a fairly typical example of why an engineer might use an external editor to make changes to a router… I have created an access list. I copy this text, and return to my session window and paste:
Ooh! I like that… the program pops up a paste confirmation window, confirming my entries… and within the box I can edit what is there if I spot a mistake. We all make mistakes, and it is not uncommon to hit ‘Paste’ only to realise you never actually copied what you wanted moments ago! And accidentally pasting the contents of a large article you copied earlier into a terminal window can be infuriating.
Of course, the extra step might just annoy you – so just use the checkbox at the bottom to stop it from appearing in future.
We see that the lines of text paste nicely into the terminal window as expected… and I notice the MobaXterm interface nicely detects the IP addresses, and makes them a lovely pink colour for me – which is very pleasing.
Another tool that caught my eye is the port scanner:
I like to use Nmap, but installing Nmap on Windows can be annoying… this could be a good alternative. Here is a quick test to the same telnet router IP address:
That seems pretty good… not as good as Nmap if you want a full featured port scanner, but as a basic quick open TCP ports scanner, it’s perfectly adequate.
MobaXterm certainly seems to be a very good option for network engineers… there’s a Pro version which might be more attractive if being deployed within a business.
There are options to bounce sessions through an SSH gateway, a useful addition to organizations that manage devices through a central location.
I copied the program into a different location on the test machine and it ran, with all customized entries, without issue. The program can be transported to another machine and runs without any installation without issue, which is fantastic.
Looking at the config file, it could be possible to merge settings with other users that have the program installed already – but this looks complicated, and I am not going to test this……. today!
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