7 Best Free FTP Server Software

The best free FTP server software for Windows, Mac, and Linux

Illustration of a file being transferred from one laptop to another

  Lifewire / Jiaqi Zhou

An FTP server is necessary in order to share files using the File Transfer Protocol. An FTP server is what an FTP client connects to for file transfers.

There are lots of FTP servers available but many of them are only usable at a cost. Below is a list of the very best freeware FTP server programs that run on Windows, macOS, and Linux — you can download and use them to share files as often as you like without paying a dime.

FileZilla Server

FileZilla on Windows screenshot

What We Like

  • Intuitive interface.

  • Perform file transfers simultaneously.

  • Supports secure file transfers.

  • Bookmarks for fast connections.

What We Don't Like

  • Can't edit files from inside the app.

  • Does not refresh folder views automatically.

  • 15-minute timeout is a nuisance.

FileZilla Server is an open source and completely free server application for Windows. It can administer a local server as well as a remote FTP server.

You can choose which ports the program should listen on, how many users can be connected to your server at once, the number of CPU threads the server can utilize, and timeout settings for connections, transfers, and logins.

Some other features in FileZilla Server include:

  • Passive mode FTP.
  • The ability to adjust the transfer and socket buffer size
  • Logging to a custom LOG file.
  • Bandwidth control to limit bandwidth usage.
  • File transfer compression with per-IP address compression exclusions.

Some security features include auto-banning an IP address if it fails to successfully login after so many attempts, an option to enable FTP over TLS with the ability to disallow unencrypted FTP, and IP filtering so that you can prevent certain IP addresses or even IP address ranges from connecting to your FTP server.

It's also really easy to take your server offline or quickly lock the FTP server with one click, to ensure that no new connections to your server can be made until you unlock it.

You also have full access to the creation of users and groups with FileZilla Server, which means you can throttle bandwidth for some users and not others and provide select users with permissions like read/write, but others with only read access, etc.

The FileZilla Server FAQ page on their official website is the best place for answers and help if you need it.

Xlight FTP Server

XFlight FTP Server on Windows screenshot

What We Like

  • Lightweight.

  • Supports secure file transfers.

  • Remote administration feature.

  • Supports multiple connections at once.

What We Don't Like

  • More difficult to use for FTP novices.

  • Can be complicated to configure.

Xlight is a free FTP server that's a lot more modern looking than FileZilla's and also includes tons of settings that you can modify to your liking.

After you create a virtual server, just double-click it to open its settings, where you can modify the server port and IP address, enable security features, control bandwidth usage for the whole server, define how many users can be on your server, and set an explicit maximum login count from the same IP address.

An interesting feature in Xlight is that you can set the maximum idle time for users so that they'll get kicked out if they aren't actually communicating with the server.

Here are some other unique features you can toy with that aren't found with FileZilla Server and other servers:

  • Server banner message.
  • Email notifications.
  • Execute a program after a user logs in.
  • Execute a program when a file is uploaded, downloaded, or deleted.
  • Auto-delete partially uploaded files.
  • Upload SFV check.
  • Send deleted files to the Recycle Bin.
  • Access control list for directories and files.
  • Anti-leech protection.

The Xlight FTP Server can use SSL and can require clients to use a certificate. It also supports ODBC, Active Directory, and LDAP authentication.

Xlight is free for personal use only and works with Windows, both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

You can download this FTP server as a portable program so that it doesn't need to be installed, or you can install it to your computer like a regular application.

Complete FTP

CompleteFTP Manager on Windows

Complete FTP 

What We Like

  • Simple installation.

  • Supports encrypted file transfers.

  • Many customization options.

  • More features than most FTP servers.

What We Don't Like

  • Full menu hidden by default.

  • Has occasional performance issues.

  • Limited features in free version.

Complete FTP is another free Windows FTP server that supports both FTP and FTPS.

This program has a full graphical user interface and is really easy to use. The interface itself is pretty bare but all the settings are hidden away in the side menu and are simple to access.

