Note: The parts of this text that are displayed in magenta are valid for Windows 2000 (and later) only



Looking through the FreeFind log files of my site, I noticed that (unattended) FTP scripts are a frequently returning subject.

On this page I will show some examples of unattended FTP download (or upload, the difference in script commands is small) scripts.


Command Line Syntax

    FTP [-v] [-d] [-i] [-n] [-g] [-s:filename] [-a] [-w:windowsize] [host]
-v Suppresses display of remote server responses.
-n Suppresses auto-login upon initial connection.
-i Turns off interactive prompting during multiple file transfers.
-d Enables debugging.
-g Disables filename globbing (see GLOB command).
-s:filename Specifies a text file containing FTP commands; the commands will automatically run after FTP starts.
-a Use any local interface when binding data connection.
-A Login as anonymous.
-w:buffersize Overrides the default transfer buffer size of 4096.
host Specifies the host name or IP address of the remote host to connect to.


Notes: (1) mget and mput commands take y/n/q for yes/no/quit.
  (2) Use Control-C to abort commands.


The -s switch is the most valuable switch for batch files that take care of unattended downloads and uploads:
FTP -s:ftpscript.txt
On some operating systems redirection may do the same:
FTP < ftpscript.txt
However, unlike the -s switch its proper functioning cannot be guaranteed.


FTP's Interactive Commands

The following table shows the FTP commands available in Windows NT 4. The difference with other operating systems is marginal.
The actual commands available can be found by starting an FTP session and then typing a question mark at the FTP> prompt.
To get a short description af a particular command, type a question mark followed by that command: (user input shown in bold italics):

ftp> ? get
get             receive file
ftp> ? mget
mget            get multiple files
ftp> bye



FTP commands
Command Description
!   escape to the shell
?   print local help information
append   append to a file
ascii   set ascii transfer type
bell   beep when command completed
binary   set binary transfer type
bye   terminate ftp session and exit
cd   change remote working directory
close   terminate ftp session
debug   toggle debugging mode
delete   delete remote file
dir   list contents of remote directory
disconnect   terminate ftp session
get   receive file
glob   toggle metacharacter expansion of local file names
hash   toggle printing `#' for each buffer transferred
help   print local help information
lcd   change local working directory
literal   send arbitrary ftp command
ls   nlist contents of remote directory
mdelete   delete multiple files
mdir   list contents of multiple remote directories
mget   get multiple files
mkdir   make directory on the remote machine
mls   nlist contents of multiple remote directories
mput   send multiple files
open   connect to remote tftp
prompt   force interactive prompting on multiple commands
put   send one file
pwd   print working directory on remote machine
quit   terminate ftp session and exit
quote   send arbitrary ftp command
recv   receive file
remotehelp   get help from remote server
rename   rename file
rmdir   remove directory on the remote machine
send   send one file
status   show current status
trace   toggle packet tracing
type   set file transfer type
user   send new user information
verbose   toggle verbose mode



Creating Unattended FTP Scripts

Suppose an interactive FTP session looks like this (user input shown in bold italics):

C:\>ftp ftp.myhost.net
Connected to ftp.myhost.net.
User (ftp.myhost.net:(none)): MyUserId
331 Password required for MyUserId.
Password: ****
230- Welcome to the FTP site
230- Available space: 8 MB
230 User MyUserId logged in.
ftp> cd files/pictures
250 CWD command successful. "files/pictures" is current directory.
ftp> binary
200 Type set to B.
ftp> prompt n
Interactive mode Off.
ftp> mget *.*
200 Type set to B.
200 Port command successful.
150 Opening data connection for firstfile.jpg.
226 File sent ok
649 bytes received in 0.00 seconds (649000.00 Kbytes/sec)
200 Port command successful.
150 Opening data connection for secondfile.gif.
226 File sent ok
467 bytes received in 0.00 seconds (467000.00 Kbytes/sec)
ftp> bye
221 Goodbye.


An FTP script for unattended file transfer would then look like this:

cd files/pictures
prompt n
mget *.*

Note that I left out the BYE (or QUIT) command, it isn't necessary to specify this command in unattended FTP scripts (though it doesn't do any harm either).

As you can see, using a script like this is a potential security risk: the password is stored in the script in a readable form.

