FTP – What is it – What does it – Where do I get it


What does FTP mean ?

FTP is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol. As the name suggests, FTP is used to transfer files between computers. Or in our case between your computer and your hosting provider’s web server.


What do I need – What is a “FTP Client”?

Graphical FTP clients simplify file transfers by allowing you to drag and drop file icons between windows and your desktop.

When you open the program you must enter the name of the FTP host (usually your domain name with “ftp.” in front) and your username and password.


How do I get an FTP Client?

There are many free and premium FTP Clients available for download on the Internet.

In general FTP clients for Mac’s are more intuitive and easier to use – sorry Windows.


Mac FTP Clients:

Cyberduck (free)

Transmit (Don’s FTP of choice)

Fetch (Thomas’s FTP of choice)


Windows FTP Clients:

WinSCP (free)

Filezilla (free)



Where do I get my FTP logins – How to create an FTP account?

How to create an FTP account varies depending on your hosting provider.

Don’t be afraid to contact your hosting providers tech-support for help.

Here is how to set up FTP Accounts in Bluehost.


How do I use an FTP Client?

In general you can drag and drop files from within your FTP client to your desktop. This will create a copy of the file stored on your hosting server onto your desktop. The file on your hosting server will not be deleted when doing this!

You can also drag files from your desktop into your FTP client, this will usually result of the file stored on your hosting server to be overwritten. Some FTP Clients ask you before overwriting and some don’t – be careful and make backup of your files by changing their names before uploading a new or revised file with the same name.

I personally add “.bak” to my file before uploading a revised or new version of a file with the same name.

Here is an example:

I have an image stored on my hosting server called “background.png”. Assuming I want to edit the file – I would drag it onto my desktop, to work on it in a photo editor like Photoshop. Before I am ready to upload the newly edited file to my hosting server I will change the existing “background.png” to “background.png.bak” Now I will drag my updated file into the FTP client. If I don’t like it I can delete it and just remove .bak from my original file.

Consult your FTP Client User manual for specifics on your software.


How is WordPress structured? – There are a ton of folders!

Logging into your hosting server for the first time via FTP can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t panic – it is not as bad as it looks…

Most files that you will see are WordPress system files that you don’t have to worry about. All we care about are the folders stored inside the “wp-content” folder.

Inside the wp-content folder we usually have “Themes” “Uploads” and “Plugins” (sometimes your plugins add an additional folder on their own).

You will likely spend most of your time in the “Themes” folder. After clicking on the themes folder you’ll find a folder for each theme that you have installed.

Click on the smallbiz folder and you’ll find all the theme files and folders for “images”, “css” and “js (for javascript – our menu uses that)

The path is: yourdomain/wp-content/themes/smallbiz


How do I edit a file?

Drag the file to your desktop and open it with a text editor. Important: do not open any files containing code with “Word” or “Pages” this will add hidden text formatting and can mess-up your code.

Use a text editor like Notepad – or even better download a more powerful and feature rich editor.

Text Editor choices for Windows

Text Editor for Mac


I have Frontpage and/or Dreamweaver -can I use it to edit files?

Dreamweaver: Yes – to some degree you can.

Frontpage: No – it is outdated, we don’t recommend it.


My hosting provider offers a “File-manager” – what’s the difference compared to an FTP Client?

Think of the filemanager offered by your hosting provider as I “build-in” FTP client. It basically works the same. However you’ll find that having an FTP Client allows you to navigate faster and you can upload multiple files at a time. A big time saver in the long-run.



Happy Coding!

And don’t forget to backup your files before overwriting!





About Thomas

Lead Developer and Community Manager

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