When you’re just getting started with WordPress, it’s normal to do everything through the WordPress admin dashboard. But as you start to become more familiar with your website, learning how to set up WordPress FTP access can help you more easily manage your site and solve some issues that you may encounter.
In this article, I’ll first give you a quick introduction to what FTP is and why it’s helpful. Then, I’ll show you how to set up WordPress FTP access and connect to your server.
What Is FTP? Explained For Newbies
FTP, short for file transfer protocol, lets you directly manage the files on your WordPress site’s server.
By connecting directly to your server, you can:In this article, I’ll first give you a quick introduction to what FTP is and why it’s helpful. Then, I’ll show you how to set up WordPress FTP access and connect to your server.
- Upload files
- Rename files
- Edit files
- Move files around
- Delete files
- Create new files
- …work with files in lots of ways! You get the idea.
While people usually just refer to “FTP”, what you’ll actually want to use is something called SFTP. SFTP, short for SSH file transfer protocol or secure file transfer protocol, is just a more secure way of performing all of those same actions.
FTPS or file transfer protocol secure is another term you must be familiar with. Essentially, FTPS is a file transfer protocol that supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) as well as SSL (Security Sockets Layer).
Obtaining the FTPS will ensure all files you upload to a site are encrypted and virtually impossible to hack.
Unlike the secure shell protocol that relies on a single data connection, FTPS demands a secondary data port, which makes it more difficult to set up a firewall.
FTP software products usually support SFTP and FTPS, so in most cases, you won’t have to worry about data encryption or the security of your files when uploading them to a WordPress site.
I’ll follow the crowd and just call it FTP for the rest of the article, but you really should use SFTP for security if your host allows it (it’s the same idea as for why HTTPS is better than HTTP).
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The Many Situations In Which WordPress FTP Access Can Help You
As a WordPress user, understanding the answer to the question of what is FTP comes in handy for both site management and fixing issues.
On the management front, you can:
- Bulk upload files to your Media Library – though you will need to use a plugin to import them from your server to your Media Library. The free Add From Server plugin is a good option.
- Upload new themes or plugins – this is especially helpful for large themes or plugins because sometimes in-dashboard uploads will time out.
- Edit important files, like wp-config.php or .htaccess – most FTP programs let you edit files on your computer and then automatically re-upload them.
And FTP can also help you repair your site when things go wrong. For example, you can:
- Disable plugins or themes even if you’re locked out of your wp-admin dashboard.
- Fix code errors if you accidentally broke your site while using the in-dashboard code editor.
- Manually take your site out of maintenance mode if WordPress gets stuck in maintenance mode for some reason.
Basically – WordPress FTP access comes in really handy when you’re managing your WordPress site, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with how to use FTP.
Here’s how to get started…
First, You Need An FTP Program And Credentials For WordPress FTP Access
In order to connect to your WordPress site via FTP, you’re going to need a free piece of software as well as some account information. Let’s go through it…
1. FTP Program
The first thing that you need is an FTP program. This is the software that actually lets you connect to your WordPress site’s server and work with files.
There are a lot of great FTP programs out there, but I like FileZilla because:
- It’s free and open source.
- It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux
- It supports SFTP and FTPS for security.
For those reasons, I’ll use FileZilla for the tutorial. You can pick a different one if you want…you just won’t be able to follow along with the screenshots.
Most FTP programs aren’t cross-platform compatible, as they’re designed to run on macOS or Windows. Check out Cyberduck if you’re searching for a FileZilla alternative you can use on PCs and Macs.
Here are some of the best FTP options for Windows:
Consider one of the FTP programs below if you’re a Mac user:
Please note that most of these FTP clients aren’t free, and they’re best suited for users that manage vast quantities of files.
So, you’re probably better off using an open-source FTP for WordPress like Cyberduck or FileZilla if you’re just starting a new website.
2. File Backup
It’s hard to overstate how important it is to create a website’s backup before installing FTP software.
All changes you make to a website’s files with FTP software are permanent. So you won’t be able to access their previous version if something goes wrong unless you have a backup.
Fortunately, you don’t have to back up an entire website before connecting FileZilla to a WordPress site. Instead, you can make a copy of the following files:
- WP-content folder that contains all plugins, themes, and media you added to your site
- All WordPress core files, such as the wp-admin directory or index.php file
Once you install FileZilla successfully and make sure it’s working correctly, you can use it to create website backups on a local hard drive since you can download files to your computer.
3. FTP Account Credentials
You’ll need your FTP credentials to install an FTP program. These consist of a:
- Port number
You should have received this information from your host. Usually it’s either in a welcome email or your dashboard. If you can’t find it, I recommend reaching out to your host’s support.
If your host offers cPanel, it’s also pretty easy to create a new FTP account via your cPanel dashboard.
First, find the FTP Accounts option in the main cPanel dashboard:
Then, use the Add FTP Account box to create a new username and password. If desired, you can also use the Directory option to restrict the account’s access to a certain website (leave it blank if you want it to be able to access all of the websites in your hosting account):
Restricting access is helpful if you need to give someone else FTP access. For example, you might want to give a developer access to help with your site.
