Best Free FTP Server Software: The Top Picks

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Dani Nolan

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2019 March 19th at 12:53

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When you need to transfer files between your computer and a remote server, a file transfer protocol (FTP) server application can make the process simple.

Whether it’s connecting to your hosting provider to add content to your website, sharing large files with a company or client, or for moving files to a long-term storage server, an FTP client can help.

Thankfully, there are a variety of free FTP server programs available. Here are seven best free FTP server options you can use for transferring files:

  • Filezilla (Versatile FTP client for Windows, Mac, and Linux users)
  • WinSCP (Command line interface for bulk file actions)
  • Cyberduck (End-to-end file encryption during transfers)
  • CrossFTP (Quick login to commercial file storage services)
  • gFTP (Server-to-server file transfers for Linux users)
  • Complete FTP (Highly customizable security features)
  • FireFTP (Browser-integrated FTP client for Mozilla Firefox)

1. Filezilla

Recommended for: Windows, Linux and Mac users.

Free FTP Server FilezillaFilezilla is one of the best FTP servers and is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. It has a simple interface and open-source design that allows for constant improvement.

The program can be used to connect to either a local server or a remote server.

Plus, you can specify the port number to connect to your host to keep file traffic running smoothly.

The interface of Filezilla is its main advantage. On one side of the screen, you will see your computer’s folder structure, while on the other side of the screen you’ll see your host’s file structure. You can quickly transfer files between them by simply dragging and dropping.

Filezilla also offers a number of helpful security options. You can establish FTP Secure (FTPS) connections and log in with a username and password. You can also lock down your server so that specific IP addresses or sets of IP addresses can’t connect to it. Best of all, IP addresses are automatically locked out after a certain number of failed connection attempts.

One noticeable downside to Filezilla is that it times out connections after 15 minutes, which can interrupt massive file transfers. In addition, Filezilla doesn't support end-to-end encryption to protect your file transfers from hackers. While that's not a huge issue, it does pose a security risk for business users.

PROS

  • Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac
  • The split-screen interface makes it easy to see folder structures
  • Ability to lock out specific IP addresses from the server
  • Drag-and-drop functionality

CONS

  • Sessions time out after 15 minutes
  • No end-to-end file encryption

2. WinSCP

Recommended for: users that need remote text editing capabilities.

Free FTP Server WinSCPAnother excellent free FTP hosting solution for Windows users, WinSCP mimics the usability of Window’s native File Explorer program.

This free, open source FTP server allows you to see a split-screen of the file structures on your computer and your server, and to drag and drop files between the two.

One of the main advantages of WinSCP is that it has built-in text editors for quickly editing files stored on a remote server.

That means you can speedily edit HTML, CSS, and other pieces of code without having to download files.

In addition, WinSCP offers a command line interface that can be useful for batch file transfers or making batch edits to files on your servers. While this command line requires some technical savvy, it can be extremely useful for automating routine processes once you get the hang of it.

As you might expect, WinSCP doubles as a free FTPS software program by allowing you to connect securely to your remote server. However, it lacks the more robust security features of Filezilla, such as automatic time-outs and the ability to restrict IP address access to your server.

PROS

  • Resembles native Windows File Explorer
  • Command line for batch transfers
  • Remote text editing
  • Drag-and-drop functionality

CONS

  • Few security features
  • Only available for Windows

3. Cyberduck

Recommended for: users who want file encryption during transfer.

Free FTP Server CyberduckCyberduck is a simple but powerful free FTPS software for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

From first glance, the interface of Cyberduck is thinned down compared to other FTP clients.

And it makes it more suitable for the occasional file transfer than for everyday use by server administrators.

That said, Cyberduck offers quick connection options to not only frequently visited remote servers, but also file storage providers such as Dropbox, Amazon S3, and Google Drive.

Once connected, you can integrate Cyberduck with your favorite text editor to remotely edit plain text files on your server.

One of the best features of Cyberduck is its Cryptomator security feature. When activated, Cryptomator encrypts any files that are being transferred and blurs directory structures.

So, if someone accesses your transfer they can’t make use of the data. However, Cyberduck does not have options for restricting IP address access to a server since it lacks full server administration tools.

PROS

  • Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac
  • Quick connection to commercial cloud servers
  • Remote text editing
  • End-to-end file encryption

CONS

  • Stripped-down interface with few server controls
  • Cannot restrict IP address access to a server

4. CrossFTP

Recommended for: users requiring a rapid connection to commercial servers.

Free FTP Server CrossFTPCrossFTP is versatile free FTPS software available for all major operating systems.

The main advantage of CrossFTP is that it offers rapid login access to Amazon S3, Google Drive, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Glacier servers.

You can also open connections to multiple servers at once thanks to the tabbed structure.

In addition, CrossFTP has an easy to use file transfer panel. Here, you can transfer files in batches thanks to the drag-and-drop functionality.

You can also compress files and extract compressed folders on your server right within the FTP client, without having to download files first.

