Network Working Group J. Postel
Request for Comments: 959 J. Reynolds
Obsoletes RFC: 765 (IEN 149) October 1985 FILE TRANSFER PROTOCOL (FTP)
Status of this Memo
This memo is the official specification of the File Transfer
Protocol (FTP). Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
The following new optional commands are included in this edition of
CDUP (Change to Parent Directory), SMNT (Structure Mount), STOU
(Store Unique), RMD (Remove Directory), MKD (Make Directory), PWD
(Print Directory), and SYST (System).
Note that this specification is compatible with the previous edition.
The objectives of FTP are 1) to promote sharing of files (computer
programs and/or data), 2) to encourage indirect or implicit (via
programs) use of remote computers, 3) to shield a user from
variations in file storage systems among hosts, and 4) to transfer
data reliably and efficiently. FTP, though usable directly by a user
at a terminal, is designed mainly for use by programs.
The attempt in this specification is to satisfy the diverse needs of
users of maxi-hosts, mini-hosts, personal workstations, and TACs,
with a simple, and easily implemented protocol design.
This paper assumes knowledge of the Transmission Control Protocol
(TCP)  and the Telnet Protocol . These documents are contained
in the ARPA-Internet protocol handbook .
In this section, the history, the terminology, and the FTP model are
discussed. The terms defined in this section are only those that
have special significance in FTP. Some of the terminology is very
specific to the FTP model; some readers may wish to turn to the
section on the FTP model while reviewing the terminology.
FTP has had a long evolution over the years. Appendix III is a
chronological compilation of Request for Comments documents
relating to FTP. These include the first proposed file transfer
mechanisms in 1971 that were developed for implementation on hosts
at M.I.T. (RFC 114), plus comments and discussion in RFC 141.
RFC 172 provided a user-level oriented protocol for file transfer
between host computers (including terminal IMPs). A revision of
this as RFC 265, restated FTP for additional review, while RFC 281
suggested further changes. The use of a "Set Data Type"
transaction was proposed in RFC 294 in January 1982.
RFC 354 obsoleted RFCs 264 and 265. The File Transfer Protocol
was now defined as a protocol for file transfer between HOSTs on
the ARPANET, with the primary function of FTP defined as
transfering files efficiently and reliably among hosts and
allowing the convenient use of remote file storage capabilities.
RFC 385 further commented on errors, emphasis points, and
additions to the protocol, while RFC 414 provided a status report
on the working server and user FTPs. RFC 430, issued in 1973,
(among other RFCs too numerous to mention) presented further
comments on FTP. Finally, an "official" FTP document was
published as RFC 454.
By July 1973, considerable changes from the last versions of FTP
were made, but the general structure remained the same. RFC 542
was published as a new "official" specification to reflect these
changes. However, many implementations based on the older
specification were not updated.
In 1974, RFCs 607 and 614 continued comments on FTP. RFC 624
proposed further design changes and minor modifications. In 1975,
RFC 686 entitled, "Leaving Well Enough Alone", discussed the
differences between all of the early and later versions of FTP.
RFC 691 presented a minor revision of RFC 686, regarding the
subject of print files.
Motivated by the transition from the NCP to the TCP as the
underlying protocol, a phoenix was born out of all of the above
efforts in RFC 765 as the specification of FTP for use on TCP.
This current edition of the FTP specification is intended to
correct some minor documentation errors, to improve the
explanation of some protocol features, and to add some new
In particular, the following new optional commands are included in
this edition of the specification:
CDUP - Change to Parent Directory
SMNT - Structure Mount
STOU - Store Unique
RMD - Remove Directory
MKD - Make Directory
PWD - Print Directory
SYST - System
This specification is compatible with the previous edition. A
program implemented in conformance to the previous specification
should automatically be in conformance to this specification.
The ASCII character set is as defined in the ARPA-Internet
Protocol Handbook. In FTP, ASCII characters are defined to be
the lower half of an eight-bit code set (i.e., the most
significant bit is zero).
Access controls define users' access privileges to the use of a
system, and to the files in that system. Access controls are
necessary to prevent unauthorized or accidental use of files.
It is the prerogative of a server-FTP process to invoke access
There are two byte sizes of interest in FTP: the logical byte
size of the file, and the transfer byte size used for the
transmission of the data. The transfer byte size is always 8
bits. The transfer byte size is not necessarily the byte size
in which data is to be stored in a system, nor the logical byte
size for interpretation of the structure of the data.
