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How to Use FTP server on a Mac

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a protocol for transferring files over the Internet. While there are much better tools to run websites these days, FTP is still commonly used today and quite often novice users have questions about its use. In this article, you will learn more about what FTP is, how it works, and the different ways to connect to an FTP server on Mac.

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Commander One
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File manager for Mac - Commander One

What is FTP?

As you know, there are various protocols for transferring data over the Internet and other networks. HTTP allows users to interact with web resources, IMAP is used to access email on a remote web server from a local client. FTP stands for a File Transfer Protocol and is one of the oldest protocols.

Developed back in 1971, FTP has become the standard network protocol that is used to move files between a local computer and a remote system. In simple words, through FTP, you can connect to FTP servers, view the contents of directories, and upload files to the server. The protocol is still widely used for file transfer and host access.

FTP is most often used to connect to the hosting or server where your website is located. For example, you need to upload images from your computer to the web server where your website is hosted. Thanks to dedicated FTP clients, you can remotely connect to the server and quickly perform these actions.

Benefits of FTP

FTP supports large file transfers

FTP lets you transfer large files, while some content management systems have the file size restrictions. Even sending hundreds of gigabytes at once, you get a smooth and quick transfer.

FTP improves workflow

Instead of sending files or directories one by one, you can send multiple files/directories at the same time. FTP also allows you to schedule transfers so your workflow won't be interrupted.

Transfers can be resumed

If you suddenly get disconnected from the network and lose your transfer progress, you do not have to start over. FTP will automatically resume the transfer from where it left off when the network is available.

Disadvantages of FTP

Requires additional software

To connect to FTP server Mac users can use Finder, however if you want to get the most out of FTP you will need to download a third party client.


One of the downsides of FTP is lack of security. While most FTP servers require you to log in with credentials, they do not use encryption. Data sent via FTP is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. To improve the security of file transfers when using an FTP connection, additional encryption protocols have been developed: SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), FTPS (FTP over SSL).

Commander One is the best FTP client for Mac

Commander One

If you are looking for some extra features like full support for FTP, SFTP, FTPS, uploading, downloading, queueing, the ability to change permissions, support for reading/writing, there are many third-party OS X applications that can do the job. One of such apps is Commander One.

The app is a handy file manager and client for working with protocols such as FTP / SFTP / FTPS and WebDAV, as well as cloud computing services. When dealing with Mac FTP servers via Commander One, the following operations will become available to the user: copy, delete, move files, edit content, etc. The most important is that the app makes dealing with the remote servers as if they are your local drives that saves you lots of time and facilitates your working routine.

In addition to the standard set of features available in most file managers, Commander One is equipped with a built-in archiver, task manager, process viewer, terminal emulator, etc. The advantages also include the two-pane interface of this Mac client, which makes working with files much easier.

icon pros Pros

  • Support for multiple tabs;
  • integrated FTP/SFTP/FTPS client;
  • encrypts online connections;
  • doubles as Terminal emulator;
  • customizable hotkeys.

icon cons Cons

  • lacks multiple rename function;
  • does not support directory synchronization.

Different ways on how to connect to FTP server on Mac

Connecting to FTP server on Mac is very simple and there are several ways to do it. Many of them are also relevant for all popular operating systems. However, it all depends on the goal, because the functionality of some programs is very limited.

Accessing Mac FTP-server via Finder

Open Finder.

Next, in the menu bar at the top of the screen, click Go, and then Connect to Server. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Command + K.

 Connect to Server

In the menu that appears, enter the address of your FTP server, for example and click connect.

 enter the address
Enter your login and password if this is provided by your server, and check the box to remember so that you do not enter data each time.
Done, now you can use the FTP server from OS X.

Definitely, it is not all the features Commander One can boast about. The app is equipped with the necessary and handy tools to facilitate your workflow and provide you with the best possible file management.

Setup FTP on Mac via browser

Now browsers have become so smart that they easily allow connecting to FTP server on Mac, with no need to look for extensions. The standard login option is to enter the following construction in the browser address bar, for instance:

Is it convenient? Sure. But recently, browsers periodically turn off support for this protocol. At the time of this writing, Chrome was refusing to open the server, nevertheless Firefox still can perform this action. Of course, the method is not the most universal, but it is definitely worth a try.

It is worth mentioning that connecting to FTP server on Mac using this methods both the browser and Finder, if necessary, will ask for a login and password, but there is also a complete form of establishing the connection:


The connection will take place without any unnecessary password requests.

Setup FTP server on Mac via Terminal

If you are an avid user of Command line, we have some good news for you, as you can seamlessly connect to FTP server on Mac via It. Just enter the FTP command, and then "open 168.0.1".

