Uploading and Downloading Files using FTP

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What is FTP?

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is used anytime you move files from one computer system to another over a network.

For example, many people create a web page on their home computer and then upload the file to the public_html directory in their UMNetID account to publish it.


FTP allows you to access or transfer files on another computer over the network.

FTP servers available at the U of M

Below is a list of the UM servers that you can connect to using an FTP client program:

  • Unix server:
    • Log in using your UMNetID and password.
  • INS server:
    • Log in using your INS username and password.
  • CNS server:
    • Log in using your CNS username and password.
  • Staff:
    • Log in using your UMNetID and password.
  • Students:
    • Log in using your UMNetID and password.

Instructions for using FTP client software:

We recommend FileZilla as your FTP client software.

File types

Files can be defined as either text or binary file types. The type of file will affect how the file is transferred. If you are unsure of the file type, use a binary mode transfer, which will have little impact on a text file. However, a binary file transferred as text will rarely work later.

Text files are  ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) files that can be read on the screen or files that have been saved as unformatted or text. These are usually generic files that can be read on any computer system. Due to their nature, they are very flexible. However, the trade-off is the loss of formatting, such as bold and underlining.

If you identify a file as text when using FTP, it will perform the necessary conversion between different character representations on different systems. Most of the time, the only character affected is the end-of-line marker, which is different on Unix, PCs and Macs. A binary transfer will make an exact binary duplicate of the file, performing no interpretation or conversion. This is why a binary transfer is the safer option.

Binary files may be executable program files, word processing documents, images, etc. Most of these files cannot be read on the screen without access to compatible software. File extensions that suggest a binary transfer is required include:

.com .doc .exe .gif .jpg

Many programs will offer to transfer the file by choosing the format for you automatically. It is suggested that you do not make use of this Auto feature. If the file extension is misinterpreted as an ASCII file, the file is transferred as a text file and will not operate properly later.

Methods of transfer

Copying a file from a Unix account or other remote system to a local computer disk drive is referred to as DOWNLOADING. Copying a file from a local computer's disk drive to your Unix account or another remote system is referred to as UPLOADING.

TIP: Most problems that are encountered in downloading a file are centered around not knowing to which directory the file was copied. By using a specific directory each time, you will know where to look for the file(s) when you wish to use them.



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