How to Upload a File Using the FileZilla FTP Client

Tutorial on how to publish a file to your website's web server using FTP

How to Upload a File to your Website using the FileZilla FTP Client

by Christopher Heng,

The process of transferring a file from your computer to your website is often referred to as "uploading" that file or "publishing" it. For web hosts that support FTP (short for "File Transfer Protocol") or SFTP (a secure form of the File Transfer Protocol), you need a program called an "FTP client" to transfer the file.

This tutorial deals with how you can transfer a file to your web server using a free FTP client known as FileZilla. Versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X are available. I will describe the Windows version of this program, but if you use another operating system, chances are that it works very similarly.

Download and Install FileZilla

First, go to the FileZilla download page and obtain the appropriate version for your system. For Windows, get the Setup version; at the time I wrote this, it's the one labelled "(recommended)" under the Windows section.

Once you have downloaded the program, you will have to install it. Go to your desktop and doubleclick the file that you have just downloaded. Follow the instructions to install it to your hard disk.

Preliminary Steps

Before you can upload any file to your site, you will also need some information from your web host. In particular, you will need to find out the following:

If your web host tells you that you do not have FTP access, you cannot use this tutorial. You will have to use whatever method the web host has designated for you to upload your files, such as a file manager in your web hosting account's control panel.

Steps to Uploading or Publishing a File to Your Web Server

For the purpose of this tutorial, I will assume that you wish to upload a file called "feedback.php". Everytime you see "feedback.php" mentioned, you can substitute that name with the name of the file you actually wish to upload. FileZilla does not restrict you to uploading only files of that name. You can upload images (eg, GIF, JPG, PNG, etc), HTML files, video clips, music files (eg MP3 files, WAV files, MIDI files), Perl scripts, PHP scripts, entire directories (ie, folders) containing files, and so on. For the curious: I use "feedback.php" as the example file because this guide was originally written to help those who use my free Feedback Form Wizard to upload the generated form to their website.

  1. If you see a dialog box with the title "Site Manager" when you start up FileZilla, go to the next step. If not, click the "File" menu followed by the "Site Manager" item on that menu. A dialog box will appear.

  2. Click the "New Site" button. This creates a new item under "My Sites" (or "My FTP Sites" depending on which version of FileZilla you are using) called "New site" (or "New FTP site" in older versions)

  3. Rename "New site" (or whatever the initial name was) to the name of your site. By default, the keyboard cursor would have been placed in the name portion of "New site" allowing you to change it immediately. If you have lost the cursor because you accidentally clicked somewhere else in the dialog box, you can get it back by simply clicking once on the name. Note that this name can be anything you wish. It is not required for accessing your site. However, you will probably make your life easier if you change it to your site's name rather than some random string of characters.

  4. On the right side of the dialog box, under the tab "General", enter the name of your FTP server in the "Host" input box. For example, if your web host told you that your FTP hostname is "", enter "" into the space provided.

  5. Leave the "Port" entry box alone. If your web host tells you to connect using SFTP, click the drop-down box for the "Protocol" field, and select "SFTP - SSH File Transfer Protocol". If they tell you to connect with FTP, choose "FTP - File Transfer Protocol". If they allow both, select the SFTP entry, because that will encrypt your connection, hopefully protecting your password from being intercepted by others.

  6. Use your mouse and select "Normal" from the drop down list box for "Logon Type". This will enable the "User" and "Password" boxes for the next step.

  7. Enter your user id or your login name (or whatever your web host calls it) into the "User" input box, and your password into the "Password" input box. Note that this information is automatically saved onto your computer and will be re-used the next time you run FileZilla, so you do not have to re-enter them again. (It also means that you should not use FileZilla in this way on computers that others may have access to, such as those found in an Internet cafe or a public library.)

  8. Click the "Connect" button. FileZilla will proceed to log into your server. If it is successful, you will see a directory listing of your website's account on the right hand side of the FileZilla window. I shall refer to this as the Remote Site pane. The left hand side shows the directories and files on your own computer. This is the Locate Site pane.

  9. If your web host told you to only upload in a specific subdirectory on the web server, such as in the "www" or "public_html" directory, change to that directory by doubleclicking its name in the folder portion of Remote Site pane. FileZilla will open that folder accordingly and show you its contents.

  10. Next, locate the file that you wish to upload in the Local Site pane. Both window panes behave mostly like Windows Explorer windows, so navigating them should not be unduly hard. Once you have located the file you wish to upload, say "feedback.php", drag that file to the Remote Site pane. Another way is to right-click the file (that is, click the right mouse button while the pointer is hovering over the filename) and select "Upload".

    The file will then be transferred to the folder that is currently open on the Remote Site pane, so make sure you have changed to the appropriate directory before initiating the upload.

    If a file of the same name already exists on your web host's computer, FileZilla will pop up a dialog box asking you what to do. Click the checkbox "Apply to current queue only" to put a tick in it, followed by the "OK" button, and the program will proceed to overwrite the existing file. On the other hand, if you realised that you have made a mistake and tried to transfer the wrong file, click the "Cancel" button to abort the transfer.

    Note that you can also upload entire directories (folders) by selecting that folder and dragging it to the Remote site pane. When you do so, FileZilla will automatically transfer the folder and its contents. In addition, if you want to upload everything in the Local site pane, you can avoid the hassle of individually uploading them by selecting everything in one go, then right clicking the selection and clicking "Upload". FileZilla will proceed to tranfer your entire selection, probably a few files at a time.

    For those who don't know how to select everything in one go, first click one file or folder in the Local site pane. Then hold down the Ctrl key (on your keyboard) and type "a". This causes everything there to be selected. (Note that Mac users may have to hold down the Cmd key instead.) You can also select multiple individual files for uploading by holding down the Ctrl key on your keyboard while clicking those files with the mouse. (I have no idea what the equivalent for this on a Mac is.)

  11. As FileZilla proceeds to transfer the file or files to your site, you should be able to see the progress in the bottommost window pane in FileZilla. When the upload has completed, you can disconnect from your website. Do this by clicking the "Server" menu followed by the "Disconnect" item.

Congratulations! You have successfully uploaded one or more files to your website using FileZilla.

Copyright 2005-2020 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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