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Articles & Tutorials

FTP Basics

by Jamie Macey


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Summary : Common uses of FTP range from downloading videos or game demos from publishers' servers, copying files from your local machine to and from a web server. We will be looking at how it applies to the latter case here.

FTP (which is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol) is one of the oldest and most standard methods of transferring files from one machine to another over the internet. It's not as technologically advanced as the peer-to-peer methods that have been coming out recently, but it works and works well.

First, we will be looking at the command-line version of FTP that comes with most versions of Windows, Linux, and MacOS. The FTP protocol is standardized and should have the same commands on whatever platform you have, but if in doubt you can always try typing 'help'.

Note: CDRom.com was, back in the day, a popular set of FTP sites that you could download free and shareware software from. I'll be using it in a running example.

To start the FTP client, you can either directly run the command 'ftp' from the Run dialog off of the start menu, or if you are comfortable in DOS you can load a DOS window and simply run ftp from there. Once it is running, you should have a prompt stating: ftp>

If you type 'help' here, it will give you a list of commands, if you type 'help (command)' it should tell you what the command does. The version I'm using under Windows XP doesn't really give much details in help though.

To connect to an FTP server, you use the command 'open' - for example, the command 'open ftp.cdrom.com' will attempt to connect to the machine called 'ftp.cdrom.com'. Note that most ftp sites start with "ftp." in a similar way to web sites starting with "www." After running the command, you should be prompted for a user name with a prompt that looks something like this:

User (cdrom.wip.digitalriver.com:(none)):

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