Anonymous FTP

Mathematics Department uses Washington University FTP Server. This help is a slight modification of the help pages available from Washington University WWW server.

An anonymous ftp archive is a place from which anyone working on a computer connected to the network can retrieve files by using the ftp program. Mathematics Department provides an anonymous ftp server named which department users can use to make their files available to the campus and Internet community. The files of this server can also be accessed on the web at

Warning: There are no guarantees on what you might find in this archive.

Index of this document:

  1. Making Files Available through Anonymous ftp Archive
  2. Retrieving Files from Anonymous ftp Archive

You can make files available to people elsewhere on the world computer network -- without telling them the password to your account -- by placing files in the anonymous ftp directory called /ftp/public.
Some things to know about the anonymous ftp archive:

  • You put files in the anonymous ftp directory by
          creating a directory there ... and then ...
          copying your files into the directory.
  • People using anonymous ftp to access this directory will only be able to retrieve files; they will not be able to put files into it.
  • Only people with accounts on department's ftp-server can put files into the anonymous ftp directory, and then only by copying them from their own account.
  • Anyone on the Internet can access the anonymous ftp directory. Therefore, it is not a place to put confidential information.
  • You are entirely responsible for maintaining the files.

Creating an Anonymous ftp Directory
The following example shows how to create a directory in the anonymous ftp area. After creating the directory, you can put files into it, making them available to anybody on the Internet.

  1. Connect via ssh to department ftp-server
  2. To change to the anonymous ftp directory, at the system prompt, enter:

             cd /ftp/public

  3. To make a directory for your files, enter:

             mkdir mydir

    where "mydir" is the name of your new directory.

  4. To set the proper permissions for your "mydir" directory, enter:

             chmod 755 mydir

    The "chmod 755" command gives all users permission to copy any file you place in the "mydir" directory.

Putting Files into Your Anonymous ftp Directory
Once you have created your directory in the anonymous ftp area, you can copy files into the directory. To copy a file into your "mydir" directory, enter:

          cp myfile /ftp/public/mydir

This places a copy of "myfile" into the "mydir" directory in the anonymous ftp area. Now, anyone on the Internet can use ftp to connect to, login as anonymous, change to the /ftp/public/mydir directory, and retrieve a copy of "myfile".

Anonymous ftp account provides only limited access to You can only get a list of the files in the archive and copy files to your computer. Files of anonymous ftp archive can be accessed on the web at The archive can also be accessed using the ftp program on your computer.
Using anonymous ftp to retrieve files involves five basic steps:

  1. Connecting to
  2. Logging into the "anonymous" account
  3. Locating file(s) you want to copy
  4. Copying file(s) to your local computer
  5. Quitting the anonymous ftp session

Connecting to
To connect to enter:


When you have connected successfully, you will be prompted for a login name. 

Logging in to the "anonymous" Account
To log in, at the prompt for a login name, enter:      anonymous
The system also accept "ftp" as a login name.
Once you enter a login name, you are prompted for a password.
Enter your full email address for a password (using your email address for a password helps the manager track usage of the system). When you have logged successfully, a welcome message and then the ftp prompt (ftp>) are displayed. 

Locating Files
The dir (listing of a directory), cd (change directory), and pwd (print the name of the directory you are currently in) commands are available to help you move around the system of files on the ftp archive.

  • To change to the public directory, containing the anonymous ftp archive of, at the ftp prompt (ftp>) enter:

             cd public         (or         cd pub)

    to see the list of files in this directory, at the ftp prompt (ftp>) enter:


  • To change to specific sub-directory "mydir" of the public directory, enter:

             cd mydir

    Note:  after logging in to the anonymous account,  if you know the name ("mydir") of the directory in the public area that you want to access, you can go directly in this directory with the command: "cd mydir", and you don't need to enter: "cd public" before.

Copying Files
Once you find the file(s) you are looking for, you can use the get command to copy it to your computer. Files are copied into the current directory on your computer, which means files are copied into the directory you were in when you connected to

Note: The default mode of ftp is "ascii" which is appropriate for files consisting of text. If the file you want to copy is a binary file --such as a software program-- you must put ftp into the binary mode before transferring the file. To do this, at the ftp prompt, enter: "binary".

  • To copy a file, at the ftp prompt, enter:

             get filename

    where "filename" is the file you want to copy to your computer. You can also rename the file when it is copied to your computer by entering:

    get filename newfilename

  • To copy more than one file, at the ftp prompt, enter:

             mget filename1 filename2

    Where "filename1 filename2" is the list of files you want to copy.
    When you use mget to copy multiple files, ftp will prompt you for a "yes" or "no" before it copies a file to your computer.

  • To make copying multiple files easier, you can use a special character called a "wildcard." Instead of typing out the full name of each file, you can type the wildcard character--represented by an asterisk (*)--and a character string common to each file you want to copy. For example, if you want to copy a number of files that each end with .ps, enter:

             mget *.ps

    ftp will copy (after prompting you) all files in the current directory that end with .ps.

Quitting Anonymous ftp
To quit an anonymous ftp session, at the ftp prompt, enter


Doing this returns you to the system prompt on your computer.