One of the less known features of Windows Explorer is that it can handle connections to FTP servers. You can use it to do all the file and folder management operations you would expect: copy, delete, create, etc. In this guide, I will show how to use Windows Explorer to make quick connections to any FTP server.
Connecting to the FTP Server
Open Windows Explorer and, in the address bar, type ftp:// followed by the IP Address of the FTP server. Here’s one dummy example of how it should look like:
You are then asked to fill in details such as the user name and password that will be used to connect to the FTP server. Type the username, the password and, if you plan to login more than once to this server, check the box which says "Save password". This will make Windows Explorer remember it for future connections, so that you don’t have to type it again.
If your FTP sever supports anonymous connections, check the box which says "Log on anonymously".
When done completing all the details, press "Log On".
Windows Explorer now connects to the FTP server and, if the connection was made without problems, you get to see all the folders on the server, as if they were folders on your computer.
Working with the FTP Server
You can now work on the FTP server as if it was your own computer. Depending on the speed of the connection, while you browse through files and folders, it make take a while for things to get displayed.
One thing you must remember is that, as long as you keep the Windows Explorer window open, in which the connection was established, the FTP connection remains active. To disconnect, simply close that Windows Explorer window.
You can browse to folders from your computer in a new Windows Explorer window or in the same window. However, there won’t be any shortcut to take you back to the FTP server. To go back to it, you need to click the small arrow found near the Back and Forward buttons. There you see a list with all the places you’ve browsed and can easily go back to your FTP server, without starting a new connection.
File & folder management operations are done as usual. Windows Explorer translates all your clicks and keyboard commands into the appropriate FTP commands.
One important difference though, is that you can’t see previews of the files found on the FTP server. Only thumbnails representative for each file type.
Even though it does not compare in terms of features and usability with dedicated applications for handling FTP connections, Windows Explorer does a decent job at it. If you plan to work on a regular basis with a certain FTP server, it is better to create a drive mapping in Windows Explorer or to use dedicate applications for this purpose.