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Using FTP in Internet Explorer

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 8/28/2009

You usually only use IE for regular web browsing. But, if you ever need a quick way to access files on an FTP site, IE can handle that for you. All you need is one tweak to the address, or one quick menu option and you are in business.

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    FTP in IE

    These days, most data on the Internet is accessed via a browser using the HTTP protocol. But, there are still times where transferring files is more efficient using the FTP protocol. In some cases, FTP is the only way to either download or upload a file. For times like these, you can use a stand alone FTP client software package. However, if you either don't have an FTP client, or you just don't want to mess with one, you can easily do an FTP file transfer from within Internet Explorer.

    Internet Explorer by default assumes that you want to use HTTP. So, when you type in, Internet Explorer automatically puts http:// in front of the address resulting in This simply instructs the software to access the servers at CNN and opens the webpage there using the HTTP protocol.

    ftp-easy To use FTP, you can manually instruct Internet Explorer that you want to use FTP and not HTTP by simply including the full instruction line in the address bar. So, for example, would result in Internet Explorer going to the servers at and accessing the file via the FTP protocol. This is handled behind the scenes by Internet Explorer. (Note you may have to provide your login information if it is a secured FTP site.)

    But, what if you want a little bit more control?

    ftp-explorer Once you have connected to your FTP site, click the Page Button and select Open in Windows Explorer. When you do this, Internet Explorer will open a window of the usual Windows Explorer, only it will have the files and folders from your FTP site.

    ftp-explorer-window From here, you can use Windows Explorer just like you always do including drag and drop, copy/cut and paste, and so on. Internet Explorer is actually handling all the conversion to FTP commands behind the scenes.

    Keep in mind that Internet Explorer is a fairly rudimentary tool for using FTP and should really only be used for simple operations. If you will be doing frequent or complex tasks with FTP, consider getting an FTP client. FileZilla is an excellent FTP open source client which is free for download.

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