Using Internet Explorer to communicate via FTP
Posted by Craig Dusek on 30 January 2007 03:17 PM
What exactly is in a website address (URL - Universal Resource Locator)?

Lets break down the address:

The general components of the URL are: scheme://authority/path?query
Scheme: How you wish to communicate. Normally in a web browser you want to download Hypertext, so most website addresses begin with HTTP for HyperText Transfer Protocol. Other transfer protocols can be used, such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

Authority: Which server you wish to communicate with. This can be in either the form of an IP address (123.456.789.10) or a Domain Name Server (DNS) address (

Path: On a server, the WWW path is not the same as the physical path on the server's hard drive. Think of your "My Documents" folder. This physical path on the hard drive is usually C:\Documents and Settings\Default User\My Documents. For Windows XP users, however, when you open up a "My Computer" browser window, you see a link directly to "My Documents." In this way, if the users wishes to look at a file called test.txt located in "My documents," the user does not go to C:\, then Documents and Settings, et cetera. The user simply opens up "My Documents" and then the file temp.txt.

In this same manner, the website is considered the "root folder." And like "My Documents" it is not the physical root of the hard drive. However, for the user this becomes the logical root of the hard drive. So if the address is, you open a line of communication with the server using HyperText Transfer Protocol. The Path tells the server you want the file index.php located under the whats_new directory relative to the logical root drive.

What about the WWW? Why do I sometimes mention it and othertimes not? Technically, is the server address. This server, however, may have more than one website! is the "Domain Name," and anything put in front of it accesses a "Sub-domain." At Seward County Community College, we have our main website at There is also,, and of course, These subdomains typically have an IP address that is different from the main website at For security purposes, a Webmaster may choose to limit the IP address to downloading files only. Another IP address is used for uploading files to the server.

So what does this mean?

Well knowledge is power! And we can use our newfound knowledge of what goes into a URL, we can communicate with a webserver not to view files, but in the same manner that we would look at our hard drive. There are several programs out there that do this for us such as bulletFTP, but Widows Explorer is a familiar tool to all Windows users, and as it turns out Microsoft meshed Windows Explorer with Internet Explorer.

Let us first access a public FTP server.

Open up an Internet Explorer window. Yes, I mean Internet Explorer. Trying to do this with any other browser may or may not work.

For reference, type in and see what you get.

Now type in that same address, only this time instead of HyperText Transfer Protocol, we wish to use File Transfer Protocol.
So the address should be

Hey wait a minute! This looks nothing like what I just saw! This looks more like i'm looking at files on my hard drive!!!

Yup... exactly. And furthermore, the files on the FTP server here and the files we just saw on same http server are not the same. That is because they have different logical roots.

You can see in your FTP window, a folder, a couple of pictures, an HTM file, and a CSV file. If you double-click on these files, your computer will open them using the default program for file viewing. Another option is saving these files. You can either open a "My Computer" window and use the "Drag" method of cliking on the file name and dragging the icon to the other window, or you can highlight the icon, and use copy/paste to put the file wherever you want.

On some servers you can upload files. If you wanted to, you could copy/paste or drag-and-drop files into this window using the method just described. However, this server is a public FTP server, and you are logged into it "Anonymously." Because users can log in as Anonymous, I set the permissions to only allow for downloading of the files (no uploading).

If you try, you might see something like:

What about logging into a server so that I CAN upload files

Well passwords are not usually things people hand out, so unless you know you have access to an FTP server you may not be able to try this. For purposes of instruction, i will use the server in this demonstration. If you have a website there, weither you know it or not, you upload your files to that server using FTP.

Start by going to the address. When you type it in, the server will challenge you for credentials (login and password). This screen looks like this:

Your user name is easy to figure out. On the faculty server, web users have a /~name schema. For example, my address is Thus, my login name is jjacobson. My password is, well it is whatever i requested it to be when i requested the webmaster (in this case me) for a website. If I forgot this password, I do not have a way to get the password back. That is to say even using "webmaster" credentials to the server, i can't find out someone else's password once it is set up.

Once logged in, now I can see all the files on my website:

Notice that now, at the bottom of the window, instead of "Anonymous" it has my logged in name "jjacobson." Now that I'm logged in to the server, I can delete files on the server, upload new files, or download files at my leisure.
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