The communication path between the USER-PI and SERVER-PI for
the exchange of commands and replies. This connection follows
the Telnet Protocol.
A full duplex connection over which data is transferred, in a
specified mode and type. The data transferred may be a part of
a file, an entire file or a number of files. The path may be
between a server-DTP and a user-DTP, or between two
The passive data transfer process "listens" on the data port
for a connection from the active transfer process in order to
open the data connection.
The data transfer process establishes and manages the data
connection. The DTP can be passive or active.
The end-of-line sequence defines the separation of printing
lines. The sequence is Carriage Return, followed by Line Feed.
The end-of-file condition that defines the end of a file being
The end-of-record condition that defines the end of a record
A procedure that allows a user to recover from certain errors
such as failure of either host system or transfer process. In
FTP, error recovery may involve restarting a file transfer at a
A set of commands that comprise the control information flowing
from the user-FTP to the server-FTP process.
An ordered set of computer data (including programs), of
arbitrary length, uniquely identified by a pathname.
The mode in which data is to be transferred via the data
connection. The mode defines the data format during transfer
including EOR and EOF. The transfer modes defined in FTP are
described in the Section on Transmission Modes.
The Network Virtual Terminal as defined in the Telnet Protocol.
The Network Virtual File System. A concept which defines a
standard network file system with standard commands and
A file may be structured as a set of independent parts called
pages. FTP supports the transmission of discontinuous files as
independent indexed pages.
Pathname is defined to be the character string which must be
input to a file system by a user in order to identify a file.
Pathname normally contains device and/or directory names, and
file name specification. FTP does not yet specify a standard
pathname convention. Each user must follow the file naming
conventions of the file systems involved in the transfer.
The protocol interpreter. The user and server sides of the
protocol have distinct roles implemented in a user-PI and a
A sequential file may be structured as a number of contiguous
parts called records. Record structures are supported by FTP
but a file need not have record structure.
A reply is an acknowledgment (positive or negative) sent from
server to user via the control connection in response to FTP
commands. The general form of a reply is a completion code
(including error codes) followed by a text string. The codes
are for use by programs and the text is usually intended for
The data transfer process, in its normal "active" state,
establishes the data connection with the "listening" data port.
It sets up parameters for transfer and storage, and transfers
data on command from its PI. The DTP can be placed in a
"passive" state to listen for, rather than initiate a
connection on the data port.
A process or set of processes which perform the function of
file transfer in cooperation with a user-FTP process and,
possibly, another server. The functions consist of a protocol
interpreter (PI) and a data transfer process (DTP).
The server protocol interpreter "listens" on Port L for a
connection from a user-PI and establishes a control
communication connection. It receives standard FTP commands
from the user-PI, sends replies, and governs the server-DTP.
The data representation type used for data transfer and
storage. Type implies certain transformations between the time
of data storage and data transfer. The representation types
defined in FTP are described in the Section on Establishing
A person or a process on behalf of a person wishing to obtain
file transfer service. The human user may interact directly
with a server-FTP process, but use of a user-FTP process is
preferred since the protocol design is weighted towards
The data transfer process "listens" on the data port for a
connection from a server-FTP process. If two servers are
transferring data between them, the user-DTP is inactive.
A set of functions including a protocol interpreter, a data
transfer process and a user interface which together perform
the function of file transfer in cooperation with one or more
server-FTP processes. The user interface allows a local
language to be used in the command-reply dialogue with the
The user protocol interpreter initiates the control connection
from its port U to the server-FTP process, initiates FTP
commands, and governs the user-DTP if that process is part of
the file transfer.
2.3. THE FTP MODEL
With the above definitions in mind, the following model (shown in
Figure 1) may be diagrammed for an FTP service.
|| User || --------
||Interface|<--->| User |
---------- | | |
|/------\| FTP Commands |/----V----\|
||Server|<---------------->| User ||
|| PI || FTP Replies || PI ||
| | | | | |
-------- |/--V---\| Data |/----V----\| --------
| File |<--->|Server|<---------------->| User |<--->| File |
|System| || DTP || Connection || DTP || |System|
-------- |\------/| |\---------/| --------
NOTES: 1. The data connection may be used in either direction.
