Making portable FileZilla FTP server

Whether you’re Systems Engineer, test engineer, programmer/developer and when you need to have FTP server software with you at any time, the right answer will be a portable software packet. Unfortunately, not every software packet has a portable version. In such case you can either search for some other software or to try to make it portable.

FileZilla FTP server is a widely used FTP solutions on the Windows platform. This is open source software and you can download both server and client versions for free. Although free, this server is a feature rich and easy to administer. And we can use it from the USB flash drive.


Download and installation

As a first step, you need to download an installation package from the site. You can install it on any Windows platform. However, you cannot install versions newer than 0.9.43 on the Windows XP and Server 2003 platforms. If you do not need specific special functions and if you are not putting this server on the Internet, then you are good to go even with older version.

You can open the download package with 7-zip and you can extract all the files. However, the installation process will generate a basic configuration file. My opinion is that you should install the software and then convert it to the portable version.

The installation process is very straight forward. You could install it just by clicking on the button [ Next ] or you can change some parameters. The result will be the same result in the end – an installation on the disk. We will need those files later on.

You should accept the license agreement and choose installation options. You can uncheck the last two options if you want. We do not need either the desktop icons or startup menu. In the end we will uninstall FileZilla from the disk.


Next step is a destination folder. This info is needed so that you can find the files later. Therefore, you can install it anywhere on the disk. The default location is fine. The default path is inside the (32-bit) Program Files folder.


Next step is the startup parameters. You can choose any option. I opted for the second option from the drop-down list. We do not need to start the server and I unchecked the option Start Server after setup completes.


I opted in the next step to start an admin interface manually. I even unchecked the option Start Interface after setup completes.


Now we will start the installation and wait some time. The installation is fast.


We will close the installation window and open Windows Explorer, navigating to the folder where we installed the software.


We have a very basic configuration file FileZilla Server.xml. We also have the uninstall program uninstall.exe. We do not need this file further.


Making it portable

I will create a portable version in another folder. There is no difference between the folder that is located somewhere on the drive C: and the folder located on the flash drive. We will copy all files except the last one.


We will now remove the installation from the disk. If you did not installed Start menu icons, then you can uninstall FileZilla Server from the Control Panel.


We can uninstall everything. We do not need any file in the Program Files folder. This operation is also quick and after it finishes its work we will have clean system.


Running portable version

We have only the portable version at the moment. We do not have any icons. If we try to start FileZilla Server from the Windows Explorer, it will pop up with a message asking to start the server. However, nothing will happen.

Don’t worry. We can start the server fine from the command line. Furthermore, we can write two simple batch scripts to start and stop the server as we need.


Don’t be confused with paths on this screenshot. My installation didn’t have control icons and the only way to run the FileZilla Server is using the command prompt.

The FileZilla Server had a few command line options and they are mentioned in this Wiki page. We can do a lot of operations from the command line. If you check the list carefully, you can see that we can easily convert the portable version to the installed version with an automatic Windows service. Pretty cool option if we do not have the installation with us.

The command that will start the FileZilla Server in portable mode is:

"filezilla server.exe" /compat /start

We do not need any paths here, as we want to start the server at will and from any path. We do not know at least the drive letter that our USB drive obtains when we connect it into the port on the system.

When we want to gracefully stop this server, we will execute another command, similar to the first one:

"filezilla server.exe" /compat /stop

This will stop the FileZilla Server. Moreover, you can stop it using the Task manager. However, I do not recommend that method for the everyday usage. Use it as the last resort.

When you start the server, it will run in the background without any visible window. You can access the server for control and administration through the administration interface – FileZilla Server Interface.


If you successfully started the FileZilla server, you can connect to it. Otherwise, you will have an error message on every 5 seconds.

Once you’re inside the admin interface, you can work with your portable server in same way as if it’s installed on the disk and running as a service. All updates to the configuration will be written to the XML file inside the portable directory.


All features are available and you can work with the FTP server in active or passive mode, with or without encryption and so on.

Only one limitation is that you must create user folders inside your portable distribution and to use them with relative paths.


Updating your portable version

From time to time we need to update our software. The FileZilla server is not distributed as portable. We cannot just run the installation and update our folder.

However, we can use the 7-zip archiver and we can extract files from the installation. Now we will have all files unpacked and we can overwrite the older files.

Sometimes it will happens that after updating of the FileZilla Server you cannot run the new version; it could be an unpatched version of Windows. You should always keep your Windows up to date.


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