Get Telnet for MacOS on Mojave or High Sierra

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So after a lot of requests from our users here is a guide about How to Get Telnet for MacOS in Mojave or High Sierra.

Should you use Telnet in macOS? Well, many Mac users have found that Telnet has been removed from modern versions of system software, including macOS Mojave and macOS High Sierra. Presumably this is to encourage the use of the ssh client, but there are many Mac users who need Telnet for a variety of reasons. Telnet remains a valid tool for many system and network administrators, security professionals, people working with Cisco hardware or towards Cisco certification, MUD enthusiasts, among many other purposes.

Accordingly this tutorial will describe different ways to get Telnet back in modern versions of Mac OS system software. We’ll cover installing Telnet with Homebrew, restoring Telnet from a previous system software release or backupup, compile Telnet from source, as well as a few alternatives to Telnet.

This article assumes that you have experience working with the terminal and command line, as Telnet is completely command line based.

Install Telnet in MacOS with Homebrew

By far the easiest option is for Mac users to install Telnet through Homebrew. Obviously, this means installing Homebrew on the Mac first, but if you’re an advanced user who spends time on the command line, you’ll likely appreciate Homebrew for other reasons as you

  1. Install Homebrew on Mac OS if you haven’t already – skip this step if you already have Homebrew
  2. / usr / bin / ruby ​​-e “$ (curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)”

  3. Use Homebrew to install telnet with the following command:
  4. brew install telnet

  5. Hit return and let Homebrew download and install Telnet on the Mac
  6. When the installation is complete, you can run Telnet as usual:
  7. telnet-server-or-ip-address

An easy way to test if Telnet is working properly after installation is to connect to the crazy Star Wars Telnet server, which plays Star Wars in ASCII art:

telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl

You know Telnet works when you’re greeted by Star Wars displayed in ASCII characters (and yes seriously, it’s the full movie).

Telnet Star Wars server and movie

Install Telnet in macOS Mojave and High Sierra via older macOS versions or backups

If you happen to have access to a Mac running an earlier version of MacOS (Sierra or earlier), or if you happen to have an older MacOS system software backupup from Time Machine or otherwise, you can really just copy the old binaries from that computer or backupup to your modern macOS installation, and telnet works fine.

With Mac OS and Mac OS X versions that include telnet, Telnet can be found in the following location (thus serving as a reference for where to find the binary file in the backups:

/ usr / bin / telnet

The binary telnet is small and weighs only 114kb, so this is a quick, easy task.

By copying that binary telnet to the following location in modern macOS releases, including macOS Mojave 10.14 and macOS High Sierra 10.13.x, telnet can be run on the new system software releases:

/ usr / local / bin /

At that point, you can run the ‘telnet’ command as usual.

Another option that requires more caution is to request the telnet binary from a trusted colleague or friend who uses macOS Sierra or earlier. All they have to do is zip up and send you their / usr / bin / telnet binary. Don’t try to find a random binary telnet zip file from the internet as it could be corrupted or otherwise unreliable. It would be a good idea to use md5 hash or sha1 checksum on the original telnet binary if you go this route.

By the way, if you’re relying on telnet binaries from Sierra or earlier, you may also be interested in ftp, which has also been removed from modern macOS releases, but is located in the following location in previous macOS builds:

/ usr / bin / ftp

Again you would put the ftp binary in / usr / local / bin / on new versions of system software.

For those wondering, while Telnet (and ftp) has been removed from Mojave, High Sierra, and presumably everything moving forward, macOS Sierra remains the latest version of system software to include Telnet by default, while any macOS / Mac OS X release prior to Sierra also includes Telnet and ftp, including El Capitan, Snow Leopard, Yosemite, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Tiger, Cheetah, etc.

Telnet alternatives for Mac: SSH, Netcat

There are, of course, some alternatives to Telnet, depending on what you need to use telnet for in the first place.

For remote connections, ssh is the new standard as it is secure, and both the ssh server and ssh client are available by default in all modern versions of macOS system software. Simply, connecting to an external IP with ssh would look like this:

ssh user @ remoteIP

For simple testing of network connectivity, or for testing an open / listening port, netcat can often meet the same needs that telnet offers. For example, you can confirm that the connection to the aforementioned ASCII Star Wars server and port 80 is working with the following netcat command string:

nc -vz towel.blinkenlights.nl 80

Note that for this purpose, netcat requires specifying a valid TCP or UDP port number regardless of the host protocol.

Netcat and telnet

Restore Telnet to MacOS Mojave & High Sierra by compiling Telnet from source

If you don’t want to use Homebrew for some reason, you can also compile Telnet yourself from inetutils source. However, as a prerequisite, you still need to install the Mac OS command line tools to accomplish this.

First, download the latest inetutils package from gnu.org:

curl -o http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/inetutils/inetutils-1.9.4.tar.gz

Next you would decompress the tarsal: tar xvzf inetutils-1.9.4.tar.gz

Now go to the correct directory: cd inetutils-1.9.4

To begin, run the configure command: ./ configure

When configuring is done, create from source: make

And finally, use make install to complete the installation of inetutils and telnet: sudo make install

Personally, I think using Homebrew is easier, and there are many other great and useful Homebrew packages out there. If you’re familiar with compiling from source and you’ve gotten this far, then you’ll almost certainly appreciate Homebrew.

What about Telnet for iPad and iPhone? Telnet for iOS!

To cover all bases, Telnet clients are also available for iOS. How practical this is for you probably depends on your particular device and what your intent with telnet is, but a free option for iOS is iTerminal, and an excellent paid option is Prompt. However, using ssh and telnet from an iOS device can be challenging without an external keyboard, so you may want to hook one up to your iPhone or iPad before going that route, and realistically, it’s a better option for the iPad simply because of the larger screen. Of course, iOS isn’t MacOS though, so this is kind of off topic.

Okay, so that’s pretty extensive guide to get Telnet in modern macOS releases, but if you know any other method or approach to get Telnet in macOS High Sierra or return Telnet to macOS Mojave, share with us in the comments below!

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