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FTP Demystified: How to Get Files ‘Up There’

If you are reading this, you have most likely heard the phrase, “You just need to upload the file(s) to your server/host.” The fact is, hardly anyone knows what that means or how to do that before they are placed in the position of NEEDING to do that for their own website. My guess is that over 95% of Internet users are frustrated by that phrase, not to mention those who experience an anxiety attack at the acronym: FTP.

FTP does not need to be as mysterious or intimidating as it sounds. Here is your life preserver.


First, let’s talk about some basic terms or phrases used in relation to FTP and uploading and transfering files from your computer to your website.

“FTP” is a geeky way of saying “transfer files from one place to another.” It’s the way you upload files (like HTML web pages and image) to your website. But technically speaking, FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol.

“Host” and “server” are used interchangeably in this tutorial. They refer to the place — both the computer server and web hosting company — where your website resides.

You will use FTP software to transfer files from your desktop computer to your website server.

OK, right along to the tutorial:


Our favorite FTP software — FireFTP — is integrated straight into our favorite web browser — Firefox.

We love Firefox for both secure web browsing and also for web design and development.

To use FireFTP, you’ll need to download and install Firefox, then add FireFTP to it. So before you start, go get Firefox now.

Now, to install this powerful, free FTP application (FireFTP) is as easy as it gets:

  1. In Firefox 2.x, go to the Tools menu and click Add-ons (the next step is slightly different for Firefox 3.x/Mac Firefox versions, but nothing major).
  2. With Extensions selected at the top, click the Get Extensions link in the bottom right corner.
  3. That takes you to the official add-ons site where you enter “fireftp” into the search field at the top and click Search.
  4. The first result is your golden ticket to easy uploading and downloading from your host.
  5. Tools Menu

  6. Click Add to Firefox.
  7. After waiting the pre-programmed three seconds, click Install Now.
  8. It will require you to restart Firefox as the last step.
  9. All done! Congratulations on a successful installation.


Now that you have the tool, it is time to use it. Go to the Tools menu and click FireFTP. If you will be doing a lot of FTP’ing, you should right-click the Firefox toolbar, left-click Customize, and find and add the FireFTP button to your toolbar.

Account ManagerGot your web host information handy? Good. (If not, this should be supplied to you when you bought your web hosting account.)

In the pull-down select Create an account… to set up a new host connection. You are prompted to give a custom name your connection, enter your server’s FTP address, username, and the password (if needed). Nevermind the tabs unless the connection doesn’t work, so click OK. Test the connection by left-clicking Connect. If it connects, you are all set and the Connect button changes to read “Disconnect.” If not, and you are sure all of the information matches up between the host information and what you entered. If your host does have extra security features, then explore the tabs to see which authentication your server requires.

Hopefully you are connected to your host now.

FireFTP logs you into the root folder on the host, so you need to go into the ‘www’ folder to access the real material for your site. This may vary depending on your host.


If you are running a WordPress site in the root directory of your host, all of the files listed under the main ‘www’ folder pertain to the site. Installation of WordPress creates three main folders (wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes) and most of the files below those folders in the root directory.

To upload new Themes, find and open the folder: wp-content/themes/

To upload new Plugins, find and open the folder: wp-content/plugins/

Here’s a video tutorial on how to upload and activatenew Themes and Plugins.
FireFTP connected to a host


  1. As Daniel shows, the number of people on the Internet vastly outweighs the number of producers of sites that are familiar with FTP and other various acronyms and languages.

    While WordPress is one of, if not, the easiest platforms for producing web content, there are a LOT of people too intimidated to use a self-hosted program who opt for the web-hosted options. Our goal is to set them free of this fear and enable them to spread their wings on their own sites with professional-looking representations and presentations.

  2. I agree this is one of those areas that most non-technical people find mysterious and confusing, even though there is now an abundance of GUI software that makes it a breeze – my personal preference is FileZilla.

  3. Normally I don’t learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite great article.

  4. Hi – I’ve just started looking into ways to set up an FTP connection. But what I’m finding, isn’t exactly what I need. This article helps with one part of the process.

    I need a temporary internet host I can use with a friend in another country, to transfer a large amount of data from his machine to mine. There are numerous file types to transfer, including images, video, spreadsheets, Word documents, text files, and maybe others. No HTML files.

    It’s sensitive data but it should be online only the amount of time it takes to upload/download it, yes? And, what sort of a host should I be looking for? Maybe there are popular services I already subscribe to but don’t know about a hosting capability? I belong to places like flickr and vk.com (formerly vkontakte.ru), and instant messengers like skype, ICQ, and Yahoo.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on that? Thanks!

    ~ John



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