One of the lesser-known features available in Windows Explorer and in File Explorer is that these tools can handle connections to FTP servers. You can use them to do all the file and folder management operations you would expect: copy, move, delete, create, rename and so on. In this guide, we will show you how to use Windows Explorer and File Explorer in order to make quick connections to any kind of FTP servers.
NOTE: Both Windows 7's Windows Explorer and Windows 8.1's File Explorer work the same way and offer similar interfaces when it comes to FTP connections. As a result, for the purpose of this article, we only used screenshots taken in Windows 8.1.
How To Connect To An FTP Server
Open Windows Explorer or File Explorer and, in the address bar, type ftp:// followed by the IP Address of the FTP server. Here's one dummy example of how it should look like:
ftp://192.168.2.1. Of course, you can use its domain name as well, if you know it. That looks something like this:
You are then asked to fill in details such as the username and password that will be used to connect to the FTP server. Type the username, the password and, if you plan to login more than once to this server, check the box which says "Save password". This will make Windows remember it for future connections, so that you don't have to type it again. If your FTP server supports anonymous connections, also check the box which says "Log on anonymously".
When done completing all the details, press "Log On".
Windows/File Explorer now connects to the FTP server and, if the connection is established without problems, you get to see all the folders on the server, as if they were folders on your computer.
How To Work With An FTP Server
You can now work on the FTP server as if it was your own computer. Depending on the speed of the connection, while you browse through files and folders, it may take a while for things to be displayed.
One thing you must remember is that, as long as you keep the Windows/File Explorer window open, the one in which the connection was established, the FTP connection remains active. To disconnect, simply close that Windows/File Explorer window.
You can browse to folders from your computer in a new Windows/File Explorer window or in the same window. However, there won't be any shortcut to take you back to the FTP server. To go back to it, you need to click or tap on the small arrow found near the Back and Forward buttons. There, you'll see a list with all the places you've browsed and you can easily go back to your FTP server, without starting a new connection.
File & folder management operations are done as usual. Windows/File Explorer translates all your clicks/taps and keyboard commands into the appropriate FTP commands.
One important difference though, is that you can't see previews of the files found on the FTP server. You can only see thumbnails representative for each file type.
Even though it does not compare in terms of features and usability with dedicated applications for handling FTP connections, Windows/File Explorer does a decent job at it. If you plan to work on a regular basis with a certain FTP server, we recommend you create a drive mapping in Windows/File Explorer or to use dedicated applications for this purpose.