One thing unique about this FTP server is that after changing one or more settings, they aren't applied to the server until you select the APPLY CHANGES button.

Here are some things you can do with Complete FTP:

  • Enable/disable FTP and/or FTPS.
  • Enable anonymous logins.
  • Choose how many anonymous users can log in at the same time.
  • Show hidden files and folders.
  • Allow backslash separators.
  • Adjust timeout settings for logging in, stalled transfers, passive FTP, and idle sessions.
  • Define how many login attempts can be performed before the user is kicked off.
  • Enter a custom welcome message.
  • A whole "Monitoring" section of the server lets you watch real-time logging, configure the log file, watch connections as they happen, and ban users.

Step-by-step guides are built-in to the Complete FTP install, so you can select Step-by-step guides at the top of the program at any time to learn how to use the different features and options.

This program installs as a trial of the professional edition. See the instructions on the download page to learn how to activate the free edition of Complete FTP (all the features above are in the free version).

Core FTP Server

Core FTP Server on Windows

What We Like

  • Very fast setup.

  • Supports encrypted file transfers.

  • Supports Active Directory.

  • Simple interface.

What We Don't Like

  • Free version only supports three domains.

  • Nuisance ad for paid version.

Core FTP Server is an FTP server for Windows that comes in two versions.

One is a very minimal server that's simple to understand and easy to set up in about a minute. It's 100% portable and just has you choose a username, password, port, and root path. There are a few other settings as well if you want to configure them.

The other version of Core FTP Server is the full-fledged server where you can define the domain name, have it auto-start as a service, add multiple user accounts with detailed access permissions and restrictions, designate access rules, etc.

On the download page, choose one of the upper links to get the full program; the portable, minimal FTP server is available toward the bottom of that page.

Both versions of this FTP server come as 32-bit and 64-bit versions for Windows. 


Vsftpd charts for users and bits per second traffic

What We Like

  • Fast FTP server.

  • Supports secure file transfer.

  • Lightweight.

What We Don't Like

  • For Linux only.

  • Complicated to install and configure.

  • Limited functionality.

vsftpd is a Linux FTP server that claims security, performance, and stability are its core selling points. In fact, this program is the default FTP server used in Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, and other similar OSs.

vsftpd lets you create users, throttle bandwidth, and encrypt connections over SSL. It also supports per-user configurations, per-source IP limits, per-source IP address configurations, and IPv6.

Check out the vsftpd manual if you need help using this server.


ProFTPD download website

What We Like

  • More secure than other FTP servers.

  • Add-on modules available for more features.

  • Ideal for web servers.

What We Don't Like

  • Linux only.

  • Difficult for novices to install.

proFTPD is a good option for Linux users if you're looking for an FTP server with a GUI so that it's easier to use than messing around with command line commands.

The only catch is that after installing proFTPD, you must also install the gadmin GUI tool and connect it to the server.

Here are some features you get with proFTPD: IPv6 support, module support, logging, hidden directories, and files, can be used as a standalone server, and per-directory configurations.

proFTPD works with macOS, FreeBSD, Linux, Solaris, Cygwin, IRIX, OpenBSD, and other platforms.

Rebex Tiny SFTP Server

Rebex Tiny FTP Server

What We Like

  • Tutorials available.

  • Simple to configure (no setup required).

  • Protects user privacy.

  • Securely transfer files.

What We Don't Like

  • Minimalist, with few advanced features.

  • Requires .NET 4.0

  • Windows only.

This Windows FTP server is very lightweight, completely portable, and can get up and running in mere seconds. Just unzip the program from the download and select Start.

The only downfall with this program is that any settings adjustments you want to make have to be done through the RebexTinySftpServer.exe.config text file.

This CONFIG file is how you change the username and password, set the root directory, change the FTP port, auto-start a program when the server starts, and adjust security settings.

After extracting the contents of the ZIP file you download through the link above, use the RebexTinySftpServer.exe file to open the program.