2. The data connection need not exist all of the time.
Figure 1 Model for FTP Use
In the model described in Figure 1, the user-protocol interpreter
initiates the control connection. The control connection follows
the Telnet protocol. At the initiation of the user, standard FTP
commands are generated by the user-PI and transmitted to the
server process via the control connection. (The user may
establish a direct control connection to the server-FTP, from a
TAC terminal for example, and generate standard FTP commands
independently, bypassing the user-FTP process.) Standard replies
are sent from the server-PI to the user-PI over the control
connection in response to the commands.
The FTP commands specify the parameters for the data connection
(data port, transfer mode, representation type, and structure) and
the nature of file system operation (store, retrieve, append,
delete, etc.). The user-DTP or its designate should "listen" on
the specified data port, and the server initiate the data
connection and data transfer in accordance with the specified
parameters. It should be noted that the data port need not be in
the same host that initiates the FTP commands via the control
connection, but the user or the user-FTP process must ensure a
"listen" on the specified data port. It ought to also be noted
that the data connection may be used for simultaneous sending and
In another situation a user might wish to transfer files between
two hosts, neither of which is a local host. The user sets up
control connections to the two servers and then arranges for a
data connection between them. In this manner, control information
is passed to the user-PI but data is transferred between the
server data transfer processes. Following is a model of this
Control ------------ Control
---------->| User-FTP |<-----------
| | User-PI | |
| | "C" | |
V ------------ V
| Server-FTP | Data Connection | Server-FTP |
| "A" |<---------------------->| "B" |
-------------- Port (A) Port (B) --------------
The protocol requires that the control connections be open while
data transfer is in progress. It is the responsibility of the
user to request the closing of the control connections when
finished using the FTP service, while it is the server who takes
the action. The server may abort data transfer if the control
connections are closed without command.
The Relationship between FTP and Telnet:
The FTP uses the Telnet protocol on the control connection.
This can be achieved in two ways: first, the user-PI or the
server-PI may implement the rules of the Telnet Protocol
directly in their own procedures; or, second, the user-PI or
the server-PI may make use of the existing Telnet module in the
Ease of implementaion, sharing code, and modular programming
argue for the second approach. Efficiency and independence
argue for the first approach. In practice, FTP relies on very
little of the Telnet Protocol, so the first approach does not
necessarily involve a large amount of code.
3. DATA TRANSFER FUNCTIONS
Files are transferred only via the data connection. The control
connection is used for the transfer of commands, which describe the
functions to be performed, and the replies to these commands (see the
Section on FTP Replies). Several commands are concerned with the
transfer of data between hosts. These data transfer commands include
the MODE command which specify how the bits of the data are to be
transmitted, and the STRUcture and TYPE commands, which are used to
define the way in which the data are to be represented. The
transmission and representation are basically independent but the
"Stream" transmission mode is dependent on the file structure
attribute and if "Compressed" transmission mode is used, the nature
of the filler byte depends on the representation type.
3.1. DATA REPRESENTATION AND STORAGE
Data is transferred from a storage device in the sending host to a
storage device in the receiving host. Often it is necessary to
perform certain transformations on the data because data storage
representations in the two systems are different. For example,
NVT-ASCII has different data storage representations in different
systems. DEC TOPS-20s's generally store NVT-ASCII as five 7-bit
ASCII characters, left-justified in a 36-bit word. IBM Mainframe's
store NVT-ASCII as 8-bit EBCDIC codes. Multics stores NVT-ASCII
as four 9-bit characters in a 36-bit word. It is desirable to
convert characters into the standard NVT-ASCII representation when
transmitting text between dissimilar systems. The sending and
receiving sites would have to perform the necessary
transformations between the standard representation and their
A different problem in representation arises when transmitting
binary data (not character codes) between host systems with
different word lengths. It is not always clear how the sender
should send data, and the receiver store it. For example, when
transmitting 32-bit bytes from a 32-bit word-length system to a
36-bit word-length system, it may be desirable (for reasons of
efficiency and usefulness) to store the 32-bit bytes
right-justified in a 36-bit word in the latter system. In any
case, the user should have the option of specifying data
representation and transformation functions. It should be noted
that FTP provides for very limited data type representations.
Transformations desired beyond this limited capability should be
performed by the user directly.
3.1.1. DATA TYPES
Data representations are handled in FTP by a user specifying a
representation type. This type may implicitly (as in ASCII or
EBCDIC) or explicitly (as in Local byte) define a byte size for
interpretation which is referred to as the "logical byte size."
Note that this has nothing to do with the byte size used for
transmission over the data connection, called the "transfer
byte size", and the two should not be confused. For example,
NVT-ASCII has a logical byte size of 8 bits. If the type is
Local byte, then the TYPE command has an obligatory second
parameter specifying the logical byte size. The transfer byte
size is always 8 bits.
