How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

To complete your WordPress site setup, you need to upload files to the correct folders on the servers. There are multiple file types for you to upload, including media, plugins, themes, and tons more.

Although WordPress allows adding files via the admin dashboard, many site owners prefer doing this task using the FTP client. In fact, the process is tricky for beginners.

That’s why in this article, we’ll guide you through how to upload files using FTP. To make it more specific, we’ll also focus on the way to programmatically add media to the server.

But first, let’s define FTP together.

What is FTP?

FTP or File Transfer Protocol, as its name suggests, permits you to transfer files from your computer to your website hosting account. To achieve this, you need an FTP client running on your computer to transfer files from and to your server. Common FTP clients include Filezilla and WS_FTP.

Connecting to a remote server via FTP requires a server address as well as an FTP username and password. The format of the FTP server address is ftp://domain-name.com. The domain-name.com is your site’s domain. It can be sometimes replaced with your site IP address.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to a Website

Before start uploading files to the server, make sure that your hosting provider gives you FTP access to your website. Once you have the username and password ready, log into your FTP client and fill in the credential information fields.

Then follow the steps below:

  1. Open Files then choose Site Manager from the menu. It will display a popup.
  2. Click on the New Site button under the Select Entry section and enter your site name.
    How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners
  3. Fill in the Host field with your FTP address.
  4. Select Normal for the Logon Type.
  5. Enter your username and passwords and hit Connect.

Now you will see two panels on your screen, one for file structure on your computer and the other for files on your web hosting. All you need to do is drag files from the left panel and drop them to the right one.

Choosing FTP Software

First, you will need to download and install an FTP client on your computer. An FTP client is an application that helps you connect to your website and transfer files using the FTP protocol.

There are many FTP clients to choose from. If you would like help choosing one that works on your computer, then you might like to check out our list of the best FTP clients for Mac and Windows.

Some popular free programs are WinSCP for Windows, Cyberduck for Mac, and the cross-platform FileZilla. We’ll use FileZilla in this tutorial, but the basic concepts are the same regardless of the software you choose.

Connecting to Your WordPress Site Using FTP

To keep your files secure, FTP requires a username and password. So when you open your FTP software you’ll need to enter your FTP login credentials.

Your FTP login credentials were sent to you via email when you signed up for your WordPress hosting account . You can also find your FTP account information in your hosting account’s cPanel dashboard.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

If you can’t find your login credentials, then you can contact your hosting provider to get the information.

Once you have the login information, you need to open FileZilla and then select File » Site Manager from the menu.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

This will open a popup window where you can add your website information. You should click on the ‘New Site’ button and provide a title for your website.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

Now it’s time to enter the login details you found earlier. In the protocol section you should select SFTP if your hosting provider supports it, otherwise leave it as FTP.

You’ll be asked to enter your host. This is usually your domain name, but sometimes you need to add ‘ftp.’ at the beginning. Next, you should select ‘Normal’ for the Logon Type and then enter your FTP username and password.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

Once you’ve entered those details you can click on the Connect button to continue. FileZilla will save your website settings for future logins and open a new FTP connection to your website.

If this is your first time connecting to your website from this computer, then FileZilla may show you a certificate popup.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

You can stop this popping up in the future by checking ‘Always trust certificate for future sessions’. Then you should click on the OK button to continue.

FileZilla will now attempt to log in to your website using the credentials you entered. Once connected, you will see two columns of files and folders.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

The left column lists the Local files on your computer. The right column lists the Remote files on your website. This layout lets you easily transfer files to and from your website.

Uploading Files to Your WordPress Site Using FTP

Now we’re ready to upload files to your website. Let’s start with something easy. We’ll upload a test file to the main folder on our website.

First, you need to navigate to the folder that contains the test file. Do that in the left column that contains your local files. Next, make sure that you can see the folder you want to upload to in the Remote site column on the right.

After that, you should right click the file and select Upload from the menu.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

FileZilla will upload the file from your computer to your WordPress site. It creates a copy of the file and leaves the original on your computer.

We don’t recommend uploading files using drag and drop because it’s less reliable. For example, if you accidentally drag the file onto a folder, then you may upload it to the wrong place on your website.

That’s important because WordPress expects to find certain files and folders in specific locations. Uploading a file to the wrong folder may cause a problem.

For example, when you upload media files using FTP they belong in a folder inside /wp-content/uploads/. Themes should be uploaded to /wp-content/themes/ and plugins to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder.

To see how this works, we’ll manually upload a plugin to your WordPress website. First, you need to download the plugin and then unzip it. You’ll find a folder that contains the plugin.

Make sure you can see that folder in the left column of your FTP client. Then navigate to the wp-content/plugins/ folder in the Remote column. After that, you can upload the plugin folder from your computer to your website.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

The plugin will take longer to load than our test file. Once it has finished uploading, you need to visit the plugins page inside your WordPress admin area to activate the plugin.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

Uploading a premium theme is similar. First, you need to download and unzip the theme folder on your computer. After that, you can upload it to
/wp-content/themes/ folder on your website.

Downloading Files from Your WordPress Site Using FTP

FTP isn’t just used to upload files from your computer to your WordPress website. It can also be used to download files so that you can edit them.

Simply right-click the file you want to download in the Remote site column and select Download from the menu. The file will be transferred to the folder you’re viewing in the left Local column.

How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress for Beginners

You can also use FTP to backup your WordPress files. Simply select all files and folders and download them to your computer.

But keep in mind that this is not a complete backup of your WordPress site. All of your content is stored in a database, not the files that you downloaded.

If you want to back up your content as well, then you can do so by creating a manual backup of your WordPress database.

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