Five of the best FTP clients around – for both Macs and Windows

When it comes to managing your own WordPress install, sooner or later you’ll almost certainly need to directly access the files on your server — for which you’ll most likely want to use some kind of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client.

What’s an FTP client? Basically, it’s a relatively small and simple piece of software that allows you to view, edit, download, and upload files located or stored elsewhere on the internet (i.e. on a server — which can be thought of as a kind of permanently switched-on remote computer) via your own personal computer.

But which FTP client should you choose? That’s why we’re here. Let’s take a look at five of the best FTP clients around right now — both free and premium — for Mac and Windows:

Free FTP Clients

In terms of FTP clients, “free” by no means equates to “not very good” — in fact, for probably all but the most professional of users (who could likely benefit from some of the more advanced features found in some of the premium clients), a free FTP client will almost certainly get the job done. Starting with one of the most popular FTP clients in existence, here are a few of the best free FTP clients available…

FileZilla (for Windows, Mac, and Linux)

As one of the most popular open-source FTP clients of all time, FileZilla runs on all three major platforms (Windows, Mac and Linux). It’s got particularly good documentation (which makes it great for beginners) and is largely regarded as a kind of de-facto industry standard FTP client. It’s also completely free.

On the downside, it’s a bit fiddly to use (a common complaint seems to involve misplacing folders/files when using the drag and drop interface). It also has a far-from-pretty interface, especially when compared to some of the other FTP clients mentioned below.

FileZilla FTP Client Screenshot

(click to enlarge)

Nevertheless, FileZilla is a more than capable FTP client with a range of great features including: supports for FTP, FTP over SSL/TLS and SSH File Transfer Protocol; bookmarking, remote file searching, and more.

If you haven’t already, by all means give it a shot and see for yourself. Just don’t be too daunted when you first use it; it really isn’t as complicated as it seems!

Official Website

Update (Feb 2015): According to many of this post’s commenters, it seems that there currently are several malware concerns when downloading and/or installing FileZilla from certain sources — see the comments section below for more information!

Cyberduck (for Windows and Mac)

Another extremely well-known free (and open-source) FTP client, Cyberduck is an incredibly user-friendly FTP client with a simple interface, first-class bookmarking, and advanced SSH features. On top of all that, it has a range of other handy features — including a nifty feature that allows you to edit files with a seamless integration between any external editor application of your choice while they’re still on the server.

Cyberduck FTP Client Screenshot

(click to enlarge)

Official Website

WinSCP (for Windows)

A popular free, open-source FTP client for Windows, WinSCP features support for SFTP and SCP protocols over SSH-1 and SSH-2, an integrated text editor (enabling it to function as a remote editor) and a choice of interfaces.

Official Website

Premium FTP Clients:

Need a little more FTP power than the average user? Perhaps it’s time to spend a little cash to invest in the best…

CuteFTP (for Windows and Mac)

At $59, CuteFTP is far from cheap. However, it does have a distinct advantage over other clients, like Transmit (see below) — it works on both Mac and Windows. Oddly enough, the Windows version of CuteFTP actually has a considerable number of features that the Mac version of CuteFTP doesn’t. The Windows version includes Unicode and WebDAV Support, compressed transfers, and an advanced search feature. For a full run-down of features on both the Windows and Mac versions, take a look at the information here.

CuteFTP FTP Client Screenshot

(click to enlarge)

Price: $59 (30-day free trial available)

Official Website

Transmit (for Mac)

Created by Panic (the same company that produces the popular all-in-one web editor Coda), Transmit is one of the (if not the) fastest FTP clients around. It’s simple to use, boasts all the usual features you’d expect of a professional FTP client (multi-connection transfers, SSH and Amazon S3 support, etc) and it’s very, very reliable. If the others listed above just aren’t cutting it for you for whatever reason, check this one out!

Transmit FTP Client Screenshot

(click to enlarge)

Price: $34 (7-day free-trial available)

Official Website

Wrap Up: How to Choose? Which is Best?

Well, as usual, it really depends on your own personal preferences and platform — and of course, your budget. Professional users will no doubt appreciate all that Transmit has to offer; however, if all you’re looking for is a solid FTP client for casual use, then FileZilla or Cyberduck will more than likely suffice. Download a few for yourself, give each a whirl and decide which you prefer — it’s that simple!

