Out of the box, WordPress is configured to provide a solid level of security and performance. However, the default options aren’t one-size-fits-all, which is why you may benefit from customizing these settings.

Fortunately, the WordPress team makes this easy by providing a single file where you can modify your site’s configuration. Once you know how to access and edit the WordPress .htaccess file, you’ll have more control over your site’s behavior.

In this post, we’ll discuss what .htaccess is, and cover a few of the reasons you may want to tweak its contents. We’ll then share three ways to access and edit this powerful file. Let’s get started! 

An Introduction to the WordPress .htaccess File

Short for ‘hypertext access’, .htaccess is an important configuration file that’s created automatically when you install WordPress. You can use it to communicate specific instructions to your server without having to edit configuration files, which is particularly useful if you don’t have root access.

There are many scenarios where you might benefit from modifying the .htaccess file, including implementing redirects. Broken links can damage the User Experience (UX) and hurt your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Therefore, if you ever need to change a page’s URL, it’s vital that you set up an appropriate redirect. 

Your .htaccess file can also be an essential tool for helping improve your site’s security. For example, you might use the file to password-protect sensitive directories or prevent PHP code execution. If you always access your site from the same location, you might even make your login page inaccessible to all IP addresses except yours.

Many website owners also use the .htaccess file to prevent image hotlinking. Also known as ‘inline linking’, this phenomenon occurs when a third party links to an image hosted on your server.

Every time someone views this image on the external website, it impacts your bandwidth. To help protect against bandwidth theft, many website owners modify their .htaccess files to either block hotlinking or display alternative content whenever hotlinking is detected. 

How to Find and Edit Your WordPress .htaccess File (3 Methods)

The .htaccess file is the key to tweaking WordPress’ default settings. This gives you the freedom to create a more secure, high-performing website. 

Before making any changes at the code level, it’s smart to create a backup. This ensures that you’ll have something to restore in the unlikely event that you encounter any issues after modifying .htaccess.

With this backup in place, it’s time to take control of your website’s configuration. Here are three ways to access and edit the WordPress .htaccess file.

1. Use the cPanel Dashboard

Many providers offer hosting control panels. This is a web-based interface where you can manage your server from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a stable internet connection.

There are various control panels on the market, but with over three million known installations, cPanel is one of the most popular. If your hosting package includes cPanel, you can edit .htaccess directly from its User Interface (UI).

Each hosting provider is slightly different. If you’re unsure how to access your cPanel dashboard, it’s always worth logging into your provider’s account and searching for any options labeled “cPanel”.

Alternatively, you can refer to your host’s documentation or contact them directly for assistance. Once you have access to cPanel, you can launch its File Manager tool: 

How to edit the WordPress .htaccess file.

Next, open the public_html folder. The .htaccess file is located within this directory:

The WordPress .htaccess file, as seen in cPanel.

Control-click the WordPress .htaccess file and select Edit, which opens the file in cPanel’s built-in editor. You can then make your changes. When you’re happy with your modifications, it’s time to apply them to your site and server by clicking on Save.

2. Connect Over File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

You can communicate with your server directly via FTP. There are various ways to connect over FTP, but one of the most popular is using a client such as FileZilla:

The FileZilla FTP client.

If you haven’t already, you can start by installing and launching the FileZilla client. Next, navigate to File > Site Manager:

The FileZilla User Interface (UI).

Assuming that you’re connecting to this site for the first time, select New Site. You can then assign a name to this connection:

Connecting to a new site using FileZilla.

In the Host field, enter your website’s FTP address. For example, if your site’s URL is http://www.mywebsite.com, its FTP address will either be ftp://ftp.mywebsite.com or ftp://mywebsite.com.

For Port value, enter “21”. You can then open the Logon Type box and select Ask for password. Next, enter your FTP username and password, and then click on the Connect button.

If you don’t know your FTP credentials, you can typically retrieve this information via the administration tool supplied by your hosting provider, such as cPanel:

cPanel's File Manager tool.

If the connection is a success, after a few moments, your website’s files should appear in FileZilla’s right-hand window. In this panel, navigate to your site’s public_html directory:

The WordPress .htaccess file in the FileZilla client.

You can control-click the .htaccess file and select View/Edit. In the subsequent popup, choose the program that you want to use to edit your .htaccess file, such as a text editor. You now have free reign to edit this important configuration file. 

Note: If you can’t find the .htaccess file, try going to Server > Force showing hidden files. Selecting this option should make it visible.

3. Use the Htaccess Editor Plugin

Alternatively, you can modify your .htaccess file using a WordPress plugin such as Htaccess Editor. This plugin makes it easy to edit the file, and can even test your changes for syntax errors. This makes Htaccess Editor a solid option if you want to edit WordPress’ default settings but are unfamiliar with FTP. 

After installing and activating this plugin, navigate to Settings > WP Htaccess Editor. This plugin will now display a disclaimer. If you’re happy to proceed, click through to the editor:

The WordPress .htaccess file, as seen in the WordPress dashboard.

You now have access to your site’s configuration file. Once you’ve finished editing, we highly recommend testing your changes by clicking on the Test Before Saving button. If no errors are detected, you can go ahead and save your changes. 

Be aware that this feature tests for syntax errors and cannot check the logic of your WordPress .htaccess file. Even if your edits pass with flying colors, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the desired results.

Conclusion

The .htaccess file can be the key to boosting your site’s performance and security while preserving your hard-won SEO. However, this important file can be tricky to find.

To help you optimize your website, let’s quickly recap three ways to access and edit the .htaccess file:

  1. Use the cPanel dashboard.
  2. Connect over FTP using a client such as FileZilla
  3. Install the Htaccess Editor plugin

Do you have any questions about editing this important WordPress file? Let us know in the comments section below!

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