The Trivial File Transfer Protocol, or TFTP, as we usually call it, is one of the most used file transfer mechanism by network and system administrators. It is similar to its big brother FTP, or file transfer protocol albeit very different. It is a limited and lightweight protocol that takes little resources, making it ideal as the method of choice for transferring files such as firmware updates or system configurations. It is also the protocol that permits booting a diskless PC from the network using the BOOTP protocol. Today, we’re revealing the best free TFTP servers available for Windows, Linux and macOS.
In its most typical use, files are transferred between a server and the device where they are used. Today, we’re revealing some of the best free TFTP servers we could find on the Internet. They’ll all do the job but some have sometimes subtle differences that we’re going to try to outline. But before we introduce our top servers, let’s see what TFTP is exactly.
- 1 TFTP File Transfers Explained
- 2 The Best TFTP Servers For Windows
- 3 Linux TFTP Servers
- 4 The macOS TFTP server (2700)
- 5 Wrapping Up
TFTP File Transfers Explained
The Trivial File Transfer Protocol, or TFTP, is a simplified file transfer protocol. Contrary to FTP, it does not use the connection-oriented TCP protocol but instead, it uses the connectionless UDP protocol on IP port 69. By virtue of being connectionless, packet loss is possible in transfer and both the client and the server must be able to manage it. The protocol can also be slower because it doesn’t use windowing, thereby reducing its efficiency on high latency links. For that reason, it is most commonly used on local networks.
Among the simplification of TFTP, as compared to FTP, TFTP has provides no way to list files on the server. It also has no user authentication possibility and no encryption capability. You must know exactly what filename you want to transfer. It does support using paths which are relative to the server’s home directory but again, one must know the path as there is no way to browse the directory tree. And finally, the standard TFTP implementation has no read and/or write rights capability.
Because of its limitations, most users prefer FTP to TFTP. Yet, TFTP is very much used by network and system administrators to update the firmware on multiple types of hardware such as switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, etc. And as we indicated in our introduction, TFTP is also used as part of the BOOTP process to download the operating system image to diskless computers and workstations.
The last version of the protocol is version 2 as defined in RFC 1350 which dates back to 1992. It’s been there for quite some time and it is the most-used version.
The Best TFTP Servers For Windows
Since Windows is the most widely used operating system, It’s no surprise that seven or our best servers are for that platform. After all, no matter what type of equipment you may be managing or what your need for TFTP file transfers is, chances are you’ll be doing it from a Windows computer.
1. SolarWinds TFTP server (FREE DOWNLOAD)
If you don’t know SolarWinds, it’s a company that makes a plethora of excellent network management tools. It offers a wide range of tools to address pretty much every network management task one can think of. Most of their tools are relatively inexpensive when compared to competing products and all come with a free trial period so you can test them in your environment. But even better than their free trials, SolarWinds also offers several very useful free tools.
The SolarWinds free TFTP server is one of these tools. You may download the tool from this page. The TFTP server runs as a Windows service. Its operation is transparent and its management should be easy for anyone with some knowledge of Windows system administration.
A TFTP server is usually a simple tool and so is this one. There’s not much to be said about it. Among its main features worth noting, this is not a true 100% free tool forever and for anyone. It is not limited in duration and type of usage. Another important feature as stated by SolarWinds is the possibility to run concurrent transfers from multiple devices. And although the TFTP protocol has no built-in security, the SolarWinds TFTP server can be configured to only allow connections from specific IP addresses or ranges of addresses. And finally, the SolarWinds TFTP server can handle files up to 4GB in size. Chances are you’ll never need to transfer a bigger file via TFTP.
2. Windows TFTP Utility
Despite its name, this tool not from Microsoft. the Windows TFTP Utility is actually a barebones TFTP server for Windows. It was developed by mgenti using C# and the .net framework from Microsoft. This makes for a very small executable, especially when you take into account that there barely any configurable options. However, this lack of options also means that you can’t even specify to which interface the server will bind and it will, therefore, accept incoming connections on all of them.