126.96.36.199. ASCII TYPE
This is the default type and must be accepted by all FTP
implementations. It is intended primarily for the transfer
of text files, except when both hosts would find the EBCDIC
type more convenient.
The sender converts the data from an internal character
representation to the standard 8-bit NVT-ASCII
representation (see the Telnet specification). The receiver
will convert the data from the standard form to his own
In accordance with the NVT standard, the <CRLF> sequence
should be used where necessary to denote the end of a line
of text. (See the discussion of file structure at the end
of the Section on Data Representation and Storage.)
Using the standard NVT-ASCII representation means that data
must be interpreted as 8-bit bytes.
The Format parameter for ASCII and EBCDIC types is discussed
188.8.131.52. EBCDIC TYPE
This type is intended for efficient transfer between hosts
which use EBCDIC for their internal character
For transmission, the data are represented as 8-bit EBCDIC
characters. The character code is the only difference
between the functional specifications of EBCDIC and ASCII
End-of-line (as opposed to end-of-record--see the discussion
of structure) will probably be rarely used with EBCDIC type
for purposes of denoting structure, but where it is
necessary the <NL> character should be used.
184.108.40.206. IMAGE TYPE
The data are sent as contiguous bits which, for transfer,
are packed into the 8-bit transfer bytes. The receiving
site must store the data as contiguous bits. The structure
of the storage system might necessitate the padding of the
file (or of each record, for a record-structured file) to
some convenient boundary (byte, word or block). This
padding, which must be all zeros, may occur only at the end
of the file (or at the end of each record) and there must be
a way of identifying the padding bits so that they may be
stripped off if the file is retrieved. The padding
transformation should be well publicized to enable a user to
process a file at the storage site.
Image type is intended for the efficient storage and
retrieval of files and for the transfer of binary data. It
is recommended that this type be accepted by all FTP
220.127.116.11. LOCAL TYPE
The data is transferred in logical bytes of the size
specified by the obligatory second parameter, Byte size.
The value of Byte size must be a decimal integer; there is
no default value. The logical byte size is not necessarily
the same as the transfer byte size. If there is a
difference in byte sizes, then the logical bytes should be
packed contiguously, disregarding transfer byte boundaries
and with any necessary padding at the end.
When the data reaches the receiving host, it will be
transformed in a manner dependent on the logical byte size
and the particular host. This transformation must be
invertible (i.e., an identical file can be retrieved if the
same parameters are used) and should be well publicized by
the FTP implementors.
For example, a user sending 36-bit floating-point numbers to
a host with a 32-bit word could send that data as Local byte
with a logical byte size of 36. The receiving host would
then be expected to store the logical bytes so that they
could be easily manipulated; in this example putting the
36-bit logical bytes into 64-bit double words should
In another example, a pair of hosts with a 36-bit word size
may send data to one another in words by using TYPE L 36.
The data would be sent in the 8-bit transmission bytes
packed so that 9 transmission bytes carried two host words.
18.104.22.168. FORMAT CONTROL
The types ASCII and EBCDIC also take a second (optional)
parameter; this is to indicate what kind of vertical format
control, if any, is associated with a file. The following
data representation types are defined in FTP:
A character file may be transferred to a host for one of
three purposes: for printing, for storage and later
retrieval, or for processing. If a file is sent for
printing, the receiving host must know how the vertical
format control is represented. In the second case, it must
be possible to store a file at a host and then retrieve it
later in exactly the same form. Finally, it should be
possible to move a file from one host to another and process
the file at the second host without undue trouble. A single
ASCII or EBCDIC format does not satisfy all these
conditions. Therefore, these types have a second parameter
specifying one of the following three formats:
22.214.171.124.1. NON PRINT
This is the default format to be used if the second
(format) parameter is omitted. Non-print format must be
accepted by all FTP implementations.
The file need contain no vertical format information. If
it is passed to a printer process, this process may
assume standard values for spacing and margins.
Normally, this format will be used with files destined
for processing or just storage.
126.96.36.199.2. TELNET FORMAT CONTROLS
The file contains ASCII/EBCDIC vertical format controls
(i.e., <CR>, <LF>, <NL>, <VT>, <FF>) which the printer
process will interpret appropriately. <CRLF>, in exactly
this sequence, also denotes end-of-line.
