Installing WordPress via FTP: A Guide for Lawyers

| November 13, 2014

Most hosting platforms allow for installation and setup of a WordPress site in just a handful of clicks.  What about when you don’t have that opportunity?  How do you get a WordPress site up and running on your own.  This guide is designed to show attorneys specifically how to do that using free programs and your hosting account.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

You don’t go to trial without having all your ducks in a row and that’s what you need to do here as well.  There are 3 main things you need before beginning this small project.

1.  An FTP (File Transfer Program).  We’ll be using Filezilla

2.  A stable copy of WordPress

3.  A hosting account with support for databases and php

Note that if your host does not support the use of PHP or have databases available, you will not be able to run WordPress.  You will either have to call your host to upgrade to these features or find a host that does support these features.

You can download Filezilla here.  Open the executable file and follow the steps to install the program on your computer (it’s a pretty fool-proof process).  If you don’t have a hosting account you’ll need to sign up for one.  Blue Host is great (full disclosure I’m a Blue Host affiliate).

Step 2: Get Your FTP Login Credentials

You will need a second set of login credentials to access your host’s server in order to install WordPress.  You can get these credentials from your host.  Go to the hosting account you have your website with and log in.   There should be a section in your control panel for FTP.  Every host is different so you may have to do some searching.  You will need at minimum three things to log in via FTP to your host.

1.  You’ll need the host (usually your domain name)

2.  Your FTP user name

3.  Your FTP password

Write down your login credentials and save them for the other steps in this guide.

Step 3: Download WordPress

Visit and download the latest copy of WordPress.  It’s completely free (unless you purchase a theme to go with it).  The file is downloaded as a compressed zip file.  You will be prompted to extract it.

Wordpress download Page

On a PC click extract all and choose the location you would like to put the files.  You can either leave it in your downloads folder or put it someplace else on your computer.  To unzip the file on a Mac just double click the file.

Extracting WordPress

You can leave the files alone for now.  Just remember where you put them because you’ll need them in later steps.

Step 4: Create a Database

WordPress relies on a database to run.  You need to create one with your host.  Most hosting companies have database support that come with even the most basic packages.  Log into your hosting provider and go to your control panel or administrative area.  Every host is different but in general you should be looking for databases.  Once you find that area, create a new database.  You’ll have to create a database name, username and password.  Save these credentials because you’ll need them later on in the process.

Step 5: Log in Via FTP

Now it’s time to get serious.  Open Filezilla and go to the file menu.  We’re assuming you haven’t logged in via FTP before so you’ll have to set up a new site profile in Filezilla.  Select “Site Manager” from the file menu.  You’ll see a popup window appear like the one below.


Click the “New Site” button to create a new site.  Enter whatever name you want in the file structure that is created (typically your domain name is good).

To the right of the window you’ll see tabs and fields for text.  This is where you will be entering your login credentials and other information that you’ve gotten from your host.  Enter your host name (again, typically your domain name) in the host field.  You can leave the port field blank unless you’ve been instructed by your host to enter a specific value here.  Most of the time it’s either port 21 or 22.

For the protocol drop down, make sure this is set to FTP – File Transfer Protocol.  It should be like this by default anyway.  For the Encryption drop down, make sure this is set to “Use Plain FTP”.

Set your login type to “Normal” and then enter your user name and password provided by your host.  Once all the information is set, click the connect button at the bottom of the window.


Filezilla will then try and connect to your host’s server.  You’ll see a bunch of activity happening in the top activity pane and the final message you should see in that pane is Status: Directory listing successful meaning you have connected with your host’s server.  In the right side of the screen, you should see a folder architecture appear like the one below.  The screenshot below labels all of the different sections and what they mean.

The Panes



Not all hosts will have the same file structures what you see could vary from the screenshot above.  For example if you already have a site on the server you’ll see all those files.  At the very least you should see some files named html or www.  This is the called the root directory or the top-level directory of your site and it is the place where you will be installing WordPress.

If you don’t log in successfully there will typically be an error in the message log at the top of the program telling you what happened.  If you are having issues, there are typically answers at the Filezilla user forum.

Step 6: Installing WordPress

From within Filezilla, in the left pane, navigate to where you have your unzipped version of WordPress.  For example if you left it in the downloads folder on a PC it should be in C/users/your_user_profile/downloads.  Continue clicking open folders until you have wp-content, wp-includes, and wp-admin in the left pane view.

Next we’re going to navigate to the folder where we want to put WordPress in the right pane.  Note that if you are installing WordPress as a blog feature on an existing website, you should put it in a folder one step down from the root directory.  Otherwise you will want to double click the folder that says html or www to get into the root of your domain.

Once you are there, select all of the files and folders in the left pane (by clicking once in that pane and pressing ctrl a (Command a on mac).  Then click and hold and drag all of those files and folders from the left pane to the right pane.  You will see activity happening in the Queued files pane at the bottom of the Filezilla program.

Installing WordPress

WordPress is comprised of a lot of files so the entire transfer could take a few moments.  Depending on your internet connection speed it could take a while.

Step 7: Setting up Your Admin Back End

Once all files are done being transferred to your host’s server, try visiting your website (i.e.  If files were put in the correct location, you should see a screen that looks like the one below.

Wordpress Success

If you see an error page saying that no wp-config file was created, WordPress should be asking to create one for you.  Simply click create or yes and this will be fixed.

On the next screen, you will need to enter the database information you recorded earlier.  Fill out the fields and click next.  If all is correct, you should see the default home page of the theme that comes with a WordPress installation.

Common Problems

WordPress installs don’t always go as planned.  Here are some common errors that happen.

•Database not found: Check log in and other information.  Also, if you created a database very soon before you tried to access it using WordPress, it may not be ready yet.

•You don’t see anything (at your domain name address) after you’ve installed WordPress:  You probably installed WordPress in the wrong area of your host’s server.  Not all files transferred the right way.

•Here is also a list of other common installation issues  and their solutions.

If you didn’t have any issues, kudos to you!  You can now begin installing themes, plugins or modifying existing themes within your new self-hosted WordPress site.