FTP Server: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding FTP

ftp access client port server software secure

Before the invention of cloud-based file transfer over HTTP, or the bandwidth and computing power required to make it possible, files were transferred remotely over what would become the internet using an entirely different protocol known as FTP. Although cloud-based services now exist that can serve a similar purpose, FTP is still an efficient and trusted way to get the job done. In this post, we'll learn about what FTP is and how you can set up your own FTP server on Windows 10.

What is file transfer protocol (FTP)?

When you visit a website, the URL is prefaced with HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). That's because websites are made up of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) files. In the early days of the internet, before the World Wide Web as we know it existed, there were several different transfer protocols depending on the need being fulfilled. The most common one for transferring arbitrary files between two computers was FTP. While HTTP is capable of transferring arbitrary files, as it does anytime you download a file from a website, it's not as efficient at the job as FTP.

For one thing, HTTP is not meant for transferring a bulk amount of files. While software backbends now allow for that possibility with HTTP, that's not its original purpose. FTP was designed specifically to transfer files from one remote computer to another similarly to the way you'd copy files from one folder on your computer to another. It accomplishes this by making two connections to the server. One is used for transmission and the other is used for control. HTTP uses only one connection and must switch between sending or receiving data and sending commands.

Another difference is login credentials. While some websites may require you to log in before you can use them that is again accomplished on the backend. It isn't part of the HTTP protocol. FTP, by contrast, has user authentication built right into the system. This is because once you're connected to an FTP server, you're free to upload or download files according to your access level without any additional software or backend work on the server.

What is an FTP server?

Like HTTP, FTP works on a client-server model. One remote computer has an FTP server installed on it. This is the one that users will be able to connect to and transfer files to and from. The users doing the transferring won't have an FTP server, and instead will be running an FTP client. Think of it as the difference between a web server and a web browser. This is important in order to keep communication one-way. You don't want to log in to an FTP server and suddenly grant the owner of that server access to your files.

How to set up an FTP server on Windows 10

Thankfully, Windows comes with an FTP server pre-installed. You only have to enable it. To do so, follow the steps below:

  • From the taskbar search field, search for Control Panel and open it up.
  • Select the Programs and Features options in Control Panel.
  • Choose Turn Windows Features On or Off from the left side pane.
  • Expand Internet Information Services and turn on both FTP Server and Web Management Tools.

After you've enabled the feature, you'll need to configure it.

  • From Control Panel, open Administrative Tools.
  • Double click on Internet Information Services Manager.
  • Right click on Sites in the left-hand pane and select Add FTP Site.
  • Give the site a name and tell it which folder you want to send and receive files from.
  • You can leave the next page on the default settings.
  • On the page that follows, specify the users you'd like to grant access to the FTP server. You can do this using their email address or their local account name.


Using a cloud-based service for transferring large numbers of files can be a good solution, but it requires you to depend on that third party provider and won't work at all if you want to keep your file transfers confined to a private network. You can bypass those limitations by setting up an FTP server and using that to transfer files instead.

Need to Download WinZip