How To Connect To Your WordPress Site With FTP
Once you’ve installed your FTP program and have your credentials ready to go, here’s how to connect to your WordPress site via FTP and some of the things that you can do once you’re connected.
Enter Your FTP Credentials And Connect
To get started, go to File → Site Manager in FileZilla:
Then, click New Site.
In the New Site area:
- Choose SFTP for the Protocol if your host supports it (otherwise leave it as FTP)
- Enter the Port (usually, this is 21 for FTP and 22 for SFTP by default, but your host might do it differently. For example, you can see that it’s 2222 for my host in the screenshot below)
- Enter your website’s domain name in the Host box
- Choose Ask for password in the Logon Type drop-down (while FileZilla will let you store your password, that’s a really bad idea from a security perspective)
- Enter your username in the User box
Then, click Connect.
You’ll be prompted to enter your password:
And when you click OK, FileZilla should connect to your server as long as your credentials are accurate.
The Basics Of Working With Files Over FTP
The FileZilla interface is divided into two halves.
The Local site section on the left displays the folders and files on your computer. And on the right, you have the Remote site section with all folders and files on your WordPress site’s server.
Manipulating files is as simple as drag-and-drop – just like you’d do on your desktop.
To re-arrange files on your server, you can drag-and-drop them between different folders. Or, if you want to upload files to your server (or download them to your local computer), you can drag files between the two halves:
It’s important to note that, unlike your desktop, dragging files between your local computer and your remote site will not move them. That is, if you drag a file from your server to your local computer, the file remains on your server.
On the other hand, if you drag files between folders on your server, then the files will be moved.
Another helpful thing that FileZilla lets you do is edit files. If you right-click a file, you get that option:
Basically, FileZilla will:
- Download that file
- Open it in a text editor on your computer
- Automatically re-upload it once you’re finished
Reasons to Manage Files without FTP Programs
I feel compelled to point out a few disadvantages of managing files with FileZilla and similar FTP programs.
WordPress initiates an automatic cleanup whenever you uninstall a plugin from its dashboard. Consequently, all files related to that plugin are deleted from the site’s database.
An FTP software doesn’t initiate the cleanup procedure after you use it to deactivate a plugin, so you’ll have to manually remove any remaining files from the database.
You should keep in mind that FTP programs don’t resize photos or videos automatically. Although this isn’t really a reason for concern, you must be mindful of the size of media files you upload to your website through FTP to avoid using too much storage on the server.
Simply check image size guidelines before uploading a video or photo with an FTP if you don’t want to add files to your site from the WordPress Media panel.
Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress FTP Access
How to Setup an FTP Account for WordPress?
It’s important to know that most hosting services include FTP accounts in their hosting plans.
Still, you can create more than one FTP account from the platform’s CPanel. Here’s how to create a new FTP account for your WordPress site.
- Open the hosting service’s CPanel and find the FTP Accounts option. It should be located in the Files folder.
- Choose the username and password for the account you’re creating. Optionally, you can use the password generator to increase the password strength.
- Adjusting the Quota settings will enable you to set the maximum file size you can transfer. Choosing the Unlimited option will allow you to move as many files as you want, regardless of their size.
- Click the Create button to complete the setup.
How to Update WordPress via FTP?
Updating WordPress manually requires thorough preparation. So, you must create a full website backup, save custom code and deactivate firewall plugins before initiating the upgrade.
Another thing to note is that a stable Internet connection is vital for a successful upgrade.
- Go to the WordPress repository and download the most recent version of the WordPress
- Unzip the file on your computer and open FileZilla or any other FTP program you’re using
- Locate the folder containing the unzipped files in FileZilla’s Local Site section and drag the files to the folder with the same name in the Remote Site Section.
- Override all folders except the wp-content folder if prompted and click OK
- Log in to WordPress, click Update WordPress Database, and hit Continue to complete the update
How Do I Upload Files to My Website Using FTP?
Open the FTP client program you connected to your site. If you’re using FileZilla, you’ll see all files stored on your computer in the Local Site section.
Once you locate the file you want to add to your site, you can either drag and drop it to a folder in the Remote Site section or right-click on it and select the Upload option.
Videos and photos are usually stored in the wp-content folder located in the Public. HTML folder. However, you can also add themes and plugins to this folder.
Why is WordPress Asking for FTP Credentials?
You’ll be asked to provide your FTP credentials if WordPress cannot access specific files directly. The issue commonly occurs during the installation of new themes and plugins, but it’s relatively easy to fix.
However, each method requires inserting code into the wp-config.php file via the FTP client.
Choose the Edit option to gain access to the file’s code and insert the following line at the bottom:
Optionally you can add FTP credentials to this file using this code:
Define (‘FTP_USER’, ‘USERNAME’)
Define (‘FTP_PASS’, ‘PASWORD’)
Define (‘FTP_HOST’, ‘YOURWEBSITEDOMAIN’)
WordPress FTP Access Will Make Your Life Easier!
Learning how to connect to your WordPress site via FTP will make your life easier in so many ways.
While I didn’t cover what you can do with your newfound powers too much in this post, you’ll see WordPress FTP access pop up in a ton of our other tutorials, like how to fix the Error Establishing A Database Connection message or add 301 redirects via your .htaccess file.
Have any other questions about using FTP with WordPress? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help out!