The server’s small size stems from its usage of the .net framework. Of course, this means that if you do not already have the .net framework installed, your installation footprint might end up way bigger than just that of the server. Then again, there are not too many Windows computers these days that don’t have the .net framework installed as it is used in many software development projects.
And if you’re a developer yourself, the utility also includes a .net class that can be used by anyone to add TFTP server and client functionality to their software.
The server is available from its Sourceforge page and it is in the public domain, which means that anyone is free to use it.
3. Tftpd32 (& Tftpd64)
Tftpd32 from developer Philippe Jounin is a very popular TFTP server for Windows. In fact, it is much more than just a TFTP server. The IPV6-ready application also includes a DHCP server, a DNS server, an SNTP server for clock synchronization, a syslog server and a TFTP client. That’s a lot of functionality packaged in a single app.
In fact, it’s possibly too much functionality as there are few circumstances where one would choose to run all these services from the same computer. The only place where we’d see a use for all these servers is on a very small business network. On larger networks, most of these services, such as DNS and DHCP but also SNTP, are often run from whatever directory service server is used.
As indicated on the application’s website “The TFTP client and server are fully compatible with TFTP option support (tsize, blocksize and timeout), which allow the maximum performance when transferring the data.”
Other useful features of the server are a directory facility, security tuning, interface filtering, progress bars and early acknowledgments.
The developer’s website proposes several different downloads. The application can be downloaded as a zip file or an executable installer. There’s also a version that runs as a service. And finally, you may opt for Tftpd64, the exact same application but compiled as a 64-bits app.
4. WhatsUp Free TFTP Server
WhatsUp, in the unlikely case you’ve never heard of it, is a monitoring tool that provides a centralized place to monitor devices and servers uptime and availability. It’s been around for ages and has gained an excellent reputation as a solid monitoring platform. Somewhat like SolarWinds, Ipswitch, the company behind WhatsUp, makes some free tools.
The WhatsUp Free TFTP server one of Ipswitch’s free tools. It’s pretty basic in terms of functionality but then again, this is what one would expect from TFTP anyways. The free server is targetting network engineers need to move files from one device to another with as little trouble as possible. The application, which has both a service component that runs in the background and an application to monitor and configure it, works very well. However, the lack of documentation can be a showstopper for some.
If you’re interested in giving the WhatsUp free TFTP server a try, the software can be downloaded from this page. You’ll need to fill a form with your name and email address and you can expect to be contacted by Ipswitch shortly thereafter. After all, there has to be a reason why a company such as Ipswitch would give a product like that for free.
5. haneWIN TFTP Server
haneWin software is a small company that makes networking software for Windows. And given that some of their products run under Windows 95, 98 and ME, it seems like they’ve been there forever. Among their different products, you’ll find a DHCP, DNS, NFS, and TFTP servers. The haneWIN TFTP server is a full-featured application that’s available in both 32- and 64-bit versions, It will runs on almost any version of Windows since Windows XP, all the way to Windows 10.
Contrary to most other TFTP servers, the haneWIN TFTP server implements some form of access control based on client IP address. Read and write permission as well as directory access can be set on the server on a per IP address basis.
The server comes in two components, a Windows service and a control panel applet that allows one to adjust the server’s settings and monitor file transfers. It can also be run from the command line, making it a great choice for scripted operations. Together with the server comes a TFTP client that is implemented as a DLL that you access via the command prompt.
You can download the file directly from the developer’s website.
6. WinAgents TFTP Server
WinAgents software group is another small company that publishes network management software. One of the company’s flagship products is its WinAgents TFTP server. It runs on most Windows server platforms since Windows XP. This includes Windows 2000 (server), XP, 2003 (server), Vista, Windows 7 and 2008 (server). Although the server is a 32-bits application, it will also run fine on 64-bit systems.
The server implements some form of crude access control based on source IP address. But the man differentiating feature of the WinAgents TFTP server is its use or virtual folders. They are folders that appear to exist to TFTP clients connecting to the server while don’t don’t really exist on the server. They are used to provide some sort of organization to TFTP file transfers.
