How to use the Linux ftp command to up- and download files on the shell

In this tutorial, I will explain how to use the Linux ftp command on the shell. I will show you how to connect to an FTP server, up- and download files and create directories. While there are many nice desktops FTP clients available, the FTP command is still useful when you work remotely on a server over an SSH session and e.g. want to fetch a backup file from your FTP storage.

Step 1: Establishing an FTP connection

To connect to the FTP server, we have to type in the terminal window 'ftp' and then the domain name '' or IP address of the FTP server.


ftp [email protected]

Note: for this example we used an anonymous server.

Replace the IP and domain in the above examples with the IP address or domain of your FTP server.

The FTP login.

Step 2: Login with User and Password

Most FTP servers logins are password protected, so the server will ask us for a 'username' and a 'password'.

If you connect to a so-called anonymous FTP server, then try to use "anonymous" as username and an empty password:

Name: anonymous

The terminal will return a message like this:

230 Login successful.
Remote system type is UNIX.
Using binary mode to transfer files.

When you are logged in successfully. 

Successful FTP login.

Step 3: Working with Directories

The commands to list, move and create folders on an FTP server are almost the same as we would use the shell locally on our computer, ls stands for list, cd to change directories, mkdir to create directories...

Listing directories with security settings:

ftp> ls

The server will return:

200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV.
150 Here comes the directory listing.
directory list
226 Directory send OK.

List directories

Changing Directories:

To change the directory we can type:

ftp> cd directory

The server will return:

250 Directory succesfully changed.

Change a directory in FTP.

Step 4: Downloading files with FTP

Before downloading a file, we should set the local FTP file download directory by using 'lcd' command:

lcd /home/user/yourdirectoryname

If you dont specify the download directory, the file will be downloaded to the current directory where you were at the time you started the FTP session.

Now, we can use the command 'get' command to download a file, the usage is:

get file

The file will be downloaded to the directory previously set with the 'lcd' command.

The server will return the next message:

local: file remote: file 
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV.
150 Opening BINARY mode data connection for file (xxx bytes).
226 File send OK.
XXX bytes received in x.xx secs ( MB/s).

Download a file with FTP.

To download several files we can use wildcards. In this example, I will download all files with the .xls file extension.

mget *.xls

Step 5: Uploading Files with FTP

We can upload files that are in the local directory where we made the FTP connection.

To upload a file, we can use 'put' command.

put file

When the file that you want to upload is not in the local directory, you can use the absolute path starting with "/" as well:

put /path/file

To upload several files we can use the mput command similar to the mget example from above:

mput *.xls

Step 6: Closing the FTP connection

Once we have done the FTP work, we should close the connection for security reasons. There are three commands that we can use to close the connection:


 Any of them will disconnect our PC from the FTP server and will return:

221 Goodbye

Disconnect from FTP server

If you need some additional help, once you are connected to the FTP server, type 'help' and this will show you all the available FTP commands.

List all FTP commands

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