There is, unfortunately, no option to edit text files remotely within CrossFTP. However, the client’s preview and zoom functions allow you to peek into files’ contents without first downloading them to your computer. You can also search the Internet within CrossFTP and download content directly to your server.

The main concern with CrossFTP is security. While you can establish FTPS connections and keep your login password encrypted, there is no file encryption during transfers. There are also no additional features on the server administration side, such as restricting IP addresses and setting automatic time-outs.

PROS

  • Quick access to commercial cloud servers
  • Remote folder compression
  • Built-in Internet search
  • Drag-and-drop functionality

CONS

  • No end-to-end encryption
  • No remote text editing

5. gFTP

Recommended for: Linux users.

Free FTP Server gFTPgFTP is one of the best Linux FTP server solutions, mirroring much of the functionality that Filezilla provides.

The client allows for FTPS, HTTPS, and SSH transfers, as well as direct transfers between two remote servers using FTP.

In addition, you can save bookmarks to allow you to quickly log in to frequently visited servers without entering the full server address.

Like Filezilla, gFTP supports multiple CPU threads when making connections so you can crank up the bandwidth available for file transfers.

The interface is also highly similar, with a split-screen showing the file structure of your computer and that of your server. Because it’s Linux-based, though, there is no drag-and-drop functionality. Instead, you’re restricted to using the transfer arrow buttons to move files.

Note that, as was the case with FileZilla, gFTP is centered around file transfer and server administration. That means there are no options for previewing files or remotely editing text files, which can limit the utility of gFTP for more occasional users.

One advantage to using gFTP on a Linux machine is that the software is pre-packaged for installation on Linux. You can download and install gFTP just by entering ‘sudo apt-get install gftp’ in your terminal, then fire up the program to begin transferring files.

PROS

  • Enables direct transfer between servers
  • Easy to install on Linux
  • Extensive server administration features
  • Supports multiple CPU connections

CONS

  • No file preview or remote text editing
  • No drag-and-drop functionality
  • Not available for Windows

6. Complete FTP

Recommended for: those seeking highly customizable settings.

Free FTP Server Complete FTPComplete FTP is highly customized free FTP server software for Windows operating systems.

While Complete FTP includes the ability to transfer files over an FTPS connection, more advanced and secure file transfer protocols require a paid version of the software.

Still, the free version of Complete FTP offers more than enough functionality for most users and boasts an array of security features.

You can turn on encryption during file transfers to protect your data, as well as define the number of allowed login attempts before a user is locked out of your remote server.

You can also set custom limits for time-outs for stalled transfers and idle sessions.

Thankfully, all of the available settings are hidden inside menus so that they don’t clog up the file transfer panel. This side-by-side screen, as for other FTP clients, allows you to transfer files simply by dragging and dropping. You can also preview text files within the Complete FTP window.

PROS

  • Highly customizable security settings
  • Hidden menus for the clean interface
  • End-to-end file encryption
  • Drag-and-drop functionality

CONS

  • Advanced file transfers require paid software
  • Only available for Windows

7. FireFTP

Recommended for: Web developers.

Free FTP Server FireFTPFireFTP is fundamentally different from all of the other free FTP server applications I reviewed in that it’s not a desktop client.

Instead, FireFTP is designed as a browser plugin for Mozilla Firefox so you don’t have to leave your browser to upload content to or edit files on your remote server.

That’s a big deal for web developers, for whom going back and forth between a website and an FTP client can suck up a lot of time.

It also means that FireFTP can work on any operating system, as long as you have Firefox installed.

Plus, the client is secure, offering SSL encryption and SFTP connections.

FireFTP’s interface looks much like any desktop FTP client. It has a split screen that allows you to see file structures on your computer and your remote server. There’s drag-and-drop functionality, as well as a text editor for remotely editing plain text files on your server within Firefox.

The only thing to watch out for with FireFTP is that it lacks advanced security features. There is no support for file encryption during transfer. There's also no way to set time-out limits or restrict certain IP addresses from logging in to your remote server.

PROS

  • Integrated plugin for Mozilla Firefox
  • Works on any operating system
  • Remote text editing and file preview
  • Drag-and-drop functionality

CONS

  • No end-to-end file encryption
  • Not a standalone FTP client
  • Few advanced security features

Finding the Best Free FTP Server Programs

There are a variety of choices when it comes to choosing a free FTP server solution. When it comes to picking the right free FTP client for you, it's important to focus on what type of features you need:

  • Filezilla is a versatile FTP client with server administration options.
  • WinSCP has a command line interface for bulk file actions.
  • Cyberduck offers end-to-end file encryption during transfers.
  • CrossFTP includes rapid login to commercial cloud servers.
  • gFTP is easy to install and use on Linux machines.
  • Complete FTP offers a range of customizable security features.
  • FireFTP is a browser-integrated FTP client made for Mozilla Firefox.

Did this guide help you find a free FTP server program? Let me know in the comments below!


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Dani Nolan

An experienced content professional with a creative mind. If I'm not writing, you can probably find me in the backyard playing with dogs or at some weird art show.


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