Updated March 11, 2016
I admit, today’s skill is not glamorous…that is, until you need it. Then you’ll be SO glad you’re in the know.
There may be times when you will want to access your site’s files on your server via your host, as opposed to accessing them through your WordPress Dashboard. (If you don’t remember the difference, review my ice cream analogy.)
What is your file manager?
A blog or website is really just a bunch of files living on a server somewhere. You’ve got a database too, but we’re talking about the files here.
Your file manager is the place where all those files are kept. It’s similar to the folders and files on your computer.
When you need to make small changes to your files, your file manager can be a good place to do it. If you need to manipulate a lot of files at once, it’s often easier done by accessing your site via FTP. I explained that process here.
Examples of when accessing your file manager might come in handy:
- You unknowingly installed a buggy plugin or theme, and it broke your site. Now you’re getting warnings or errors and you can’t even log back into your WordPress Dashboard at all. Access your file manager to delete that plugin or theme, and get your site back.
- You want to upload a single file to your server to use in your design, such as a favicon. Update: WordPress now makes uploading a site icon easy.
- You want to verify your site ownership in Google Search Console and you have to upload a file to your root directory to do so.
To be sure, you can do a lot right from your WordPress Dashboard, but knowing how to work with your files from the server side is a must-have skill in my opinion.
How to Access Your File Manager
Login to your cPanel via your hosting account. Instructions for how to do this would have been sent in your welcome email when you signed up. If you can’t find it, contact your host directly and simply ask how to login to your cPanel.
Scroll down and click on the File Manager icon. Depending on your host, this screen may look different. However, it’s very likely it will look just like this. In any case, you’re looking for your file manager. If you don’t see it, contact your host and ask them where you can find it.
When you log in, you may get a popup that looks like this:
Go ahead and access your root directory. I also opt to Show Hidden Files. Once you click “Go” you’ll see something like this:
The files for your WordPress site are found in “public_html” (on the left) which should be already opened if you chose the “Web Root” option in the previous step.
Of the options in the right column, you’ll probably work mostly with your “wp-content” folder which contains things like plugins and themes. It’s not likely you’ll work anywhere else at this point.
Navigate through your files until you find what you want. Here are some examples:
How to delete a plugin or theme via your file manager
- Click the “wp-content” folder.
- Once you do, you’ll see more folders. Click the “plugins” or “themes” folder (depending on what you want to delete).
- Find the plugin or theme you believe is faulty. Check the box to the left of that file and then click “Delete” icon at the top of the screen (see image above).
- After doing so, try logging in to your WordPress Dashboard again. If your site was broken due to a buggy plugin or theme, everything should be restored.
How to upload a file to your server or root directory
Sometimes you are asked by a service to verify your site by uploading a file to your server or root directory. It should be said that before you upload anything to your server, be sure the site asking you to do so is trustworthy and legitimate.
- Navigate to the place you want to upload your file. This location will depend on what you are uploading. If you need to upload to your root and you chose “Web Root” in the step above, you don’t need to navigate further.
- Click “Upload” (the icons along the top of the screen).
- Browse your computer to find the file you want and follow the prompts to upload.
How to install a WordPress theme
If you want to install a new theme in WordPress, I highly recommend you do so via your WordPress Dashboard and not via the File Manager. I explained how to do that in my post How to Install a WordPress Theme.