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Transfer Files to a Server with an SFTP Client

The easiest way to transfer files between a client and a web server is to use a file transfer program. These applications generally provide a graphical user interface that makes it easy for non-technical users to drag-and-drop files to initiate file transfers. Behind the scenes, these applications speak the FTP (file transfer protocol) and SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) to the server. These protocols are, unsurprisingly, specialized mini-languages for transferring files between computers.

File transfer programs

There is a wide variety of high quality free file transfer programs available for both Mac and Windows. Some recommendations (in order of preference):

Install one, if you haven’t already. Any of these will do.

Connect to the web server

To transfer files between your local computer (i.e. client) and the web server, open a new SFTP connection in the file transfer program of your choice. Enter the hostname and your credentials to log in. The protocol must be SFTP, not regular unencrypted FTP.


You will now be logged-in via SFTP to your web server home directory.

Navigate in the file transfer program to the server web root directory - this is where you must place your files in order for them to be visible through the web at the web URL.

Upload files to the web server

Drag-and-drop files to the web server:

Verify that the files are published on the web

The files you uploaded should be visible at the web URL. Point a web browser to the web URL to make sure.

For example, imagine you uploaded a file to the following location on NYU’s i6.cims.nyu web server:


That file should be visible through a web browser at the following web URL:

Fixing permissions errors

The server may report a permissions error, such as “Access denied” or something similar. If so, it is likely that either you have not placed your files in the correct directory on the server, or that the files you uploaded to the server do not have the permissions that allow “others” to “read” them. Fix this!