FTP can be useful for a number of things.
If you have web hosting, FTP is the primary way to transfer files onto the web server. (True whether you have free hosting, cheap hosting, or even VPS hosting.) You can also use FTP to transfer files between computers, from a computer to a mobile device, or vice versa.
One option is to install a third-party app called an FTP client, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you use FTP on a day-to-day basis, a better option is to use File Explorer instead. Here’s how you can set up File Explorer for easy FTP transfers.
Setting Up FTP in File Explorer
Adding FTP servers to File Explorer (formerly called Windows Explorer) has actually been a feature of the operating system since the Windows XP days. It was a bit clunky back then, but has improved over time and is now a solid option among dedicated FTP clients.
When an FTP server is added to File Explorer, you can access the server just as you’d access any other folder or drive on your system. Transferring files is as easy as drag-and-dropping or copy/pasting.
Step 1: Add a Network Location
Open up File Explorer (keyboard shortcut Windows key + E) and navigate to This PC in the sidebar. In the top menu, next to File, click Computer to open the ribbon menu, then click Add a network location.
Step 2: Navigate the Wizard
On the welcome screen of the wizard, click Next. When prompted for where to create the network location, select Choose a custom network location, then click Next.
Step 3: Enter the FTP Server Address
When prompted, type in the IP address or domain name of the FTP server. If you’re transferring files for web hosting, you should have received an FTP address as part of your welcome email from your web host. If you’re connecting to another device on your local network, you can use a private internal IP address.
Be sure to include the ftp:// at the beginning, which indicates to Windows that you want to use the FTP protocol.
If the FTP server uses a non-traditional port number (default port for FTP is 21), be sure to include that as well by appending a colon (:) and the port number.
Step 4: Enter Your Username (Optional)
Some FTP servers, such as file dumps or software distributors, allow public access for which you don’t need a username or password and can connect anonymously. For private FTP servers, like web hosts, you will.
Toggle the Log on anonymously box accordingly, and if necessary, type in your FTP username. For web hosting, this also should have been in your welcome email. If not, you may be able to create FTP accounts through your web host’s control panel.
Step 5: Name the FTP Server
Give the server a nickname so you don’t have to juggle IP addresses and risk getting confused. This is the name that will show up in File Explorer. When you’re done, click Next and then Finish.
Step 6: Connect to the FTP Server
Back in File Explorer, navigate to This PC again, then look under the “Network Locations” section. You should see the FTP server with the nickname you gave. Double-click it to connect.
Enter your password, and check Save password if you don’t want to keep entering it every time, then click Log On. Success!
You can also browse the FTP server in the File Explorer sidebar. Expand This PC by clicking the arrow beside it, and you should see the newly added FTP server, which you can also expand by clicking its arrow. This is a convenient way to transfer files without opening two File Explorers.
Step 7: Remove the FTP Server (Optional)
If you no longer need the FTP server, you can remove it by right-clicking on it and selecting Delete.
Other Ways to Transfer Files
Though FTP might be one of the more convenient methods (once everything is set up), it’s far from the only method of file transfer.
Computer to computer — There are several ways to transfer files between computers: use an external drive, share over LAN, use a transfer cable, directly connect drives, or use cloud storage sync.
Computer to mobile — Depending on what kind of computer and mobile device you have: use a USB cable, use Bluetooth, use WiFi Direct, transfer the SD card, or sync using an app like AirDroid or PushBullet.
Between Windows user accounts — If you’re looking to transfer from one account to another on the same computer, you can use the Homegroup or Workgroup features of the operating system, or you can sync using cloud storage as a medium.
What do you use FTP for? Are you going to use File Explorer going forward or do you prefer a third-party app? Share with us in the comments below!