FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

About FTP

FTP is an Internet tool that will allow you to transfer files from one computer to another computer. It allows you to transfer files between two computers faster than you could by using programs like Kermit, MacKermit, or other programs you might use to dial-in to one of the University's systems.

FTP has two main applications.
The first is obtaining publicly accessible files from other systems on the Internet. This application is becoming less relevant as most files are now accessible through WWW which is more user friendly and becoming widely available.

Second, you can use FTP to transfer files between a desktop system connected to a network and other systems connected to the Internet. For example, FTP provides a fast way to transfer files from a computer in a University computing site to your UNIX account (and vice versa). If you live in a University residence hall and have arranged to have your personal microcomputer connected to the campus network, you can also use FTP to transfer files.

Obtaining Publicly Accessible Files

Although most ftp files are very likely also available through WWW some files may not be (perhaps the author does not want the document to be freely available to browsers, only to those s/he notifies). It is therefore still important to understand how to transfer these files with FTP.

Anonymous FTP

Let's say you know the location of a file that you want to retrieve. In order to do so, you need to log in to the computer where the file is located. Many sites allow "anonymous ftp" logins; that is, you are allowed to log in to that system, even though you do not have an account on that system, and get files from that system. In short, anonymous FTP allows those with Internet access to login to remote computers for the purpose of transferring publicly accessible files.

The Internet Tutorial on FTP has an illustration of anonymous FTP. CAVEAT: Anonymous FTP sites are often available to a limited number of users at any one time. This can prove frustrating if you try to access popular FTP sites during rush hour (e.g., during the business day at that site).


If you want to search for files of information on a topic of interest to you, there are a variety of Internet tools available to you. One of the most widely used is Archie. Archie is a database of the names of files that are available to you via Anonymous FTP. There are several different sites that maintain copies of the Archie database. Netiquette suggests you access the site nearest you; in the case of University of Delaware those would be at Rutgers (New Jersey) and SURAnet (Maryland). Each site contains a copy of the same database of filenames.

Since Archie is a data base of file names, you will see full "UNIX-style" pathnames for the files. That is, you will see the name of the computer that has the file, the name of the file, and the directory in which that file is stored.

Downloading/Uploading Files With FTP

FTP also allows you to transfer files between a "desktop system" connected to the campus network and other computers on the Internet. For example, if you are working in a University computing site and have a file you want to upload to your UNIX account, it is fastest to do so using FTP. If you live in a University Residence Hall and have your own computer connected to the campus network, you can also use FTP to upload or download files.

This is particularly useful if you have a document that you have prepared in WordPerfect (or another word processor) that you want to send to someone in an Email message or to post to a news group. For example, if you have completed your section of a group project and wish to share it with your fellow group members, you can upload the file and Email it to your group members for their comments.

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The University of Delaware
August, 1996