Updated March 26, 2016
The more you use your WordPress site, the more you will probably want to make tweaks. You might also encounter some glitches that need fixing. Knowing how to handle these things yourself is an invaluable skill to have.
I showed you how to access your file manager to work with a single item on your server (like a plugin), but sometimes you need to work with files in bulk. To do this, you’ll need to know how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Don’t worry, it’s a lot less intimidating than it sounds.
What is FTP?
Basically, FTP lets you see files on your computer and files on your server simultaneously. Then you can drag and drop them from one to the other.
Related and helpful: If all these website terms and jargon confuse you, I highly recommend you read my post where I break it all down by comparing it to ice cream. Because you can never go wrong with ice cream, that’s what I think.
So as I was saying, FTP allows you to see your computer files and your server files side by side.
Think of your computer and how all your files on it are organized. You can move things around by opening up File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac) and dragging and dropping, right?
Just as your computer houses your personal computer files, a server (owned by your host) houses your website files.
FTP is simply a way to log in to your slice of your host’s server so you can manipulate your site’s files that live there.
When to use FTP
You can use FTP for all sorts of things like uploading a file or folder to your root directory, seeing or editing files quickly or deleting several theme or plugin files at once.
Sidenote: I know all this geek speak may be over your head, but trust me, one day you may need it and then you’ll remember this post and you’ll be so glad!
For some reason, the term “FTP” strikes fear into many, but as you’ll see, once you’ve got an FTP client set up, it’s simple.
There aren’t a lot of times you’ll use FTP, but one of the main ones is to backup your site’s files which should be done regularly. Being able to download all files at once (uploads, plugins, themes, etc.) is handy.
Preparing to use FTP
First you’ll need an FTP client which is just a fancy way of saying you’ll need a program or application on your computer that will allow you to connect to your site’s server.
There are many free FTP clients available. Filezilla is a popular choice. Here are some others as well. I use Cyberduck (download buttons are under the duck). Simply download the FTP client, run it on your computer and follow the instructions for setup.
How to use FTP
When you’re ready to access your site files on the server:
- Open your FTP client on your computer. On my Mac, for example, I find Cyberduck in my Applications folder.
- Enter your connection settings. These are details you’ll need from your host, such as:
- Port number
If you don’t know these, contact your host. Explain that you’re trying to use an FTP client and ask them for the login info you need.
- Once you input the login details and are connected, you’ll see a window with all the files on your server listed, much like you would see your files listed on your computer. Drill down if needed, just as you would for folders on your computer.
There’s your basic rundown of FTP, my friends. Of course there are lots of uses, many of which you will probably never encounter, but some you might. Now you’ve got a skill in your back pocket that will save you time and money since you don’t have to find someone to do it for you.
The main use, as I said, is probably backing up your site.
If you’re backing up your site files, the main folder you want to copy is the wp-content folder. Select it and drag and drop it to a spot on your computer where you want to save the backup.
Related and helpful: How to Backup Your WordPress Blog