Using Windows Explorer as FTP client
Many users get confused by the amount of windows a run-off-the-mill FTP client like FileZilla shows. There is a window for local content, a window for remote content, both windows are split into directory and file tree views. Then there is a window (well, three actually) for the transfer queue, loads of buttons at the top, another window for the transfer log and many other things that can easily overwhelm a novice user that is about to connect to a FTP server for the first time ever.
Wouldn’t it be nice to do FTP stuff with a maybe more convenient and familiar interface? Windows offers sort of a built in FTP client, Windows Explorer. Additionally to managing local files and folders, or files/folders on network shares you can also use Windows Explorer as FTP client. It might not offer as much functionality as a dedicated piece of software like FileZilla or BulletProof FTP but will suffice more the most basic tasks like uploading, downloading or deleting files and folders. Operating System is Windows 7 but it works similar in other versions of Windows too.
First thing to do is to launch Windows Explorer and locate the Map Network Drive option at the top of the Explorer window. This is used to, guess what, map network shares to drive letters for easier access.
Click the Map Network Drive button to open a new windows. Normally, in this window you would now choose a drive letter and the network share to map to the drive letter. But since we want to establish a FTP connection let’s ignore the drive letter and network share options and skip right to the Connect to a website that you can use to store your documents and pictures. As you can see it’s highlighte in blue and underlined, which means clicking it will open a new window (just like a hyperlink).
You will now see the Welcome to the Add Network Location Wizard which will help you setting up your FTP connection to your server. The first screen gives a brief summary of what the wizard will do, other than that there is nothing of relevance to read there. Click Next and the wizard asks you where to create the network location. In this example there is only one option available, there might be more but for setting up the FTP location the relevant connection option is the one shown in the screenshot below.
Select Choose a custom network location and click Next. Now you can enter the FTP address of your server, usually something like ftp://ftp.yourdomain.com. When done entering your ftp address click Next again and untick the “Logon anonymously” box (unless your FTP allows anonymous logins, which is a bad idea…very bad idea). Enter your FTP user name and click Next again.
Now you can give your new network location a proper name (you can also leave it at the default value which is your FTP address) and finalize the setup by clicking Next which will present you with sort of an overview and the option to either open the new network location right after you clicked Finish or not. Again, just like in the intro screen, not much to read here so click Finish to complete the Add Network Location Wizard and go back to your Windows Explorer window. You should now see a new network location added to the list of drives/locations on the left
Opening the new network location will now establish a FTP connection to your server and show a login window where you have to enter your FTP password. You can also save the password, just tick the corresponding box to do so, but for security reasons i recommend to not save the password as everyone using your computer will be able to access your FTP account.
After entering your FTP password you will see the contents of your FTP folder (usually the root directory of your account) and can now start copying, moving or deleting files using Windows Explorer the same way you manage files on your computer. To upload files simply drag and drop them from the directory on your computer to the directory on the FTP server or vice versa if you want to download something.