Windows Explorer - Windows FTP

It is possible to use Windows Explorer as an FTP client to transfer files to/from another site.

In general, this provides only a second rate FTP client ... but its better than nothing (well, sometimes it is).

Background | Binary vs ASCII | Text Line Terminators | Commandline FTP
Setup on Windows XP | Setup on Windows 98 | FTP Tools


FTP - File Transfer Protocol

FTP allows you to transfer files from one computer to another ... just like Windows Explorer allows you to transfer files from one directory to another (which may or may not be on a different computer).

The primary difference is the protocol (you don't need to know the specific differences). Suffice it to say that FTP was developed long before the first Windows operating system - it was (and is still) used to transfer files between UNIX systems.

Today, most Windows users use FTP to transfer files to/from some computer on the internet - usually a system hosting a web site. As often as not, the remote system is UNIX.

Binary vs ASCII

The internet was developed to transfer information in 7-bit packets.

Computers store data in 8-bit bytes.

Normal ASCII text data is stored using only 7 bits per byte (the 8th bit is always zero). (This kind of document is created using programs like notepad.exe) As a result, it is fairly easy to transfer this type of data over the internet. This is one reason the html pages are always written in ASCII.

Other types of data (images, programs, MS Word documents, and the like) use all 8 bits to store data. As a result, special algorithms are required to transfer 8-bit data over a 7-bit interface.

When you are using FTP, you need to be aware of the type of data being transferred - ASCII or binary (7-bit or 8-bit).

If you try to transfer 8-bit data in ASCII mode, data WILL be lost (the 8th bit will be set to zero).

Text Line Terminators

There are several ways to terminate a line of text

When ASCII transfers are enabled, many FTP clients (the part run on your machine) automatically translate these.

Commandline FTP

Windows XP provides a way to ftp files from the command line. Normally I don't suggest using this, but its nice to know that it is there - just in case.

Setup on Windows XP

This describes how to configure Windows Explorer to provide FTP client capabilities ... with the following limitations

Everyone's system is configured a little different, this worked with one of my configurations.

BTW, the example above - - displays the directories and allows you to copy files to a directory on your machine. However, if you simply double click an *.txt file, it only displays Give me a break.

On a UNIX system, double clicking an *.txt file actually displays the file's contents. (I'm not sure that it matters, but the UNIX system required a user ID and password, whereas the microsoft site's connection was anonymous.)

Most of the free FTP clients will do a better job. However, if your system is configured so that you are not allowed to load software ... then this is an alternative.

Setup on Windows 98

Supposedly, this is possible, but I have not figured it out yet.

FTP Tools

Well, my favorite FTP tool (WS FTP LE) is no longer available for free.

CNET lists a number of free FTP clients you can use instead of Windows Explorer.

Core FTP Lite (free) was recommended by several users on CNET.

"There are no popup ads or advertising, and you're never asked or reminded to register."

Features you may need (that I use)

Author: Robert Clemenzi -
URL: http:// / user / clemenzi / technical / WinExplorer / ftp.html