Note: For a comprehensive list of nearly all the different FTP clients currently available (and a huge comparison table) check out this handy Wikipedia article.

Know of any other top FTP clients for Mac and/or Windows? Any preferences? Let us know in the comments!

By Brin Wilson

Founder of WinningWP - passionate about all things WordPress! Active on both Twitter and Google+ (preferred).
Comments (policy)
  • I have used Filezilla since I started with web development for almost 8 years now.. and it nevers fails me..

    • …can’t really go wrong with Good ol’ FileZilla! ;)

      • Bedknobs_and_Boomsticks

        You can now. Filezilla infects your computer with Vosteran, now.

        • you can avoid this, just don’t hit Approve, you can hit Decline and still have the software install, we are just so conditioned to hit Approve, everyone is missing this.

  • Svend

    I used to use Filezilla but now all the downloads with it from SourceForge are malware ridden. I think I will try cyberduck.

    • You can install it without installing the “Malware” you just have to be careful there is an Approve button you don’t want to hit. people are conditioned to press APPROVE APPROVE APPROVE when installing software. Slow down cause it is a cleaver one

      • Bedknobs_and_Boomsticks

        Fuck off. Filezilla installs third party and malware crap in other ways. You aren’t the only person in the world who doesn’t just blindly install things.

        • Language, please. ;)

          • Bedknobs_and_Boomsticks

            Linguistics course, please. Swear words are merely words. Words are just sounds. Phonemes. In this instance, it’s entirely appropriate, socially, because this person is suggesting people install software riddled with malware. My warning is necessary. You’d rather coddle someone trying to influence people to infect their systems.

        • – agree with Bedknobs. Always better to be safe than sorry!

    • Dr Faustus

      Update : 11 JJuly it is still the case!

      Cyberduck si the one

  • crakkstuh

    I need a ftps client which can compare diffs between local and ftp folder and has to be controlled by cmd –> windows of course. bccompare.exe actually troubleshoots a ftps issue so its unsecure… any advices for me?

  • Thanks. I’ve put an update in the FileZilla section within the post (above) to reflect this. Such a shame…

  • LeSieur

    The download from download . cnet. com is clean.

  • well you can choose to not auto update! and I would love to see proof of Malware being installed on updates, if you originally selected Decline. I’m not saying people are blindly hit Yes, the install is very tricky in that it looks like if you hit decline it WON’T install but it does

  • MarkW

    Webdrive should be part of this list. I use the Windows version at work and the Mac version at home, so working from home is really easy. It’s also available for free on mobile. Really fast, easy to use, and connects to tons of cloud/web servers.

  • For Filezilla
    Don’t use the SourceForge’s installer, use the archive instead.
    When you click “Show additional download options” on the download’s page, you have a link to download it as .zip.
    This archive seems ok to me, and to my antivirus too.

  • thor_mexico

    CuteFTP cant handle a folder with high ammount of files

  • Fuk Yu Iny Ass

    “Oddly enough, the Windows version of CuteFTP actually has a considerable number of features that the Mac version of CuteFTP doesn’t”
    Not odd at all. Mac users need point-and-click, one touch, programs. windows users generally have a much better understanding of technology and higher skill set – hence more features are required.
    (linux users are busy getting the OS to work)

  • Pier

    > Transmit is one of the (if not the) fastest FTP clients around

    Sorry to say that it’s not. Actually it’s one of the slowest mac FTP clients. Like any Panic product it has a great UI, but that’s probably it’s only strong feature. On OSX both Forklift and YummyFTP transfer files many times faster.

  • bob newhart

    why isnt FlashFXP on here?

  • A good list of FTP clients. However, I think FTP clients are definitely losing ground to other options such as web rtc. This is likely due to issues of security and speed. Businesses and confidential doc related transfers also tend to seek out other solutions. For work related large file transfers I’d take a look at Innorix DS.

  • Ron Starc

    Try FTP Manager Lite. It is one of the best free FTP client software. The clean interface is super easy to use. It will perform your files transfers quickly and efficiently. It also supports FXP for superfast server to server transfers. It is perfect for backups or synchronizing servers.

  • Ben

    Personally I swear by forklift slightly cheap than transmit but I think slightly better as well in terms of speed and usability

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