The WinAgents TFTP server is a true free piece of software although it has one severe limitation. Released as a trialware, the software will run at full capacity for a 30-day testing period after which it will be limited to two simultaneous downloads. This limitation can be removed by purchasing a license for the software. The software can be downloaded and the license purchased from the WinAgents website.
7. Spiceworks TFTP Server For IT Pros
The Spiceworks TFTP server for IT Pros is way more than just a TFTP server. It is a small-scale configuration management system. It does use TFTP to pull configuration files from your devices and can compare configuration files side by side. This will ensure that your configurations are standardized throughout your network.
The software can also help keep your firmware up to date by serving as a repository for device firmware. But before all, the software is as TFTP server that works very well. You are free to use it for any purpose you may see fit. It can be downloaded–in exchange for your personal information– from Spicework’s website.
Linux TFTP Servers
Linux is a very popular operating system and it’s not rare to see network administrators using it. Most Linux distributions come with at least one TFTP server, although it is rarely enabled–or even installed–by default. It’s still there, though as part of a package which is often called TFTPd, with the “d” standing for Daemon, the Unix name for an application that runs in the background. It is similar in functionality to a Windows service.
A popular TFTP server in the Linux world is called is the Advanced TFTP server. It usually comes in a package named aftpd. Thit is is a great multithreaded server that supports multicast. As such, it is a great option for non-standard deployments.
Depending on your Linux distribution, you use apt-get or yum to install the daemon. Here’s how its done under apt-get.
$ sudo apt-get install atftpd
Unlike most Windows TFTP servers atftpd is configured by editing a configuration file which is located in /etc/default/atftpd. The config file is where you’ll specify things like the port(s) to listen to or whether to run the software and a daemon or an Inetd process. Here’s what you’d typically find in the config file.
USE_INETD=true OPTIONS="--tftpd-timeout 300 --retry-timeout 5 --mcast-port 1758 --mcast-addr 184.108.40.206-255 --mcast-ttl 1 --maxthread 100 --verbose=5 /srv/tftp"
tftpd-hpa is another popular TFTP server for Linux. With a protocol as simple as TFTP, every server has almost exactly the same feature set. The main reasons why you’d choose one over the other has to do with dependencies and documentation.
Typically, you’d use tftpd-hpa whenever you can’t get atftpd to work reliably. It is easy to install with only one apt-get command.
$ sudo apt-get install tftpd-hpa
Like the previous entry, tftpd-hpa is configure via a config file in /etc/default/tftpd-hpa. Here’s what you’ll typically find in that file:
TFTP_USERNAME="tftp" TFTP_DIRECTORY="/var/lib/tftpboot" TFTP_ADDRESS=":69" TFTP_OPTIONS="--secure"
Any of these settings can be modified to your liking by editing the file. Once modified, the server must be restarted using this command:
sudo service tftpd-hpa restart
The macOS TFTP server (2700)
macOS is probably not the most-used platform by network administrators. Still, it has a built-in TFTP server. It is not loaded by default but enabling it is pretty easy. The easiest way to accomplish that is to simply type the following command in a Terminal window:
sudo launchctl load -F /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist
You’ll be prompted to provide your macOS password to proceed.
Once installed, you can use the netstat command to confirm it is running:
$ netstat -n | grep *.69 udp4 0 .69 .* udp6 0 .69 .*
This tells you that the TFTP server is listening on port 69, waiting for connections and that it will accept both IP V4 and IPI V6 connections.
If you need to shut down the TFTP server, simply use the unload command:
sudo launchctl unload -F /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist
Despite its crude nature, the TFTP protocol is still widely used in the network management field. It is the primary way of installing and upgrading firmware and software on many–perhaps most–networking devices.
Whether you use Windows, Linus, or even macOS, there are TFTP servers available for free. We’ve just listed 10 of the best. Feel free to try any of them but let it be known that the first one, the SolarWinds TFTP server is or favourite. It is a high-quality server that will get the job done consistently.