Trivial File Transfer Protocol

RFC 1350 (1992)

The Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) is a very simple file transfer protocol. It was developed in 1980 on the basis of EFTP. TFTP only supports reading or writing files. Not present are many functions of powerful FTP such as authorization management with chmod, displaying the existing files, or user authentication.

The protocol

Unlike FTP, which requires a connection-oriented transport protocol, TFTP is normally operated via a connectionless protocol such as UDP. However, there is a similarity to the FTP, that the data is not transmitted in the same compound, such as the control commands. The client asks an action ( read / write) while on the port 69, but the server does not send with port 69 as the source port, as it is known, for example, DNS ( with port 53). Client and server rather choose so-called transfer IDentifiers (TID ). These TIDs correspond to the UDP port on either side and are in the range 1024 to 65535.

Motivation for the development of TFTP was the loading of operating systems or configurations across the network. Since this is usually performed by a firmware or a small bootloader from the connection-oriented TCP and FTP it fitting end are far too complex for this purpose. TFTP other hand, was deliberately kept simple with the functions:

  • Packet-oriented protocol
  • Read and write files ( or emails ) on a server
  • No listing of directory contents
  • No authentication, compression or encryption
  • Maximum file size of 32 Mbytes (16 Mbytes in some implementations ), extended in 1998 by RFC 2347 to 4 GB or unlimited by block number wraparound.
  • Packet size to 512 bytes fixed. The 1998 introduced RFC 2348 allows the negotiation of the block size between client and server.


A communication might look something like this:

In this example, the reading is from the server failed because there was no more space available around on the client.

Load operating systems and configurations

PC BIOSes now offer the possibility of a power boat, that is booting over a network, usually with PXE. For this procedure, the BIOS initializes the network card, browsed through a DHCP server and downloads the first part of the operating system (kernel ) using TFTP. Then the kernel is started. If the TFTP is used only connectionless protocols are required for this procedure, which can be implemented with little effort in a ROM. In addition, TFTP is used to administer the computer workstations in large networks (schools, universities, companies ) central, which leads to a reduced administrative burden.

The configurations and IOS images from Cisco routers and switches are also saved on the TFTP servers.


Certain types of computer worms such as W32.Blaster use TFTP server to its spread. Therefore, the Windows Service tftp.exe when using a personal firewall by default be denied Internet access.



  • TFTPD.EXE (TFTP service included with Windows Server 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012)
  • TFTPD32 ( open source TFTP server for Windows)
  • PumpKIN ( free server and GUI application for Windows that also contains client capabilities )
  • SolarWinds TFTP Server (for Windows)
  • Open TFTP Server (GNU GPL licensed TFTP Server for Windows is running as a service )


  • TFTP is an optional component of many BIOSes and BIOS extensions (eg via EEPROM on a network card ) of PC systems
  • TFTP is implemented by various thin clients and foreign - bootable terminals
  • A functionality in open source bootloader named uBoot for embedded systems, coupled with both the uBoot shell and with the independent boot process
  • An integrated in embedded systems with Busy Box shell command called tftp
  • The program contained in Linux or Cygwin tftp
  • The program included in some versions of Windows TFTP.EXE