Difference Between FTP and TFTP

FTP and TFTP are two application protocols that are used for transferring files between two systems. These systems need to be connected to an IP based network. Both the term, FTP and TFTP, are often confused for one another due to their somewhat similar abbreviations. However, they have many key differences between them.


The main difference between FTP and TFTP is that FTP has a wide variety of instructions and commands that can be used for specific purposes whereas TFTP has only five commands which include Write Request (WRQ), Read Request (RRQ), Acknowledgement (ACK), Data (DATA), and Error (ERROR). Moreover, FTP is a very complex protocol whereas TFTP is not as complex as the former.


The full form of FTP is File Transfer Protocol. This is a standard application protocol that transfers or copies a file between two hosts. It works on two ports – 20, which is for data, and 21, which is for connection control. However, the protocol does not provide a secure channel for the transfer of files.

The full form of TFTP is Trivial File Transfer Protocol. The protocol transfers a file from a host to a client and vice versa. This is done without the use of the FTP feature. TFTP only works on the 69 Port number. However, the protocol does not ask for authentication for login sessions which poses a security risk.

Comparison Table Between FTP and TFTP

Parameters of ComparisonFTPTFTP
Full-FormFTP stands for File Transfer Protocol.TFTP stands for Trivial File Transfer Protocol.
SizeThe software of FTP is large in size.The software of TFTP is small in size.
PortsIt works on two ports – 20 and 21.It only works on the 69 Port number.
Service ProviderThe service provider for FTP is TCP.The service provider for TFTP is UDP.
CommandsFTP has more commands than TFTP.TFTP has only five commands.
ComplexityFTP is very complex.TFTP is not as complex as FTP.
SecurityFTP provides a secure channel for file transfer.TFTP does not require authenticated login and thus poses a security risk.
UsesFTP is useful for uploading and downloading files by remote users.TFTP is useful for configuration transfer between network devices.

What is FTP?

FTP is a standard application protocol that is used for communication on a computer network. This involves transferring files from a host to a client and vice versa. The software is based on a client-server model. This means that its architecture is built in such a way that the control and data connections are separate.

The protocol provides a secure channel for transferring files. The username and password are protected, and authentication is required on every login. The software also encrypts itself with FTPS frequently or replaces itself with SSH File Transfer Protocol. This results in all kinds of security threats being removed and minimizes the risk of security breaches. 

Originally, the specification for FTP was written by Abhay Bhushan. It was published on 16 April 1971 as RFC 114. For many years, the software ran on NCP. However, the protocol was replaced in October 1985 by newer versions including RFC 765 and RFC 959. Since then, the versions have had several amendments and modifications, only for the better.

Now, FTP can run in active or passive mode. This determines how the connection between two hosts will be established. By carrying out either of the two kinds of processes, the host creates a control connection between two ports. These ports are generally 20 and 21. However, the host can also create the connection between a random port and command port 21.

What is TFTP?

TFTP is a simple communication protocol that allows the transfer of files to and from random hosts and clients. It is very useful when a node is being booted from a local area network. The protocol is used for this purpose because it is not very complex and does not use a lot of memory space. TFTP was initially standardized in 1981 but now, it can easily be found on RFC 1350.

TFTP can also be used to transfer firmware images and configuration files to various network appliances. These include firewalls, IP phones, routers and much more. However, the protocol is not used at all for internet transfers.

The design of TFTP was derived from EFTP, which was an earlier protocol. It was even a part of the PARC Universal Packet protocol suite. The software came to be defined only in 1980. This was done by IEN 133. Further, it was released on RFC 783 as a revised version. Since then, many modifications and updates have been made to it. Many problems such as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice Syndrome have also been solved.

However, a limitation of using TFTP is that it poses certain security risks. The software does not have a username and password; thus, it requires no authentication for login.

Main Differences Between FTP and TFTP

  1. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol whereas TFTP stands for Trivial File Transfer Protocol.
  2. The software of FTP is large whereas that of TFTP is smaller than the former.
  3. FTP works on two ports whereas TFTP only works on one port.
  4. The service provider for FTP is TCP whereas that for TFTP is UDP.
  5. FTP has several commands for various purposes whereas TFTP only has five commands.
  6. FTP is complex whereas TFTP is relatively simpler.
  7. FTP provides a secure channel for file transfers whereas TFTP does not.
  8. FTP is useful for uploading and downloading files by remote users whereas TFTP is useful for configuration transfer between network devices.


FTP and TFTP are both used for file transfers. However, there are quite a few subtle differences between them. While FTP is large in size and uses up more memory space, TFTP is relatively smaller and does not use as much memory space as the former. Moreover, FTP is complex while TFTP is not.

Another major difference between the two is that FTP provides a secure channel for transfers. It gives a username and password to the client and requires authentication on every login. On the other hand, FTP does not require a login for use. This increases the risk of security threats and breaches.


  1. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-0-387-74390-5_3.pdf
  2. https://www.ieice.org/ken/paper/20050527wAEn/eng/
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