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If you’ve visited the Sharing Preference panel since upgrading to Mac OS X 10.7 you may have noticed there is no longer the option to enable an FTP server to share files and folders. It’s unclear why Apple pulled the easy frontend to FTP sharing, but if you still want to run a local FTP server (or SFTP) in Mac OS X you can with the help of the command line.
sudo -s launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist
If you see the familiar FTP login:
$ ftp localhost
Connected to localhost.
220 ::1 FTP server (tnftpd 20100324+GSSAPI) ready.
You know the server is running. If you don’t see that, then the server either hasn’t finished starting yet or you didn’t enter the command properly. You can then FTP from other Macs via the same ftp command, or by using the “Connect to Server” option in the Finder.
As you probably know, FTP is unencrypted and as a result as fallen out of favor for security reasons. Enabling SFTP is actually easier than FTP:
Update: Our much more detailed guide on Remote Login and SSH Server’s is here.
You can verify that SFTP is working by typing this at the command line:
Note: The FTP and SFTP servers are different and enabling one does not enable the other. SFTP isrecommended because of the encryption.
Here’s how to disable the server:
sudo -s launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist
As the command suggests, this unloads the ftp daemon and shuts down the server. Obviously you can only shut down and disable the FTP server if it was enabled to begin with.