Build an FTP server with FileZilla

If you want to download or upload files from your home PC from anywhere that you happen to be, an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server can become very handy. With a home FTP server, you can upload and download files from your home hard drive from a friends house, the office, your college dorm, or a laptop at a gas station while you are on the road. Setting up an FTP server might sound like a complicated task that only knowledgeable IT consultants could handle but it is actually very easy and free to do with open source software FileZilla.You may have already heard of the FilzeZilla FTP Client application but FileZilla also offers an application for Windows to set up a home server. Today we will build an FTP server on your Windows PC with FilzeZilla for easy file transfers from any computer you may come across.

INSTALL THE FILEZILLA FTP SERVER

The FileZilla server installation is a straight forward Windows wizard that will simply ask you to “just press next”. I am going to take a look at the initial settings anyway since they will affect how you work with this server.
  •  Run the server as a Windows service. FileZilla will give you the option of how it should start: as a Windows service or not, automatically or manually.  Windows services are processes that run on your PC and can mange from the Services management pane. FileZilla running as a Windows service automatically is the default option. If you want your FTP server on by default, choose “Start as service, started with Windows (default)” as shown. Otherwise, you can choose “Start service, started manually.”

In this pane you will set the port for the admin interface to use. By default it is 14147 and you will be most safe leaving it at that. If you do need to change that port number, make a note of what it is because you will need it to connect to the server later on.


Set the server administrative interface to launch automatically (or not). On the final dialog for installation, choose whether you want the server admin window to launch automatically when the current Windows user logs on, or when any user logs on, or if it should be started manually.
  • Run and connect to the server with the admin interface. As you get closer to ending the installation wizard, set it to start the server admin interface. This is the window where you will configure the server as well as monitor its activity. The first time that you run the admin interface it will ask you for the server’s address and port. .since the server is running off your PC, the same one the admin interface is running on, the address is localhost or 127.0.0.1. The default port is 14147 as shown.

If this is the only FTP server that you will be setting up (most likely it is), check the “Always connect to this server” box to bypass this box in the future.

CREATE SERVER USERS

If all has worked out fine up to this point, your server is now up and running — but no one can use it yet since you have not given anyone permission. To set up this server to must set up users. To set up a server user, from the Edit menu choose Users. In the Users dialog on the right hand side, click the Add button to create a new user and assign a password. Then, you will see on the left side “Shared Folders”. Click this to set up what folders that user will have access to on your server. Here I have created a user named Fred and granted access to the C:\ProgramData directory.

Notice that you can fine-tune the file access rights for each user : grant read-only rights (download only), write rights (to upload files), and whether or not the user can delete files from the directories as well.
If you want to grant several users access to the server with all the same rights as well as directory access, instead of creating each one individually, you can set up a user group. For example if you are sharing your music directory with your friends, make a user group called “music friends” with access to the correct directory and add users to that group, which automatically gives them those rights. Then, if you move your music directory you only have to edit the group, not each user in it. To manage user groups, go to the Edit menu and choose Groups.

LOG INTO THE SERVER

Now that the server is up and running with users, it is time to log in and try some uploading and downloading.  Using any FTP client ( like the FilzeZilla client) enter the server address, user name and password.
  • Server address If you are using FTP across your home network (such as your laptop PC to your desktop PC), you can reach the server by using itsinternal network address (most likely something like 192.168.xx.xx.) From the start menu type cmd and run. That will bring up the command line. Typeipconfig to see what that address is. If you want to log into your FTP server over the internet, set up a memorable URL for it and allow connections from outside your network. To do this, check out how to assign a domain name to your home server and how to access your home server behind a router and firewall.
  • User name and password This is one of the users that you set up in the FileZilla admin interface, not the server admin user name. If friends, family, or co-workers will be logging into your FTP server, give them each their own specific username and password to log in.
A word about security:  FTP is not a secure protocol; all the file transfers happen in the clear which makes them ripe for sniffing. FileZilla does support encrypted FTP access. FileZilla’s secure FTP server setup is much more complicated and beyond scope of this article but you can go into the server admin interface settings area to configure it.

STARTING AND STOPPING YOUR SERVER IN WINDOWS SERVICES

To shut down or restart your FileZilla server running as a Windows service, from Control Panel, Administrative Tools, launch Services. Right click on the FileZilla FTP server item on the list to stop it, edit its Properties, or restart it.
Once you get your FTP server up and running it may take a few tries to get it all working. I recommend playing with the active and passive settings in the settings menu as some friends and I had some initial problems dealing with that at the beginning.

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