Installing vsftpd using text file for virtual users


This tutorial is for older Debian versions and may not work for current versions. Please refer to the links below to find a newer tutorial.

vsftpd is a secure, fast and stable FTP server. In this tutorial we’ll install the server and make it check in a flat text file for virtual users allowed to login.

1. Install required packages

apt-get install vsftpd libpam-pwdfile

2. Configure vsftpd (pico /etc/vsftpd.conf)

Edit these variables in the config file and leave everything else with the default value.


Set the local_root to the parent directory where the user’s home directories are located

3. Configure PAM to check the passwd file for users (pico /etc/pam.d/vsftpd)

auth required pwdfile /etc/ftpd.passwd
account required

Make sure you remove everything else from the file

4. Create the passwd file containing the users

htpasswd -c /etc/ftpd.passwd user1

You can later add additional users to the file like this:

htpasswd /etc/ftpd.passwd user2

5. Create a local user that’s used by the virtual users to authenticate

useradd --home /home/vsftpd --gid nogroup -m --shell /bin/false vsftpd

6. Restart vsftpd

/etc/init.d/vsftpd restart

7. Create user’s home directory since vsftpd doesn’t do it automatically

mkdir /var/www/user1
chown vsftpd:nogroup /var/www/user1


  1. Amazing tutorial! Very simple, clear, and best of all, ACCURATE.

    I have been trying different tutorials for hours now, and all of them were missing critical steps, such as setting up a local user, or setting permissions for the var/www/user1 folder.

    I didn’t think it would be so hard to remember all the steps and put them in a tutorial…. But apparently it is very difficult!

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you! You are one in a million!

  2. One minor change that finally got it working for me. Add /bin/false to /etc/shells to make it a valid login shell for your virtual user.

  3. If you use Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS you need to use the -d in htpasswd since newer versions seems to use MD5 instead of Crypt that was default before.

    Example to create a new ftpd.passwd file:
    htpasswd -cd /etc/ftpd.passwd user1

    Example of adding a new user to an existing ftpd.passwd file:
    htpasswd -d /etc/ftpd.passwd user2

  4. i cant login no matter what i try.
    already added users without password.

    always get :FAIL LOGIN in the log

  5. Malte, make sure you really have removed all the content of /etc/pam.d/vsftpd before you add the two lines (auth and account) to it! I had an really hard time getting the login to work but that solved it for me :)

  6. First, thanks for the ‘how-to’ – Excellent and clear to follow. I couldn’t get the “security” update to work by changing vsftpd.conf. But I was able to get it to work by adding a sub-folder to the root folder in step 7 with these changes. Make user1 unwriteable, make uploads writable. Minor nuisance, but it works.

    mkdir /var/www/user1
    mkdir /var/www/user1/uploads
    chown -R vsftpd:nogroup /var/www/user1
    chmod a-w /var/www/user1

  7. Ditto and ditto! Super clear instructions. Newbie in both linux and raaspberry, but managed is setting up raspian server from a Slitaz machine via ssh only.
    Saw the same problems mentioned in comments, and solved them the same way.
    Thnks to writer and commenteers for a great tutorial!!

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