How-to: Upload files using FTP

Something that anyone who has their own webspace needs to know how to do from time to time is how to upload files to their server. If you are lucky enough to have a server where you have access to a piece of software called “cPanel X” or some other control panel software that has an included file upload manager, FTP can prove to be a useful backup.

However, most of the time, you don’t have access to something like this and have to rely upon a special type of program called FTP – which stands for File Transfer Protocol. There are a lot of programs out there – most of them free – which will allow you to use this protocol easily, and not have to worry about all of the technical details behind the scenes.

While you can use Internet Explorer’s built-in FTP features for your uploading and downloading needs, there is a much better solution out there, and it is absolutely free.

FileZilla is an open source client which has been around since early 2001, and has been available for just about every Operating System for the last year or two. It is available for download from the FileZilla Project homepage.

After you’ve downloaded and installed FileZilla, run the program and this is what you will see at first –

FileZilla opening page

The quickest way to connect to a server is to use the toolbar that has the “Quickconnect” button on it. In this example, I’m going to be blanking a lot of stuff out, since I’m going to be logging into my own site’s ftp space, and I like to have my security you know. 😉

All you need to do is type the host you’re connecting to (usually ftp.{yourdomain}, unless told differently by your system administrator or host), your username and your password into the lines and click Quickconnect. You will not need to worry about the Port slot unless you’re told to use a port different to 21, which is the default.

After you’ve connected, a couple of things will have changed – first, the top part of the window will have had a lot of text scrolling through – that is just simply FileZilla connecting to the server, sending your username and password and listing the directory of the home directory you’re starting from. Also, the file listing from that directory will be listed in the right hand panel. It will look something like this –

FileZilla connected to server

Almost all of the time, you’re going to be just uploading files to your server, and you need to make sure that you do it in the right place. If I were to upload a file to the home directory for my site, you would not be able to view it. Depending on the setup of the server you’re on, the directory you will need to upload your files into will vary. For some it is “public_html”, but for my site, it is contained in the httpdocs directory. To open it, simply double-click on that directory. Again, some text will flash by on the top screen, and the new directory will appear in the right pane again. You will also notice that above the file listing, the directory listing will change to reflect your new location on the server.

FileZilla new directory

To actually upload a file, be sure that you are in the directory that you want to upload the file to. In this case, since I’m going to be uploading a picture, I’m going to put it in the /img/ directory. As you can see, there are the three WordPress directories there – wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes; that’s because I have my WordPress install in the root directory.

There are a couple of ways to upload a file to a server in FileZilla – the first is to use the built-in file explorer. There, just head to the folder on your computer where the file(s) you want to upload are located, and then double click on the file you want to transfer to the folder. You can also open up a Windows Explorer window in the folder where the file is located and then drag and drop the file into the server side of the FileZilla window.

FileZilla Transferring

During the transfer, the file(s) you’re uploading will be listed in the bottom panel of the window as queued transfers. The number that is in parentheses will tell you how many files are left to upload. If, for some reason, a transfer fails, it will go into the failed transfers. After transferring the file successfully, it will be listed in the Successful transfers tab, again, the number in parentheses indicates how many files have been successfully transferred during the session. If you click on the Successful transfers tab, it will look like this –

FileZilla completed transfers

A couple of additional items that are good to know about FileZilla are file permissions and the Site Manager.

File Permissions

In FileZilla, they are called File Attributes, but it is the same thing – there are times when you’re working, say, with WordPress and it will ask you to change permissions on a file or folder. To do that, simply right-click on the file or folder and select File Attributes. This window will pop up –

FileZilla File Attributes

When you’re asked to change permissions by WordPress, it will say, for example, to “chmod {file} to 777.” In order to do that, you can simply type in 777 in the numeric value box and it will change the checkboxes to the appropriate settings for that particular mode and then click OK to confirm the changes.

Site Manager

The Site Manager is useful if you have multiple sites you’re connecting to via FTP. While the Quickconnect bar will keep a history of the servers you’ve connected to (just click the down arrow next the the Quickconnect button to see that list), the Site Manager will save any and all sites you need to have access to. It also will make a quick list of sites to connect to from the toolbar – click the down arrow next to the first button on the toolbar to see the list of sites in the Site Manager.

To add a site to the Manager, go to File and then Site Manager. It will pop up in its default state – i.e. with nothing preloaded.

FileZilla site manager 1

Click New Site and then enter your Host, change Logontype to either Normal or Ask For Password if you would prefer to not have your password stored with FileZilla. Again, unless told by your server admin, you will likely not need to worry about Port, or the other tabs of the Site Manager window.

By the way, if you’re curious, here’s the file that I uploaded – you’ll have to click to see it (in a new window). 😉

If you have any questions about FTP, or about other FTP programs, feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you’d like me to post a walkthrough of something else on the net, feel free to get in touch 🙂

4 thoughts on “How-to: Upload files using FTP

  1. Ok, I’ve uploaded the image I want. How do I find the url for it in order to put it on my sidebar? In your example here, you allow us to see the image you uploaded, but where do we find the url associated with our image? FTP is hard for us newbies. 🙁

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