PEM is a container format that could among other things be used to store certificate authority (CA) files, SSH public and private keys or Root SSL certificate.

You will not be able to directly use a .pem SSH private key using programs like PuTTY as PuTTY only accept .ppk (PuTTY Private Key) files. For this you'll have to convert a .pem file to .ppk using PuTTY Key Generator or PuTTYGen.

Steps to convert pem file to ppk using PuTTYGen:

  1. Download PuTTY Key Generator (puttygen.exe) from the official website and launch the program.
    https://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/latest.html
  2. Click on the Load button from PuTTYgen's main interface.
  3. Set the Files of type to All Files (*.*), select your PEM file and click Open.
  4. Enter the passphrase of your PEM private key file if prompted and click OK.
  5. Click OK on the successful import of the file notification.
  6. Edit any key parameters if necessary and click Save private key.
  7. Click Yes if you don't set any passphrase on your key before and getting warned about it.
  8. Select the location and filename to save the generated key to and click Save.
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