Setting up a FileZilla FTP server on a Windows workstation

Windows is not an ideal platform for a file server, but the FileZilla FTP server is an easy way to allow a Windows user to access his documents remotely while away from the office. Windows users being what they are, special emphasis is placed on securing the FTP server from curious fingers.

Download the latest stable version of the server from the FileZilla project. Decide on usernames and passwords for user and administrator.

On the workstation, make sure that any firewall is operating and that the Internet connection is functioning. Throughout the following, the firewall may inform you that the FTP server is seeking to connect to the Internet; authorize the connections and train the firewall to remember these settings.

Install FileZilla server. When asked during installation, choose to install the server and the administration interface. Choose to always start FileZilla server as a service upon startup, and that the server interface should only start manually.

Once installed, start the server interface. Make sure the server is running. Open Edit – Settings and set the following non-default settings:

  • General settings: Leave “listen on these ports” at its default 21 for now, but we may have to change this later. Set “maximum number of users” to 2 and “no transfer timeout” to 3600 (one hour).
  • Miscellaneous: Allow downloading of files which are open for writing by another process.
  • Admin interface settings: Assign an administrative password.
  • Logging: disable.
  • File transfer compression: Enable mode Z support.

Open Edit – Users. Assign a user name and password, and set that user’s home directory to be the root directory of the hard drive (usually C:/).

Note your IP address and make sure that port 21 is open. An online service such as You Get Signal is good for this. Some firewalls, routers, and ISPs block port 21. Try adjusting your firewall or router, or set FileZilla to use a different port as noted above. Keep testing until you find a usable port.

To test, you need a device not on the local network. A portable device using a cellular network would be ideal. Keep the FileZilla interface open. On the test computer, attempt to connect to the server using the online FTP tester Notice any diagnostic messages in the FileZilla and interfaces.

Disconnect and close the server interface. Insure that the server interface icon disappears from the system tray. Insure that you can still connect to the server via Reboot the workstation. Insure that the server interface does not automatically launch. Insure that the FileZilla server is not visible to the casual user, and that the server is accessible.

Optionally, remove visible traces of FileZilla. Delete its start menu entries and any desktop icons. Use Ccleaner or a similar tool to remove FileZilla from the Add/Delete Programs list.

At this stage the server works and can be accessed remotely by any FTP client whenever the Windows machine is on and connected to the Internet. If the Windows machine is assigned a fixed IP address you are finished. If it is assigned a dynamic IP address (which is more likely), install and configure a dynamic DNS mapping service on it such as No-IP.

FileZilla server can be controlled from the command line. Open a command prompt and cd to “C:Program FilesFileZilla Server”. Then to check or change the status of the server, issue “FileZilla server.exe”. A pop-up message will appear offering to change the status of the server: if it is running, it will offer to stop it; if it is not running, it will offer to start it.


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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3 Responses to Setting up a FileZilla FTP server on a Windows workstation

  1. anonymous says:

    McPherson writes:Thank you so much for this! I have been looking for a way to do exactly this with out much luck. Thank you for your easy instructions.

  2. wpost says:

    My pleasure; glad it works for you. Feel free to add any tips of your own here.

  3. Pingback: Filezilla client | A maze of twisty little passages

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