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A Windows software package providing an interface similar to a Unix pty-master for communicating with Windows console programs.
C++ Makefile C Python Shell
Branch: master



winpty is a Windows software package providing an interface similar to a Unix pty-master for communicating with Windows console programs. The package consists of a library (libwinpty) and a tool for Cygwin and MSYS for running Windows console programs in a Cygwin/MSYS pty.

The software works by starting the winpty-agent.exe process with a new, hidden console window, which bridges between the console API and terminal input/output escape codes. It polls the hidden console's screen buffer for changes and generates a corresponding stream of output.

The Unix adapter allows running Windows console programs (e.g. CMD, PowerShell, IronPython, etc.) under mintty or Cygwin's sshd with properly-functioning input (e.g. arrow and function keys) and output (e.g. line buffering). The library could be also useful for writing a non-Cygwin SSH server.


You need the following to build winpty:

  • A Cygwin or MSYS installation
  • GNU make
  • A MinGW g++ toolchain, v4 or later, to build winpty.dll and winpty-agent.exe
  • A g++ toolchain targeting Cygwin or MSYS, v3 or later, to build console.exe

Winpty requires two g++ toolchains as it is split into two parts. The binaries winpty.dll and winpty-agent.exe interface with the native Windows command prompt window so they are compiled with the native MinGW toolchain. The console.exe binary interfaces with the MSYS/Cygwin terminal so it is compiled with the MSYS/Cygwin toolchain.

MinGW appears to be split into two distributions -- MinGW (creates 32-bit binaries) and MinGW-w64 (creates both 32-bit and 64-bit binaries). Either one is acceptable, but the compiler must be v4 or later.

Cygwin packages

The default g++ compiler for Cygwin targets Cygwin itself, but Cygwin also packages MinGW compilers from both the MinGW and MinGW-w64 projects. As of this writing, the necessary packages are:

  • Either mingw-gcc-g++, mingw64-i686-gcc-g++ or mingw64-x86_64-gcc-g++. Select the appropriate compiler for your CPU architecture.
  • gcc-g++
  • make

MSYS packages

For the original MSYS, use the mingw-get tool (MinGW Installation Manager), and select at least these components:

  • mingw-developer-toolkit
  • mingw32-base
  • mingw32-gcc-g++
  • msys-base
  • msys-system-builder

When running ./configure, make sure that mingw32-g++ is in your PATH. It will be in the C:\MinGW\bin directory.

For MSYS2, use pacman and install at least these packages:

  • msys/gcc
  • mingw32/mingw-w64-i686-gcc or mingw64/mingw-w64-x86_64-gcc. Select the appropriate compiler for your CPU architecture.
  • make


In the project directory, run ./configure, then make.

This will produce three binaries:

  • build/winpty.dll
  • build/winpty-agent.exe
  • build/console.exe

Using the Unix adapter

To run a Windows console program in mintty or Cygwin sshd, prepend console.exe to the command-line:

$ build/console.exe c:/Python27/python.exe
Python 2.7.2 (default, Jun 12 2011, 15:08:59) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on win32
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> 10 + 20
>>> exit()

Debugging winpty

winpty comes with a tool for collecting timestamped debugging output. To use it:

  1. Run winpty-debugserver.exe on the same computer as winpty.
  2. Set the WINPTY_DEBUG environment variable to 1 for the console.exe process and/or the process using libwinpty.dll.

winpty also recognizes a WINPTY_SHOW_CONSOLE environment variable. Set it to 1 to prevent winpty from hiding the console window.

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