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tftp and launchctl on MacOSX

© May 2019 Anthony Lawrence

I needed to upgrade the firmware in a Fortinet Firewall. That's done by pointing the Fortinet at a tftp server that has the new firmware image. Simple enough.. except where do I have a tftp server?

Well, not on my main Linux server, because it apparently isn't important enough to install on spec. I could of course go get it, but instead I took a look on my Mac. I honestly didn't expect to find it: I thought they might reserve that for the Server version of Mac OS X, but no, there it was, man page and all. The man page warns:

This server should not be started manually; instead, it should be run using launchd(8) using the plist /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist. It may be started using the launchctl(1) load command.

Well, I don't normally want tftpd running, so launchctl is the obvious choice. Fire that up with "sudo launchctl" and then type:

load -F /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist

Why "-F"? Because by default, the tftp.plist contains:


If you leave out -F, launchctl will say "nothing found to load", which isn't very helpful - what it really should say is "I can't load this because it's presently disabled". The -F forces it to ignore that little impediment..if you don't use sudo, it will say:

bind(): Permission denied

Assuming you had neither problem, some fraction of a second later, tftpd is ready to run (well, LaunchD is ready to listen for tftpd requests and start it up, but you get the idea). Where's your tftpd directory? Not in /tftpboot where you might expect to find it on a Unix system.. the tfpt.plist actually specifies the program arguments, and by default it looks like this:


So "/private/tftpboot" is where you want to put the files to be accessed. When you are ready to shut tftp off, just tell launchctl:

unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist

If you did want tftpd to run all the time, you would use

load -w  /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist

That changes the "Disabled" key so that the file now has this:


"tftpd" would now be enabled at each boot. Should you later change your mind, "unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/tftp.plist" will put things back as they were.

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-> tftp via launchtl on Mac OS X Leopard for firewall firmware upgrade.


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Sat Feb 6 12:57:17 2010: 8037   anonymous


useful info, however it is pretty trivial to install a tftp server on GNU/Linux.
For example, on Debian: sudo apt-get install tftp-hpa
all configuration is a single line in plain text inside /etc/inetd.conf
After you are finished with the tftp server, just type:
sudo apt-get remove tftp-hpa

Thu Mar 24 15:11:12 2011: 9401   DonalWhooley


Nice one Tony, Txs for the post.
I recently got this working as described here on OSx 10.6.6 Server. For some reason I had to start and stop the service a few times before it worked. I found it useful to test it first from another MAC (which by default has tftp client built in) before attempting to connect via a router ;Cisco in my case.


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