Getting yourself connected to an FTP server in Windows is a lot easier than you would initially think. You might’ve imagined clacking away at your keys like a hacker, attempting to break your way into some server. Fortunately for you, that’s not the case nor is it an illegal activity; in fact, you’ve used FTP before, you just didn’t know it.

What is an FTP Server?

FTP is yet another acronym in the computer world that means “File Transfer Protocol.” Imagine you’re downloading a music file with your favorite browser. Believe it or not, you’re engaging with FTP without even realizing it. It’s nothing more than a pipeline for files to transfer from place to place.

Unfortunately, using FTP through your browser is like skipping over water–you’re only skimming the very top. You don’t interact with FTP in any way except through the transferring of a file from one computer to another. Your browser doesn’t have the tools to ask the server questions, you can’t upload, nor can you alter the FTP in any way.

But that’s where Windows comes in. It does have the tools to connect to FTP servers, and you don’t need any extra software to make it happen. You already have it: File Explorer and CMD.

Connecting to an FTP Server with File Explorer

If you’re looking to connect with an FTP server the easy way, then using File Explorer is your best option. File Explorer is Windows’ native file management system. Anytime you open a folder on your computer, you’re using File Explorer and have access to everything it offers.

1. Start by opening any random folder or clicking on File Explorer in the bottom left corner of your screen, along the taskbar and to the right of Windows Start menu. If you don’t see it, any folder will do.

2. Now, look in the left hand column. You’ll see a list of other folders available on your computer. You want to focus on “This PC,” or sometimes labeled “Computer” depending on your version of Windows.

Add a network location

3. Next, right-click any empty space within “This PC.” A drop down menu will be revealed. In the drop down menu, click “Add a network location.” You’ll find it near the bottom of the menu.

4. Afterwards, the “Add Network Location” pop-up window will appear. This is the wizard that will take you down the bath of FTP enlightenment. Click Next to begin.

5. When asked “Where do you want to create this network location?,” click “Choose a custom network location,” which is most likely the only option you have. Then click Next to move on.

Internet or network address

6. Now, in the empty field for “Internet or network address:” you need to provide details on the FTP server you’re trying to join in this format: ftp://server.com. Specify the server you want to connect to by replacing “server” with the name. Afterwards, click Next.

[NOTE]: For example, you would type “ftp://ftp.microsoft.com” if you wanted to connect to Microsoft’s FTP server.

FTP servers have usernames

7. Some FTP servers have usernames that you can utilize for additional tools. By choosing to remain anonymous (clicking “Log on anonymously”), you’ll only have limited access. Click Next after you’ve provided the necessary details or remained anonymous.

name the network location

8. Now name the network location. This can be anything and is only for personal organization. If you’re connecting to FTP servers all the time, it’s best you name it something easily distinguishable from other servers.

9. Finally, click Finish.

Connecting to an FTP Server with CMD

For those of you who love using the Command Prompt, you can come to the same conclusion using CMD.

1. Start by opening Windows Start menu and search for “Command Prompt.” Be sure to choose “Run as Administrator” when you see it in the search results.

ftp command

2. Your first command in CMD is “ftp.” Hit Enter to execute the command.

open ftp.server.com

3. Now, like in File Explorer, you need to provide the name of the FTP server. Type in like this “open ftp.server.com,” replacing “server” with a proper server name. Hit Enter to connect.

[NOTE] For example, connecting with Microsoft’s FTP will look like this: open ftp.microsoft.com.

4. Once you’ve connected, you’ll be asked to provide a username and password or, if you so choose, you can connect anonymously–provided it’s available. For an anonymous connection, type “anonymous” and hit Enter.

Bottom Line

Regardless of how you connect, Windows makes it incredibly easy to do, even if you aren’t very familiar with CMD commands. And with access to FTP servers from File Explorer, you never have to type a command, it’s just a simple setup wizard. The best part, arguably, is it’s all native options; no extra software necessary.