188.8.131.52.2. CARRIAGE CONTROL (ASA)
The file contains ASA (FORTRAN) vertical format control
characters. (See RFC 740 Appendix C; and Communications
of the ACM, Vol. 7, No. 10, p. 606, October 1964.) In a
line or a record formatted according to the ASA Standard,
the first character is not to be printed. Instead, it
should be used to determine the vertical movement of the
paper which should take place before the rest of the
record is printed.
The ASA Standard specifies the following control
Character Vertical Spacing
blank Move paper up one line
0 Move paper up two lines
1 Move paper to top of next page
+ No movement, i.e., overprint
Clearly there must be some way for a printer process to
distinguish the end of the structural entity. If a file
has record structure (see below) this is no problem;
records will be explicitly marked during transfer and
storage. If the file has no record structure, the <CRLF>
end-of-line sequence is used to separate printing lines,
but these format effectors are overridden by the ASA
3.1.2. DATA STRUCTURES
In addition to different representation types, FTP allows the
structure of a file to be specified. Three file structures are
defined in FTP:
file-structure, where there is no internal structure and
the file is considered to be a
continuous sequence of data bytes,
record-structure, where the file is made up of sequential
and page-structure, where the file is made up of independent
File-structure is the default to be assumed if the STRUcture
command has not been used but both file and record structures
must be accepted for "text" files (i.e., files with TYPE ASCII
or EBCDIC) by all FTP implementations. The structure of a file
will affect both the transfer mode of a file (see the Section
on Transmission Modes) and the interpretation and storage of
The "natural" structure of a file will depend on which host
stores the file. A source-code file will usually be stored on
an IBM Mainframe in fixed length records but on a DEC TOPS-20
as a stream of characters partitioned into lines, for example
by <CRLF>. If the transfer of files between such disparate
sites is to be useful, there must be some way for one site to
recognize the other's assumptions about the file.
With some sites being naturally file-oriented and others
naturally record-oriented there may be problems if a file with
one structure is sent to a host oriented to the other. If a
text file is sent with record-structure to a host which is file
oriented, then that host should apply an internal
transformation to the file based on the record structure.
Obviously, this transformation should be useful, but it must
also be invertible so that an identical file may be retrieved
using record structure.
In the case of a file being sent with file-structure to a
record-oriented host, there exists the question of what
criteria the host should use to divide the file into records
which can be processed locally. If this division is necessary,
the FTP implementation should use the end-of-line sequence,
<CRLF> for ASCII, or <NL> for EBCDIC text files, as the
delimiter. If an FTP implementation adopts this technique, it
must be prepared to reverse the transformation if the file is
retrieved with file-structure.
184.108.40.206. FILE STRUCTURE
File structure is the default to be assumed if the STRUcture
command has not been used.
In file-structure there is no internal structure and the
file is considered to be a continuous sequence of data
220.127.116.11. RECORD STRUCTURE
Record structures must be accepted for "text" files (i.e.,
files with TYPE ASCII or EBCDIC) by all FTP implementations.
In record-structure the file is made up of sequential
18.104.22.168. PAGE STRUCTURE
To transmit files that are discontinuous, FTP defines a page
structure. Files of this type are sometimes known as
"random access files" or even as "holey files". In these
files there is sometimes other information associated with
the file as a whole (e.g., a file descriptor), or with a
section of the file (e.g., page access controls), or both.
In FTP, the sections of the file are called pages.
To provide for various page sizes and associated
information, each page is sent with a page header. The page
header has the following defined fields:
The number of logical bytes in the page header
including this byte. The minimum header length is 4.
The logical page number of this section of the file.
This is not the transmission sequence number of this
page, but the index used to identify this page of the
The number of logical bytes in the page data. The
minimum data length is 0.
The type of page this is. The following page types
0 = Last Page
This is used to indicate the end of a paged
structured transmission. The header length must
be 4, and the data length must be 0.
1 = Simple Page
This is the normal type for simple paged files
with no page level associated control
information. The header length must be 4.
2 = Descriptor Page
This type is used to transmit the descriptive
information for the file as a whole.
3 = Access Controlled Page
This type includes an additional header field
for paged files with page level access control
information. The header length must be 5.
Further header fields may be used to supply per page
control information, for example, per page access
All fields are one logical byte in length. The logical byte
size is specified by the TYPE command. See Appendix I for
further details and a specific case at the page structure.
A note of caution about parameters: a file must be stored and
retrieved with the same parameters if the retrieved version is to