How do I disable TLS in the FileZilla FTP program?

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We occasionally hear reports of the FileZilla FTP program getting stuck with a message saying “initializing TLS”, or getting errors soon after connecting, like this:

Command: MLSD
Error: Connection timed out after 20 seconds of inactivity
Error: Failed to retrieve directory listing 
The TLS connection was non-properly terminated

If this happens, it’s usually caused by either an outdated version of FileZilla, or because the firewall or router on your computer has trouble with TLS (a form of encryption) for FTP connections.

First of all, make sure you’re using the latest version of FileZilla (or try another free FTP program like Cyberduck).

If you still have trouble, the best way to avoid this problem and still keep your password secure is to use SFTP instead of normal FTP in FileZilla. SFTP should not have the same problem, although it’s a little more complicated to use.

If you want or need to continue to use plain FTP for some reason, you can disable TLS encryption.

Disabling TLS may make it possible for eavesdroppers in a Wi-Fi cafe or similar environment to intercept your password. Using SFTP is a more secure solution.

Disabling TLS in FileZilla

To disable TLS encryption in FileZilla, you’ll need to add the site in the “Site Manager” (instead of using the QuickConnect method).

1. Open the Site Manager

Click the File menu and choose Site Manager.

2. Enter the new site settings

Enter these settings:
Protocol:FTP — File Transfer Protocol
Encryption:Only use plain FTP (insecure)
Logon Type:Normal
Password:your main account password

When you’re finished, the screen should look like this:

Disabling TLS in FileZilla

3. Connect to the server

Each time you want to connect to the server, simply open the Site Manager again and click Connect.

What is the technical reason that FTP with TLS doesn’t work on some firewalls or routers?

FTP uses two connections to work properly. The first connection handles commands like “upload file X”, and the second connection is opened as necessary to send files and other data.

Some firewalls and routers would block the second connection by default, but to allow FTP, they watch the commands sent in the first connection to know when to allow the second one. If you enable TLS/SSL for the first connection, though, the firewall can’t see the contents of it due to encryption, so it doesn’t know that it should allow the second connection.

Using SFTP fixes this because SFTP only uses a single connection and doesn’t need a second connection, so your firewall or router setup doesn’t matter.