If you want to start diving deeper into your website and editing files, making design changes, and getting to know your site better, an FTP login is essential. Though a lot of designers just glance over this step in many tutorials (including myself) I recently realized that FTP is a complicated thing that not many people (especially beginners) know how to use. In this post I’ll tell you how to find your FTP login and what to do with it.
What is FTP?
FTP or File Transfer Protocol is a network used to transfer files between a client and a server. In simpler terms, FTP is what allows you to connect to, and make changes to, your website. When you log into your WordPress dashboard, and go to Appearance > Editor, you are looking at your websites files. However, WordPress only lets you see a very limited portion of the files that are available, the ones they think you will need to use WordPress. When you log into FTP you have access to ALL the files on your server, and the possibilities of what you can do are endless.
I’ll add a little disclaimer that these possibilities include screwing up or breaking your site. Even I screw up sometimes when I’m in FTP. When you’re in there just move slowly, be careful, and track what you do incase something goes wrong, so you can just undo it.
Why do you need your FTP login?
Whether you plan to use your FTP login immediately or not, knowing it is vital. It’s something that you should always have on hand incase you need it. It holds the key to your entire website, and when something goes wrong, you definitely do not want to have to look for your keys before being able to get in and fix it.
Not knowing your FTP login means that you are not in charge of your website. Whether you hired a designer to create the site for you, set the website up yourself, or left the details to your hosting company, your FTP login is something you should always have on hand. FTP is the key into the heart of your site. If you have a website, you should know your FTP login.FTP is the key to your whole website. If you have a website you should know your FTP login. Click To Tweet
So, there are two different ways to access your FTP. The first is downloading an FTP client like Cyberduck, and then you can access FTP right on your computer and see and edit all the files there. The other option is using a Web FTP, which means accessing your FTP through your browser (like Safari, or Chrome) without having to download a client.
If you are just making one change or you don’t need to access FTP very often, WebFTP will probably be fine for you. However, if you plan to start making lots of changes and continuous edits to your website and will be accessing FTP often, then I recommend downloading a client. The capabilities are the same both ways, but using a client makes things just simpler and neater and laid out nicely, in my opinion, and is just easier to navigate since FTP clients are made for accessing FTP.
I use a FTP client called Cyberduck. There are different options out there, most are free, and they all have the same capabilities, so it’s really up to you which you prefer. Another thing to considering downloading is a program like Sublime Text. While your FTP client (Cyberduck) will allow you to connect to your server and see the files, you then need a program to open them in. Native programs like Text Edit will work fine. But Sublime is created specifically for editing code and will make it SO much easier. It colours the different parts of the code in different colours. While you don’t need to know what each colour means, it’s helpful because if you do something wrong the code will change colour and it will be obvious that something isn’t right. Sublime Text is the program I use for editing code, but it’s also great for beginners.
So, now we’ve got Cyberduck and Sublime downloaded and installed on our computer, and we’re ready to log in. How do we do it?
Finding your FTP Login
Next you need your FTP Login details. The first step is to log into your webhost. This is the hosting company from which you bought your hosting plan. If you don’t yet have a hosting plan then we need to back track and you should take a look at this post – WordPress 101 Part 2: How to Get Hosting & Setup Your Site.
Log into your hosting company, whichever one you use. They will all look different depending on which one you use, but in general they will all have the same links, areas, and capabilities.
When you log in you will land on your Dashboard. You want to look for something called or similar to Manage Domains. In Dreamhost this is under the toolbar heading Domains on the left.
Here you should see a list of all the domains on your hosting plan. If you just have one domain, you will see it there. Underneathe the domain or somewhere in this area you will see different options.
If you click on WebFTP you will be brought to an FTP area on the web and might be automatically logged in. There you can see and edit your files like I mentioned above (without needing programs like Cyberduck or Sublime.) If you aren’t automatically logged in but want to use this method see Step 4.
If you want to use your FTP client (cyberduck) and see and edit the files there (this is the method I use) then click FTP instead. A message should pop up that asks you if you want the page to open Cyberduck. Click Allow. It might also ask you to choose a program if you have never done this before, but just choose Cyberduck. Again you might be automatically logged in, but if you aren’t just click cancel and read Step 4.Is an error screen your worst nightmare? Knowing your FTP login is the 1st step to fixing it. Click To Tweet
While some FTP or WebFTP links from your host might automatically log you in, some don’t, in which case you need your login details. In general you should have your log in details anyways, so that every time you want to use Cyberduck you can just log into it directly rather than going through all this.
So, to find your details you want to look for something like Users. In Dreamhost Users is also a heading in the toolbar on the left, and then you want to click on Manage Users underneath.
Here you will see a list of users already authorized on your account. You’ll probably just see one, and it will be the name that you set up when you first created your account. It’s possible that the password would just be the same as your account password, but it’s also possible that your host set up a weird letters/numbers/symbols password for you automatically when you set it up.
If you don’t know the password to this user, that’s okay.
There are two options here. The first is to create a new user, and the second is just to reset the password on the existing user. Option 2 is easier and is what I would recommend if you don’t want to fiddle too much in here.
Click Edit under the user that is there. My user is called whitecornercreative. All the settings will already be set here, and though you can change them if you want to, you shouldn’t have to. All you need to do is add a new password.
Dreamhost does not ask for the existing password to change your password, and hopefully neither will your hosting service. Just enter the new password in both fields that it offers, and click Save Changes.
Now, of course, write down this password right away so you remember it. You will also need to know the name of the user itself, so write that down too. Lastly you will need to know the User Type. You will see in the picture above how you could choose from FTP, SFTP or Shell user. It will already be chosen for you, so don’t change it, just remember which it was.
Logging into FTP
Now that you have your log in details, you can log in to your FTP. It might take a few minutes for your password update to take affect, so you can try it now and it doesn’t work just wait a few minutes.
You can log into FTP either of the ways I said before (through an FTP client like Cyberduck or through the Web FTP). I’m going to show you how to do it through Cyberduck.
Open Cyberduck, and you will just see a blank page. Then you want to click on Open Connection and type in your information.
Drop Down – You want to choose what kind of connection you are making. This is the User Type from the above image. Mine is FTP.
Server – Server is the website you are trying to access. So it might be ‘ftp.yourwebsite.com’ or it might just be ‘yourwebsite.com’. Try it without the ‘ftp’ first and then if it doesn’t work try adding the ‘ftp.’
Port – There will probably be a number here already and you can just leave it alone. Sometimes you will have to change this but usually it works with what is there automatically.
Username – This is the name of the user that you remember from the step above.
Password – Lastly this is the new password that you just changed in your host.
Then click Connect! You should see a little spinning wheel in the bottom of the window and some text telling you that it’s opening the connection. If this fails, it could be for a number of reasons. You might have your password wrong, your password might not have updated yet (so wait a few minutes) you might have the server wrong (try the ftp or non ftp option) etc.
If all else fails, log back into your host and ask for help. Dreamhost has a really handy 24/7 chat and they can help you find your log in details, and I’m assuming that most other services have something similar, if not an email help service.
When you do get logged in on Cyberduck, you’re in! You now have FTP access. There you will see a list of all the websites that this user has access to. If you have just one domain, it will be the only one there. Double click on it.
Then you are seeing all the files that are installed on this website. Each folder is another path. The folders and files that start with ‘wp-‘ are WordPress. To find your themes folder (the area that you are most likely to need through FTP) double click on wp-content then double click on themes. You will then see a list of all your themes and can do things like Adding a child theme, customize your design, and more!