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Filezilla server for local network in Windows: step by step guide

Reading Time: 6 min

Tags:  Windows Applications

Setting up an FTP server is a relatively easy way to share files in your local network. It is more difficult to set up an FTP server for remote transfers. This article focuses on local FTP transfers.

Download and install

Filezilla Server can be downloaded from here. For the most part, there isn’t anything to be gained by deviating from the default settings. The only major decision you need to make is whether you want Filezilla Server to be auto-started with Windows or not. Auto-start is the default, if you don’t want that, choose the Install as service, started manually option in the Startup settings.

Filezilla Server startup settings

For everything else, just accept the defaults.

Filezilla Server Administration Settings

Next step is to create an administration password. This password is for establishing a connection between the Filezilla administration interface and the Filezilla service. Please note that this connection is purely meant for administering the server. It has nothing to do with an actual FTP connection.

If you are wondering why such a password is needed, it is because the Filezilla service (which run in the background) and the Filezilla administration interface (GUI) are two separate software. You can control the Filezilla server remotely using the Filezilla administration interface. I will not be covering remote administration in this article. In our example both the service and the GUI will be running on the same machine.

Screen for setting Filezilla administrator password

Click install to install Filezilla Server.

Filezilla Server will display a sha256 fingerprint. This is useful if you plan to administer the server remotely. If your are planning to use this feature, make a note of the sha256 fingerprint or take a screenshot of it. It is not needed for our example.

Start Filezilla administration interface

Once the installation is complete, the administration interface should start automatically. It can also be started by clicking on the “Administer Filezilla Server” shortcut.

Connect To Filezilla Service

Click on “Connect to Server” and enter the password we created earlier to establish the connection.

When you are connecting to Filezilla server for the first time, it will show the following message.

sha256 verification prompt

Since we are running both the Filezilla service and the administration interface on the same computer we can just click yes.

The Administration interface will connect to the Filezilla service.

Creating a user account

Now we can get to the task of adding a user. Choose the configure option from the server menu or click Ctrl+F

The server menu exapanded and configure option is highlighted

Select “Users” in the configure window. Click “add” and then type in the username of the new user. For authentication you can choose between “Do not require authentication” (not recommended), “Require a password to login” or “Use system credentials to log in”.

Filezilla Server Add user

Authentication with password is the most popular option. If you choose this option, you will need to set a password for the user by typing it in the textbox below the password dropdown.

Textbox for setting a password for the newly added user

Make a folder available via FTP

The next step is to add what Filezilla calls a mount point. The mount point is a mapping between the folder you want to make available via FTP and a “virtual folder” where the user can find the content of your “real folder” when they connect to the FTP server.

For security it is better to create a folder specifically for the files you want to share via FTP. Set this as your “Native Path” in the “Mount Points” list.

You can specify any virtual path but you must use Unix style path separators and it must start with a “/”. We are going to use just “/” as our virtual path.

Filezilla mount point

Now we need to take a look at user permissions relating to the folder. By default, you get only the permissions to list directory contents and read files. This basically amounts to download only access with no uploads or server modifications supported. If you need more permissions, select the appropriate options in the Access mode dropdown.

Add an exception in Windows Firewall

Since an FTP server needs to accept incoming connections, we have to add an exception to our firewall. I will describe how to do this in Windows Firewall. If you are using a third-party firewall, please consult the firewall’s documentation.

In the Start Menu search for Windows Firewall and choose Windows Defender firewall with advanced security.

From the left pane choose inbound rules.

Inbound Firewall Rules

From the right pane choose New Rule.

New windows firewall rule

This opens a wizard-style interface, use it to create an exception for Filezilla Server.

Filezilla Server Exception

 

Create a static IP address

The next step is to create a static IP address. Without a static IP address, connecting to the server will be a hit or miss operation. Please read the article Setting up static IP address in Windows 10 to find out how.

Connect to the FTP server

Now that we have the FTP server up and running, we can connect to it from another computer. There are multiple ways of connecting to an FTP server, I will describe how to do it using Filezilla’s own client application.

Install and launch the Filezilla client. You can use the Quick Connect bar below the Toolbar to quickly establish a connection. However, for future convenience, it is probably better to add your server to the Site Manager of Filezilla client.

From the File Menu choose Site Manager.

Filezilla File Menu

Click on the New Site button and enter the details for the new site.

Filezilla Site Manager

Now you can connect using the Start Manager button on the toolbar.

Site Manager button on Filezilla toolbar

Improving Security

Running an FTP server on your computer has implications for security. However, since we are accepting connections only from the local network, it can be done in a reasonably secure manner. It is possible to restrict connections to an IP range. This can be done in both your firewall and in Filezilla Server. Here is how to do it in Filezilla Server.

Filezilla Server IP Filter

For exclusions, you can specify individual IP addresses and IP address ranges. I mentioned earlier that, for the server, you need to setup a static IP address. If you happened to have created one for the client as well (100% optional), enter it here.

Otherwise you have two options

IP address ranges can be specified in interval form or in CIDR  notation. You can use this webpage to find CIDR notation given an IP address range.

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