NC(1) BSD General Commands Manual NC(1)
nc -- arbitrary TCP and UDP connections and listens
nc [-46DdhklnrStUuvzC] [-i interval] [-P proxy_username] [-p source_port]
[-s source_ip_address] [-T ToS] [-w timeout] [-X proxy_protocol] [-x
proxy_address[:port]] [hostname] [port[s]]
The nc (or netcat) utility is used for just about anything under the sun involving TCP or
UDP. It can open TCP connections, send UDP packets, listen on arbitrary TCP and UDP ports,
do port scanning, and deal with both IPv4 and IPv6. Unlike telnet(1), nc scripts nicely,
and separates error messages onto standard error instead of sending them to standard output,
as telnet(1) does with some.
Common uses include:
o simple TCP proxies
o shell-script based HTTP clients and servers
o network daemon testing
o a SOCKS or HTTP ProxyCommand for ssh(1)
o and much, much more
The options are as follows:
-4 Forces nc to use IPv4 addresses only.
-6 Forces nc to use IPv6 addresses only.
-D Enable debugging on the socket.
-d Do not attempt to read from stdin.
-h Prints out nc help.
Specifies a delay time interval between lines of text sent and received. Also
causes a delay time between connections to multiple ports.
-k Forces nc to stay listening for another connection after its current connection is
completed. It is an error to use this option without the -l option.
-l Used to specify that nc should listen for an incoming connection rather than initi-
ate a connection to a remote host. It is an error to use this option in conjunction
with the -p, -s, or -z options. Additionally, any timeouts specified with the -w
option are ignored.
-n Do not do any DNS or service lookups on any specified addresses, hostnames or ports.
Specifies a username to present to a proxy server that requires authentication. If
no username is specified then authentication will not be attempted. Proxy authenti-
cation is only supported for HTTP CONNECT proxies at present.
Specifies the source port nc should use, subject to privilege restrictions and
availability. It is an error to use this option in conjunction with the -l option.
-q after EOF on stdin, wait the specified number of seconds and then quit. If seconds
is negative, wait forever.
-r Specifies that source and/or destination ports should be chosen randomly instead of
sequentially within a range or in the order that the system assigns them.
-S Enables the RFC 2385 TCP MD5 signature option.
Specifies the IP of the interface which is used to send the packets. It is an error
to use this option in conjunction with the -l option.
-T ToS Specifies IP Type of Service (ToS) for the connection. Valid values are the tokens
``lowdelay'', ``throughput'', ``reliability'', or an 8-bit hexadecimal value pre-
ceded by ``0x''.
-C Send CRLF as line-ending
-t Causes nc to send RFC 854 DON'T and WON'T responses to RFC 854 DO and WILL requests.
This makes it possible to use nc to script telnet sessions.
-U Specifies to use Unix Domain Sockets.
-u Use UDP instead of the default option of TCP.
-v Have nc give more verbose output.
If a connection and stdin are idle for more than timeout seconds, then the connec-
tion is silently closed. The -w flag has no effect on the -l option, i.e. nc will
listen forever for a connection, with or without the -w flag. The default is no
Requests that nc should use the specified protocol when talking to the proxy server.
Supported protocols are ``4'' (SOCKS v.4), ``5'' (SOCKS v.5) and ``connect'' (HTTPS
proxy). If the protocol is not specified, SOCKS version 5 is used.
Requests that nc should connect to hostname using a proxy at proxy_address and port.
If port is not specified, the well-known port for the proxy protocol is used (1080
for SOCKS, 3128 for HTTPS).
-z Specifies that nc should just scan for listening daemons, without sending any data
to them. It is an error to use this option in conjunction with the -l option.
hostname can be a numerical IP address or a symbolic hostname (unless the -n option is
given). In general, a hostname must be specified, unless the -l option is given (in which
case the local host is used).
port[s] can be single integers or ranges. Ranges are in the form nn-mm. In general, a des-
tination port must be specified, unless the -U option is given (in which case a socket must
It is quite simple to build a very basic client/server model using nc. On one console,
start nc listening on a specific port for a connection. For example:
$ nc -l 1234
nc is now listening on port 1234 for a connection. On a second console (or a second
machine), connect to the machine and port being listened on:
$ nc 127.0.0.1 1234
There should now be a connection between the ports. Anything typed at the second console
will be concatenated to the first, and vice-versa. After the connection has been set up, nc
does not really care which side is being used as a 'server' and which side is being used as
a 'client'. The connection may be terminated using an EOF ('^D').
The example in the previous section can be expanded to build a basic data transfer model.
Any information input into one end of the connection will be output to the other end, and
input and output can be easily captured in order to emulate file transfer.
Start by using nc to listen on a specific port, with output captured into a file:
$ nc -l 1234 > filename.out
Using a second machine, connect to the listening nc process, feeding it the file which is to
$ nc host.example.com 1234 < filename.in
After the file has been transferred, the connection will close automatically.
TALKING TO SERVERS
It is sometimes useful to talk to servers ``by hand'' rather than through a user interface.
It can aid in troubleshooting, when it might be necessary to verify what data a server is
sending in response to commands issued by the client. For example, to retrieve the home
page of a web site:
$ echo -n "GET / HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n" | nc host.example.com 80
Note that this also displays the headers sent by the web server. They can be filtered,
using a tool such as sed(1), if necessary.
More complicated examples can be built up when the user knows the format of requests
required by the server. As another example, an email may be submitted to an SMTP server
$ nc [-C] localhost 25 << EOF
Body of email.
It may be useful to know which ports are open and running services on a target machine. The
-z flag can be used to tell nc to report open ports, rather than initiate a connection. For
$ nc -z host.example.com 20-30
Connection to host.example.com 22 port [tcp/ssh] succeeded!
Connection to host.example.com 25 port [tcp/smtp] succeeded!
The port range was specified to limit the search to ports 20 - 30.
Alternatively, it might be useful to know which server software is running, and which ver-
sions. This information is often contained within the greeting banners. In order to
retrieve these, it is necessary to first make a connection, and then break the connection
when the banner has been retrieved. This can be accomplished by specifying a small timeout
with the -w flag, or perhaps by issuing a "QUIT" command to the server:
$ echo "QUIT" | nc host.example.com 20-30
220 host.example.com IMS SMTP Receiver Version 0.84 Ready
Open a TCP connection to port 42 of host.example.com, using port 31337 as the source port,
with a timeout of 5 seconds:
$ nc -p 31337 -w 5 host.example.com 42
Open a UDP connection to port 53 of host.example.com:
$ nc -u host.example.com 53
Open a TCP connection to port 42 of host.example.com using 10.1.2.3 as the IP for the local
end of the connection:
$ nc -s 10.1.2.3 host.example.com 42
Create and listen on a Unix Domain Socket:
$ nc -lU /var/tmp/dsocket
Connect to port 42 of host.example.com via an HTTP proxy at 10.2.3.4, port 8080. This exam-
ple could also be used by ssh(1); see the ProxyCommand directive in ssh_config(5) for more
$ nc -x10.2.3.4:8080 -Xconnect host.example.com 42
The same example again, this time enabling proxy authentication with username ``ruser'' if
the proxy requires it:
$ nc -x10.2.3.4:8080 -Xconnect -Pruser host.example.com 42
Original implementation by *Hobbit* <email@example.com>.
Rewritten with IPv6 support by Eric Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
UDP port scans will always succeed (i.e. report the port as open), rendering the -uz combi-
nation of flags relatively useless.
BSD February 19, 2018 BSD