Fix: Cannot establish FTP connection to an SFTP server in FileZilla

If you connect to a SFTP server in FileZilla, you get a Critical error: Could not connect to server. Here’s why you and how to fix this error.
Warp Terminal

The other day I had to connect to my web server. I use FileZilla for connecting to FTP servers. FileZilla is a free and open source GUI software that allows you to connect to an FTP server in Linux.

When I entered the hostname and password and tried to connect to the FTP server, it gave me the following error:

Error: Cannot establish FTP connection to an SFTP server. Please select proper protocol.
Error: Critical error: Could not connect to server

The error looks like this in the FileZilla interface.

FileZilla Cannot establish FTP connection to an SFTP server

Let me tell you why you see this error and what you can do to 'fix' it.

Fixing ‘Critical error: Could not connect to server’ in Linux

By reading the error message itself made me realize my mistake. I was trying to establish an FTP connection with an SFTP server.

You see, I had SFTP setup on the Linux server. Clearly, I was not using the correct protocol which should have been SFTP and not FTP.

As you can see in the picture above, FileZilla defaults to the FTP protocol.

Solution for “Cannot establish FTP connection to an SFTP server”

The solution is simple. Use SFTP protocol instead of FTP.

The one problem you might face is knowing how to change the protocol to SFTP. This is where I am going to help you.

In the FileZilla menu, go to File->Site Manager.

FileZilla Site Manager

In the Site Manager, go in General tab and select SFTP in Protocol. Also fill in the host server, port number, user password etc.

Cannot establish FTP connection to an SFTP server

I hope you can handle things from here onward.

FileZilla is an excellent GUI tool for SFTP browsing. This tutorial will help you learn the basics of FileZilla.

Using FileZilla for Connecting to SFTP Server Via GUI
If you ask the geeky sysadmins, they will swear by rsync or scp commands for transferring files between remote server and local system. However, those are command line methods and not everyone feels comfortable. Thankfully, there are some GUI tools available that let you transfer files to…

I hope this quick tutorial helped you to fix “Cannot establish FTP connection to an SFTP server. Please select proper protocol.” problem.

If you have questions or suggestions, do let me know. If this article helped you fix the problem, I won’t mind a simple ‘thanks’ comment :)

About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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