If your desktop machine runs Windows and you have to edit files on a Linux server, then you usually work with an SSH/SFTP client like WinSCP. The problem with such tools is that they don't allow you to access files the way you're used to under Windows, i.e., with Windows Explorer or from other Windows applications. What you need is a tool that enables you to map a folder on a Linux box to a Windows driver letter. SftpDrive and WebDrive are two easy-to-use tools that do just that. You'll see that this makes working with files on a Linux machine much more convenient.

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The basic functions of both tools are quite similar. You specify the network address of the SSH server, the drive letter, and the credentials. You can configure them to launch and reconnect to the Linux server at logon. Both tools allow you to simultaneously work with multiple connections to different servers.

You can access the Linux files the same way as in Windows, i.e., a double click will open its associated application. Saving the file will copy the changes to the Linux machine and you can drag and drop files from your desktop to the Linux folder.

A problem with both tools is that if you copy a file from a server folder to another, it will be downloaded to your local machine first and then uploaded again. This isn't a big deal if you have a high-speed connection to your server or if you only work with small text files. If you move files rather than copy them, this problem doesn't exist at all, because SftpDrive and WebDrive won't download them then.

This is where their common features end. WebDrive certainly is the more sophisticated tool. It not only supports SFTP, but also FTP, WebDAV, FrontPage, and GroupDrive. I only tested SFTP since it is the one most often used by system administrators.

Another interesting feature of WebDrive is its caching function. WebDrive automatically copies the files you edit to a local cache. If the network connection isn't available, you can still access the files from the cache. This feature is useful if you have a slow network connection to your server. WebDrive is definitely the better choice, especially if you want to open files with applications that create temporary files like Word. However, if you work with large files, then this feature might cause problems.

WebDriveIn my test, I opened a 300 MB .pst file with Outlook. Even if you have a very fast connection, you will have to wait a while before you can start working.
SftpDrive doesn't have this caching feature. Therefore, I was able to work almost immediately with the database since Outlook doesn't have to load the complete .pst file. I didn't realize any delays with a 100 Mbps connection. However, with 3 Mbps, Outlook was a bit sluggish.

WebDrive offers several settings to configure the caching feature. Unfortunately, I didn't find a way to disable caching completely. Hence, I can't recommend WebDrive if you want to access large database files on your Linux server.

SftpDrive WebDrive has a couple of other features that I don't need for my work, but which might be of interest to you. I suggest taking a look at it if the problem discussed here isn't an issue for you.

Unfortunately, neither tool is free. SftpDrive costs $39 and WebDrive is $54.95. In my view, they are worth their money. I always used WinSCP to edit files on a Linux box, but working with SftpDrive and WebDrive is much more convenient for me. I'll probably purchase WebDrive since it is faster with low bandwidth connections.

Of course, there are other ways to map a network drive to a folder on a Linux host. One option is Samba. However, you won't have an encrypted communication and you have to first set up Samba on every Linux server.

Another option is to use the free tool NetDrive. It supports FTP and WebDAV but not SFTP. I can't recommend using FTP since the communication is not encrypted. If you use it together with a VPN solution, for example with Poptop, it might be an option. However, I found that NetDrive is a bit slow sometimes.

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Yet another option is FTP Drive. It also uses FTP, but you can encrypt the communication with SSL/TLS. I didn't try this tool. I am always a bit cautious if someone uses a black ground for his Web site. 😉 FTP Drive is also available at Download.com. I don't know if this means anything, though.

  1. Kevin 17 years ago

    I tried both sftpdrive and webdrive. I had problems with sftpdrive, which I suspect are related to the low quality of broadband in our offices. webdrive works perfectly.

  2. Jonathan 16 years ago

    Netdrive is an earlier version of Webdrive, which was licensed to Novell. It is NOT free, in fact if you use it you are violating the license if you don’t have a novell network.

  3. Jonathan, such a simple program is not free? Where did you get this information?

  4. Roman 16 years ago

    You can read it in he EULA
    “You are authorized to install and use the Software
    internally within Your organization or entity in
    connection with Your lawful use of Novell NetWare(r) 6
    software licenses, which must be acquired separately
    from the Novell NetDrive 4.0 Software.”

  5. Jonathan 16 years ago

    You can speed up WebDrive by specifying an option in the Properties of the drive. Go to the Connection->SFTP Settings, and put a check mark in the line which says “Enable file block I/O (random access)”

    Be warned that when this is checked, the overall transfer speed drops about 75%, in other words, a 20 second transfer will now take about 80-90 seconds.

  6. Thomas 16 years ago

    A free tool which is working well for me so far (a replacement for NetDrive, which I now see is not actually legally licensed) is RedDrive from http://www.jscape.com. FtpDrive from http://www.killprog.com looks powerful too, though I couldn’t get a successful connection.

  7. Oisín 16 years ago

    Yeah, RedDrive seems to work fine for me too, although it’s a tiny bit slow sometimes.

  8. Sean 16 years ago

    I tried RedDrive and it seems to work well. However, it seems that I can drag and drop only individual files, not folders. Does anyone know if that’s the way it it supposed to work?

  9. nanoman 16 years ago


    I like WebDrive and it works well. What I would really like is for a program like WebDrive with the option of on the fly encryption and decryption. That is, the files leaving my computer are store on the remote file server as an encrypted file (e.g. PGP or similar).

    It seems like there should be a “all in one” program that would do this. Maybe I just am thinking incompletely. Presently, I accomplish this using two programs on my Win XP computer: 1 for on the fly encryption and to map the SFTP / FTP connection as a virtual drive.

    If someone know of a Win XP program that does both I would be interested in knowing what it is.

  10. pramodh 12 years ago


    i tried expandrive and sftpdrive to map to a SFTP DRIVE.Is there any open source tool implementing drive mapping ? i have an application in VC++ which needs to map a sftp drive .how it can be done?

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