As Tom Lavedas once pointed out in the alt.msdos.batch newsgroup, it is safer to create the script "on the fly" and delete it afterwards:

:: Check if the password was given
IF "%1"=="" GOTO Syntax
:: Create the temporary script file
> script.ftp ECHO USER MyUserId
>>script.ftp ECHO %1
>>script.ftp ECHO cd files/pictures
>>script.ftp ECHO binary
>>script.ftp ECHO prompt n
>>script.ftp ECHO mget *.*
:: Use the temporary script for unattended FTP
:: Note: depending on your OS version you may have to add a '-n' switch
FTP -v -s:script.ftp ftp.myhost.net
:: For the paranoid: overwrite the temporary file before deleting it
TYPE NUL >script.ftp
DEL script.ftp

ECHO Usage: %0 password


Sometimes it may be necessary to make the script completely unattended, without the user having to know the password, or even the user ID, but with the possibility to check for errors during transfer.
There are several ways to do this.
One is to redirect FTP's output to a log file and either display it to the user or use FIND to search the log file for any error messages.
Another way to do this, on the fly, is by displaying FTP's output on screen, in the mean time using FIND /V to hide the output you do not want the user to see (like the password and maybe even the USER command):

FTP -s:script.ftp ftp.myhost.net | FIND /V "USER" | FIND /V "%1"

It is important not to use FTP's -v switch in either case.



To create a semi interactive FTP script, you may need to split it into several smaller parts, like an unattended FTP script to read a list of remote files, the output of which is redirected to a temporary file, which in turn is used by a batch file to create a new unattended FTP script on the fly to download and/or delete some of these files.

Create these files by writing down every command and all screen output in an interactive FTP session, analyze this "log" thoroughly, and test, test, and test again!

And don't forget to log the results by redirecting the script's output to a log file. You may need it later for debugging purposes...



Instead of Windows' own native FTP command, you can choose from a multitude of "third party" alternatives.
I'll discuss three of those alternatives here: a command-line tool, a GUI-tool and VBScript with a third party ActiveX component.

Note: The alternatives discussed here, GNU WGET, Fileaze, and VBScript (with WinHTTP), handle HTTP downloads just as easily.



WGET is a port of the UNIX wget command.

WGET is perfect for anonymous FTP or HTTP downloads (sorry, no uploads), but it can be used for downloads requiring authentication too.

GNU WGET comes with help both in the (text mode) console and in Windows Help format.

The basic syntax for an FTP download doesn't get any simpler than this:

WGET ftp://ftp.mydomain.com/path/file.ext

for anonymous downloads, or:

WGET ftp://user:password@ftp.mydomain.com/path/file.ext

when authentication is required.

Note: This is not secure, as you would need to store your user ID and password in unencrypted format in the batch file.
Besides that, the user ID and password will be logged together with the rest of the URL on all servers associated with the file transfer.
Read the GNU WGET help file for more information on securing user IDs and passwords.



WinSCP is a free open-source SFTP and FTP client with a command line/scripting interface as well as a GUI.

WinSCP can be used for uploads and downloads.



Prefer a GUI to create interactive as well as unattended jobs?

To be honest, I hardly ever use the text mode native FTP command myself.

For these web pages, my photographs, or any other FTP job, I have always used Coffeecup FreeFTP (no longer available, unfortunately).

Recently, I automated my own web page uploads using Fileaze.

Fileaze is a great GUI program to automate file related tasks like rename, copy, upload and download, send by e-mail, etcetera, in batch (no, not in batch files but in batch mode, i.e. in groups of files, and unattended).

Have a look at the tutorial I wrote, based on my own "efforts" to generate an automated FTP upload job.

And did I mention the uploads are fast?

You can download the free Fileaze trial version or buy it here.
You can also download the free Fileaze LITE version from the Fileaze website. The LITE version may be used indefinitely, without limitations, but it has limited functionality (i.e. no FTP and no e-mail).

Make sure you read the tutorials included in the help file.
The program may not be that hard to learn without help, but speaking from experience: reading them will save you a lot of time.

And once you created one or more jobs, make sure you make a backup.
Fileaze stores the data (jobs, encrypted account settings, etcetera) in the registry key "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Resolware".
The registry as a whole is included in Windows's SystemState backups, but it doesn't support selectively restoring registry keys.
So (of course) I made myself a batch file which I scheduled, to make unattended backups. View this batch file's source, or download the ZIPped batch file (for Windows NT 4 and later).



In my VBScript Scripting Techniques section, sample scripts are available for FTP and HTTP file transfers.
The FTP scripts require one of these free ActiveX components:




page last uploaded: 1 May 2013, 12:05