Home » Blog
date 22.May.2022

■ Secure SFTP access to remote files and folders with xplorer²

Windows filesystem supported plain File Transfer Protocol (FTP) access to remote files (e.g. an Apache webserver) from age immemorial, using a special path like ftp://username:password@ftpsite.com. However in this day and age you don't want files and passwords transmitted as clear text, just like you don't want your credit card details exposed unencrypted. That's why I always discouraged people from using plain FTP within xplorer².

There are standalone tools that offer secure FTP (SFTP) access to remote hosts like WinSCP, which uses dual panes like xplorer² to compare local with remote files, copy and delete, and do all the normal file operations. Although this works, WinSCP is a different program with its own file selection modes and workflows which one needs to learn from scratch. Wouldn't it be nicer to use your familiar xplorer² GUI to do remote file management?

For a long time I waited for somebody to develop a shell namespace extension for secure FTP, which would be usable with windows explorer and xplorer². An old candidate was an open source project called Swish, which kind of works but it is not finished and was sadly abandoned long time ago. By a lucky accident I stumbled on a comment talking about WinFSP, which is the answer to our secure prayers!

There are a number of free and paid SFTP solutions listed here

Step by step SFTP setup instructions

First you must install WinFSP. Download the WinFSP main installer and the SSHFS-Win plugin (they are both on the same page). These are all open source projects on github. Install them both (the versions current at this time of going to press are winfsp-1.10.22006 and sshfs-win-3.5.20357 but you will probably find a later version)

download winfsp

These 2 tools allow to map a remote server as a drive letter securely. The path of the remote connection starts with \\sshfs\ followed by the username and the server address separated by @ (similar to FTP "paths") e.g.


To attach the drive, right click on ThisPC icon and find Map network drive menu command. Pick a drive letter and supply your SFTP path in the dialog box as such: (you will be asked for your password when you click Finish button)

map SFTP drive

With WinFSP device driver plumbing in place, the procedure is identical to mapping any network drive, and then you get a filesystem object like Z:\ that any program can use to securely access the remote files, including xplorer². The only indication that you are actually using SFTP will be a slight sluggishness when you browse the mapped drive Z; other than that you can compare, preview, search, transfer files, and in general have all file management mod cons!
When you are done, right click on the mapped drive icon and pick Disconnect menu command to terminate the session.
SFTP drive letter

Keep in mind that the drive that's offered as "windows" may be actually connecting to a linux filesystem, with complications that you don't usually think about like case sensitive filenames, different file attributes, permissions etc. For simple file access you should be ok but for more advanced control you will have to use WinSCP or a similar native linux tool.

ps. To make this SFTP work with xplorer² you need the latest build 5.201

Post a comment on this topic »

Share |

©2002-2022 ZABKAT LTD, all rights reserved | Privacy policy | Sitemap