Starting with the release of Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, Microsoft removed the extremely handy “drag and drop” FTP feature that was seamlessly integrated in IE6.
You used to be able create shortcuts on the desktop that would directly open a remote folder via FTP with no intervention. With an open FTP folder window, remote file management was a breeze because it acted like a folder on your hard drive. This article shows you how to recover this helpful feature with one simple change.
Drag-and-drop FTP windows are possible using the extended FTP URL syntax that includes a username, optional password, and the server’s address. Example:
Unfortunately, giving an extended FTP URL to recent versions of Internet Explorer only displays a listing of the folder in “read-only” mode. You then have to click the Page menu and choose Open FTP Site in Windows Explorer. That fails because IE doesn’t pass forward any user/password credentials in the URL. So then you have to completely retype the URL again. What a drag just to get the old drag and drop mode.
But I found a workaround to preserve the simple behavior we used to enjoy. It works because we completely avoid the web browser. Instead of using Internet Explorer, you use Windows Explorer (the file navigation part of the Windows operating system). To do this, follow these steps:
- Create a new shortcut on your desktop (right click in the desktop and choose New > Shortcut)
- In the box that asks for the location of the item, first enter %WinDir%\explorer.exe followed by a space and the extended FTP URL. e.g.:
- Click Next, type in a name for the shortcut, and click Finish
Open the shortcut. At first, nothing will seem to be happening. After several seconds it should eventually open up the FTP site in a window. For the security conscious, if you leave out the :pass part (the password) it will prompt you to enter a password.
Fixing old FTP shortcuts is is as simple as putting %WinDir%\explorer.exe before the URL. Plus, since this workaround doesn’t involve the web browser, it also works for users who have non-IE browsers installed as their default. Basically, as long as you avoid Internet Explorer and use Windows Explorer itself, the extended FTP URLs are honored.
- Put quotes around the FTP URL to avoid Windows File System errors.
- Under Windows 7 (and possibly other versions), including an FTP URL that has a directory component may not work. Omit the directory in the URL. You’ll have to double-click your way into subdirectories after connecting.
- If you can connect to a remote FTP server successfully but you get an “FTP Folder Error” message saying “An error occurred opening that folder on the FTP Server…” it might be due to your Internet settings. To fix this, try these steps:
- Open the Internet Options in Internet Explorer (or run inetcpl.cpl from a command prompt)
- Go to the Advanced tab
- Uncheck “Use Passive FTP (for firewall and DSL modem compatibility)” and click Apply
- Try to reconnect. If you can see the remote folder, success! If not, return the checkbox to the state you found it
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