I first got acquainted with TFTP at the beginning of my networking career. The first use-case of TFTP protocol is when I first upgraded the IOS firmware of a Cisco router using a little software utility called “TFTPD32”.
Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) software provide a key service to many network and system administrators for routine software and firmware updates and transfers.
Devices that commonly work with TFTP servers for firmware and configuration transfers include network routers and switches, hardware firewalls, data streamers, VoIP phones, IT systems etc. It can also be helpful for managing large number of computer workstations.
TFTP is not a secure protocol designed to conduct file transfers over the Internet, however. For this kind of service, FTP and SFTP servers are a better choice.
Although it’s more commonly used for network administration in large intranets, TFTP is also useful in the home network setting. If you have a large file transfer you need to make between OSes that aren’t compatible, a TFTP server and client can be a solution for a quick-and-dirty setup.
There continues to be a number of free TFTP server options available for individuals and organizations to integrate into their systems. Below is a brief overview of nine TFTP server software that are free and open source in many cases.
Table of Contents
TFTPD32 or TFTPD64 is the 32-bit or 64-bit Windows version of a French open source network utility package that includes a TFTP server. The services provided in addition to the TFTP server include DHCP, Syslog server, log viewer etc. A TFTP client is also in the package if you need one to install on network devices receiving files.
TFTPD32/64 is the brainchild of Phillipe Jounin, who has made it available to the public under the European Union Public License. It’s been implemented in projects like Cisco’s PIX and Aironet, HP’s Alpha servers, and Juniper’s Netscreen. It also won CNET’s Five Star Award in 2009 and is probably the oldest utility of its kind.
Solarwinds offers a full suite of IT and network management software. Their free TFTP server is a stripped-down version of their Network Configuration Manager product, but it functions well for basic tasks like pushing out OS images to workstations or firmware to network devices periodically over an internal network.
It can handle files as large as 4 GB, concurrent transfers to many devices at once, and runs as a Windows service. It doesn’t have more advanced features like device backup and version control or change management tools, but it does manage which IP numbers are authorized for connections.
Ipswitch is a software company that specializes in file transfer and network management tools. Their WhatsUp Gold TFTP Server is a free utility they offer for network engineers to add to their toolbox.
It allows automated file transfers to be set up for multiple computers and devices on an intranet with a dedicated schedule.
Whether you need a tool to reinstall a software configuration weekly or a way to push out firmware and application patches to dozens of devices, WhatsUp Gold can make your life easier.
Like other TFTP servers, it runs as an always-on service and can even schedule file transfers during low traffic hours.
WinAgents Software Group offers free downloads of their TFTP Server. It’s a legacy software designed to run on Windows 2000, 2003, Vista, and 7, which makes it useful if you work with these older OSes on your network. It can probably work with Windows 10 as well, you just need to try it.
WinAgents TFTP Server operates as a background service and implements an IP-based access control model for some kind of network security.
It also supports sending files through firewalls by configuring a UDP port for the connections. Administrators who manage large intranets or remote sites will find the remote configuration features helpful. The cache system makes the system highly scalable compared to other free TFTP tools.
haneWin TFTP Server is a shareware offering for Windows. It supports both current and legacy Windows versions ranging from XP to Windows 10, and it can run as a service in the background on Windows 95/98/2000 without a user account logged in.
Data security options provided by haneWin include profiles based on the operation requested, IP address, and the file directories used by the server.
You can configure the server to transfer data through a range of UDP ports depending on your firewall settings and network traffic.
The client that comes with haneWin’s TFTP server is a Win32 console app that implements TFTP configurations in its command line options. For instance, you can set up a pipeline that will direct file transfers to other applications.
Open TFTP Server is the work of Achal Dhir, who also offers freeware DHCP and DNS servers on SourceForge.
His TFTP Server is full-featured for basic file transfer automation, including multi-threaded operation for managing numerous connections at a time.
He provides support for most network configuration options like ports, block size, block number roll over, total size, and interval time settings.
It operates in the background as either a Unix daemon or a Windows service, and logging tools are included to help you monitor transfer activity.
Spiceworks is a well-known networking and IT community with various relevant software tools as well.
One of their offerings include a network administration app that bundles a TFTP server for network configuration tasks.
The app includes an inventory tab that gives you a snapshot of all your network devices and workstations.
It includes an interface for scheduling file transfers like backups, configuration restore files, and firmware updates.
SpiceWorks also provides advanced features like comparing a device’s current software configuration with a backup to detect changes that have been made.
Whether you need to reset your workstations to a software configuration periodically or just want to schedule safe backups for repairing errors in the future, SpiceWorks can handle your TFTP server needs.
You will need to register and create an account in order to download.
Windows TFTP Utility is another free server shared with the public on SourceForge. It supports a basic set of TFTP configuration options, including logging features. The developer also provides online instructions on how to integrate the server into other applications. It was built with Microsoft’s .NET platform.
Not all the TFTP servers are designed specifically for network administrators handling hundreds of workstations and routers on an intranet.
TFTP Desktop is a consumer app made for situations that can arise on home networks. It was released during the Windows 7 era and hasn’t received an update, so it’s limited to running on pre-Windows 8 computers.
It does, however, support Windows 98, so if you have a legacy computer you keep as a home server, this program can run on it. It’s a free trial download on CNET that’s fully functional, which makes it ideal for fixing temporary problems like transfering large files between incompatible OSes.
Comparison Between TFTP and FTP/SFTP
As I have mentioned at the beginning of this article, TFTP is not a secure protocol to use compared to FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) which uses SSH as underline protocol.
Let’s see their main differences:
|Uses Unreliable UDP communication||Uses Reliable TCP communication||Uses Reliable TCP communication|
|Works on UDP port 69||Works on TCP port 20/21||Works on TCP port 22|
|Not Secure||Medium Security (using username/password)||Higher Security|
|No authentication||Uses username/password||Either username/password or SSH keys can be used|
|No encryption||No encryption||Traffic is Encrypted|
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