Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

6.8. I'm trying to FTP a really large file, and it sure is taking a long time. How do I know whether it is still transferring or my connection died?

During your online exploits, you may find yourself FTPing a multimegabyte file from halfway across the globe and wondering whether that file is really on its way or your FTP connection silently and surreptitiously died. (The Internet is a lot of things, but it is usually neither fast nor reliable during very-long-distance file transfers.)

Well, the FTP program includes a command called hash, which forces the program to print a hash mark (also known as a pound sign, #) for every few kilobytes transferred by FTP. (How frequently seems to vary. On many systems you'll see a hash after every kilobyte; my system likes to send one every 8K.) This can be useful to reassure you that information is really flowing.

Use the hash command before you start a transfer if you suspect that your FTP connection is flaky. You probably won't want to use this command regularly unless you are particularly fond of those little # characters.

Note: You can also use the hash command for any really large transfer (even ones from nearby sites) so that you know the data is flowing and so you can get a visual clue about how fast the information is pouring through the wires.
$ ftp
Connected to
220 bolero FTP server (Version 6.59 Sat Feb 26 23:52:17 PST 1994) ready.
Name ( waffle
331 Password required for waffle.
230 User waffle logged in.
ftp> help hash
hash            toggle printing `#' for each buffer transferred
ftp> hash
Hash mark printing on (8192 bytes/hash mark).
ftp> get my-small-file
200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for my-small-file (49322 bytes).
226 Transfer complete.
local: my-small-file remote: my-small-file
50309 bytes received in 2 seconds (24 Kbytes/s)

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