For anonymous login, leave the password blank, and in the login write "anonymous" (always with a small letter). To navigate folders, use FTP commands.

How does FTP work?

Very often, FTP servers are confused with conventional WEB servers using the HTTP protocol. This is because they have a similar architecture and operate on a client-server basis. However, the FTP server has its own peculiarities:

Very often, FTP servers are confused with conventional WEB servers using the HTTP protocol. This is because they have a similar architecture and operate on a client-server basis. However, the FTP server has its own peculiarities:

  • The need for authentication.
  • The ability to perform various operations with the file system.
  • Mac FTP server uses a separate channel for each connection.
  • It is possible to specify the types of transmitted files by means of MIME headers.
  • It supports two data transfer modes: text and binary.
  • It offers session mode of operation.

The main purpose of the FTP server for Mac as well as other computers is file transfer. In addition to uploading files to the server and downloading them from it, it is possible to execute a large number of different commands that allow you to manage the server's file system (creating and deleting directories, deleting files from the server, etc.). FTP has its advantages, especially when administering sites - it is very convenient to manage resource files on a remote server using FTP.

What are FTP servers for?

As a rule, this service is especially popular for uploading files to shared hosting. Most often, Mac FTP servers are used for:

  1. Transferring of personal files between friends, relatives, acquaintances. For this purpose, they create home servers that store photos, music tracks, documents and much more.
  2. Exchanging corporate data - for example, between branches of the same company.
  3. Transferring of website content to the server of the hosting company.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of options for using an FTP server. It is a versatile tool and can be used in many other situations as well.

How to set up an FTP server?

When it comes to setting up FTP server Mac users need to know and fill in the following information, namely:

  • Connection name.
  • FTP server address.
  • Connection type - SSL / TLS.
  • Account name.
  • Account password.

The name of the connection can be anything. So what about FTP server address? Well, it is the hostname or IP address of the server. How to find an FTP site? You can find out from the provider (if you are trying to establish a connection with the server on the host) or from the owner of the resource to which you are connecting. The connection type determines whether an anonymous connection will be used to communicate with the server.

Not all FTP services support this feature. SSL - support for anonymous connection, TLS - connection via encrypted FTPS protocol. Another optional field is the name of the remote directory. It should be specified if you need to immediately get into this directory, bypassing all the higher-level servers in the file system.

Before setting up an FTP server Mac users should go back to its features. And the most important of them is the need for authentication to create a connection. In addition to using the standard "login-password" link for each user, it is possible to use an anonymous connection, when the value "anonymous" is used as a login, and their email address should serve as a password (as conceived by the developers). In reality, this address is not verified anywhere, so its validity is not required.

Are FTP servers secure?


From a security point of view, the FTP connection has many vulnerabilities, since at the time of its creation, many types of attacks were not widespread. All information, including personal data of users (such as login and password),is transmitted unencrypted in text form and can be read when the packets are intercepted by an intruder. The FTPS extension (AUTH TLS command) is used to transfer data in encrypted form.

However, modern FTP servers are secure because they store information in encrypted form, fast - with channels up to 100 Mbit and unlimited traffic, convenient because they have a control panel with a file manager, FTP accounts, statistics on the use of resources, profitable, since the rental cost is lower than on hosting. In addition, the rental price includes technical support, regular backups of your files and their restoration in case of problems.


Starting from macOS Sierra it is not possible to activate the Mac FTP server using Terminal command. It will take a very long time to reactivate it, which, on the other hand, would be in vain after updating the operating system. By far, the best way to set your OSX FTP server up and manage it is to use specialized Mac FTP server software or Mac FTP client software.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can enable the built-in Macintosh FTP server by running this command in Terminal:

sudo -s launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist

To disable it, run the following command:

sudo -s launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist
Starting from macOS Sierra Apple has decided to completely remove Mac FTP-server service.
You can use different ways to connect to FTP server on Mac, namely a browser(please note that not all browsers support this feature any more), Terminal (for more advanced users) and FTP clients, like Commander One. Keep in mind that only FTP clients provide you with the full control over your files stored on a remote server.
In the Terminal execute the following command After that, you will be asked for a password.

First, launch Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/ and run the following command:

sudo -s launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist

Check if the server is running by executing the following command:

ftp localhost

Commander One

This dual panel file manager for Mac is fully compatible with MacOS 10.12 and later. Requires 58.68MB of free space, latest version 3.3(3508). Released 2 Sep, 2021.

4.7 rank based on 889+ users, Reviews (524)
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