Understanding FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and File Downloading



This instruction packet is meant to be a guide to assisting you in the world of FTP and file downloading. The actions of FTP are very easy to execute but unfortunately some people have difficulty with understanding what exactly this program is doing. It is hoped this tutorial will help the student to learn this concept better.


FTP is an application, which means it is a literal program that you open up and run, just like Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. FTP is used to transfer files from your PC (called the local system) to a remote system (another computer usually separated by distance—our example on campus is SUNSET).  You can also browse directories, delete files, create directories, and transfer files between the system.


Now before we go into the execution of FTP, lets think about  what we are trying to do conceptually. Think about this situation. There is a homework due in class and you copied the wrong file on your floppy disk and you need to get that file. That would be easy if you were sitting at your computer at home but you are not. What if there was a way for you to connect to your home computer from school? FTP allows you to get to those files, just as if you were physically in front of it. See Figure down below.




In class we talk about posting your Lab, Homework to your web site. Your web site is nothing more than a directory that resides on a computer that can accessed by anyone over the Internet. Because all the students in Ole Miss are given web sites, you can understand why you cannot walk the file over, you have to use FTP. But once you get used to using FTP you will find it very easy and much faster than walking it over.




  1. Step One – Open up the FTP program by clicking the desktop image.


  1. The program will open up and you will need to enter some information. Basically, while this box looks complex all you are doing is telling the FTP program what computer you want to connect to (host name), who you are (user name), and you need to give a password (to verify it is really you), this process is almost exactly the same as placing a Long Distance Telephone Call with a calling card. See picture below.


 In this example we are connecting ‘calling’ to the sunset computer, I have said who I am, and I have given my password.  RECAP-ENTER 3 THINGS

·        HOST NAME

·        USER ID

·        PASSWORD

  1. Once that information is entered you can hit the OK button.

If you are successful this screen will appear. If not the right window will be blank and there will be a message in red right at the bottom of the screen (right above all the Close, Cancel, LogWnd buttons) See error picture below.

  1. The window on the left shows the files of the computer that you are on, the window on the right shows the files of the computer that you are trying to connect to (SUNSET)
  2. Lets go back to the picture of a connection that was successful.
  3.  The green arrows allow you to move up a directory, just as if you hit the UP button in Windows Explorer. The folders represent sub directories. Note the public_html folder. This is a special one. Any file you put here can be seen by anyone on the Internet. Think “If you want the public to see it you have to give it to the public.
  4. Note the tiny arrows between the two windows. You click these to move a file from one window to another.
  5. From this point on, all you have to do is match the two windows together. For ex (you want to send a file from the business school lab to SUNSET) Find where the file exists on your local computer (hint the left window). Once you have done this, then look in the right window and find where you want to send it to on SUNSET (like the public_html file)
  6. That is all there is to FTP, hit the CLOSE button when you are finished.





Downloading files is a similar concept to FTP except that you don’t need to use any special program. When we refer to DOWNLOADING we are referring to saving a file on a web page to a  disk (floppy, your local computer), NOT OPENING UP THE FILE. You can use a built in web browser function. All you need to do it right click ONCE on the link and a little box of options shows up. See picture below.


Note the options that you have. In order to save the file, select SAVE TARGET AS. Upon doing so you will see this box come up.

If you do not see this box come up, you are not downloading the file, you are opening it up.



This is an important concept as many times in class (LIKE THE LAST EXAM) you needed to download the file and then open that file up in EXCEL. This is different than opening up the Excel file within the browser, which you can do. If you open up EXCEL in INTERNET EXPLORER you will not be able to save it correctly, that is why you should DOWNLOAD it, and hence the reason for this tutorial.


You should be aware of this little ONE RIGHT CLICK and the OPTIONS that it offers, it also allows you to SAVE PICTURES you see on web pages which can be handy in the future.


This tutorial was created to help you better understand some important common and basic computer concepts, if it still does not help you understand how to use this, then consult your instructor.