If you need to access an FTP server, you can install dedicated FTP clients with lots of features –but you don’t necessarily have to. Windows itself offers several ways for connecting to an FTP server, allowing you to download and upload files in a pinch.
How to Access FTP Servers in Windows’ File Explorer
The Windows file manager–known as File Explorer on Windows 10 and 8, and Windows Explorer on Windows 7–allows you to connect to FTP servers.
To connect to an FTP server, open a File Explorer or Windows Explorer window, click the “This PC” or “Computer”. Right-click in the right pane and select “Add a network location”.
Go through the wizard that appears and select “Choose a custom network location”.
In the “Specify the location of your website” dialog, enter the address of the ftp server in the form ftp://server.com .
For example, Microsoft’s FTP server is ftp.microsoft.com, so we’d enter ftp://ftp.microsoft.com here if we wanted to connect to that particular server.
If you don’t have a username and password, you can often check the “Log on anonymously” box and sign into the server without a username and password. This gives you limited access to the server–you can generally download publicly available files but not upload files, for example.
If you do have a username and password, enter your username here. The first time you connect to the FTP server, you’ll be prompted to enter your password.
You’ll now be asked to enter a name for the network location. Enter whatever name you like–the FTP site will appear with this name so you can easily remember which is which.
When you’re done, the FTP site will appear under “Network locations” in the This PC or Computer pane. Download files and upload files by copying and pasting them to and from this folder.
How to Access FTP Servers in the Command Prompt
You can also do this with the ftp command in a Command Prompt window. This command is comes built into Windows.
To do this, open a Command Prompt window. On Windows 10 or 8, right-click the Start button or press Windows+X on your keyboard and select “Command Prompt”. On Windows 7, search the Start menu for “Command Prompt”.
Type ftp at the prompt and press Enter. The prompt will change to an ftp> prompt.
To connect to a server, type open followed by the address of the FTP server. For example, to connect to Microsoft’s FTP server, you’d type:
You’ll then be prompted for a username. Enter the username and password to connect to the site. If you don’t have one, you can enter “Anonymous” followed by a blank password to see if the FTP server allows anonymous access.
Once you’re connected, you can navigate the FTP server with the dir and cd commands. To view the contents of the current directory, type:
To change to another directory, type the cd command followed by the name of the directory. For example, you’d type the following command to change to a directory named “example”:
To upload or download files, use the get and push commands.
For example, to download a file named example.txt in the current FTP folder, you’d type:
To upload a file stored on your desktop named example.txt to the FTP server, you’d type:
When you’re done, just type the following command and press Enter to close the connection: