What is cPanel? (and how the heck do you use it)

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Pretty much all standard Linux web hosting comes with a cPanel account. (Linux is an operating system, like Windows, but it’s open source and the most commonly used operating system for web hosting – you don’t really need to know or understand that, so don’t stress over it)

cPanel is essentially the dashboard to manage your web hosting, in a super user friendly way.

If you are a beginner blogger running on WordPress, you can get by just fine with minimal interaction with your cPanel. You may go through cPanel to install WordPress initially, and leave it at that.

It’s important to know what you can do in cPanel, before you even need it. You may be surprised by it’s power!

How to Access cPanel

Depending on your web host, accessing cPanel may be a little different.

The standard way to get to your cPanel login page is to navigate to yourdomain.ca:2083. Commonly, you can also go to yourdomain.ca/cpanel.

If you’re using HostPapa, you can find the link in your HostPapa Dashboard.

Many web hosts will have a similar link on their dashboards.

Your username and password should have come to you in your welcome email when you signed up for your web hosting. If you forget your password, contact your web host to reset it for you.

Overview of cPanel Interface

Initially, logging in to cPanel can look overwhelming. Once you start working with it, you’ll realize it’s actually very user-friendly.

Right at the top, you’ll see a search bar. If you know what you’re looking for within cPanel, you can search for it here to quickly show you the function you’re looking for.

Along the right-hand sidebar, you’ll find plenty of technical information and statistics about your website and server.

If you click your username in the top right-hand corner, you can access things like changing your password, your information and your preferences.

General Information contains just that, general information about your account.

Statistics can give you some more relevant information, including how much disk space, bandwidth, and other resources you are using up. If anything within here starts approaching 100% usage, contact your webhost to find out your next steps. You may need to upgrade your plan.

The main center part of the page is all of the functions you can do within cPanel, sorted by category.

Some of the functions you will see vary by web host, and depend on the plan you have. The functions I’ll go over are pretty standard so you should have access to them.

What Can I Do with cPanel?

Here’s the fun stuff – all the neat things you can do! I’ll cover the most common functions for beginner to intermediate bloggers, but feel free to click around.

You can safely click through the functions to learn more about what they do, just make sure you do not change anything if you do not know what it is!

cPanel is great and powerful, but with great power come great responsibility. You can easily break your website if you change a setting you’re unfamiliar with.

File Manager

This is where you will find all of the files located on your server. All websites are built from files on a server (basically a computer somewhere) connected to the internet.

File Manager will show you all of the files that make up your website.

If you’re using WordPress (especially if you used a 1-click installer) you may not need to access this, but its nice to know it’s there!

If you find yourself accessing your File Manager often, you may be better off setting up an FTP Account (see next section) to access your files instead.

FTP Accounts

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) at the core is a way of transferring files between computers. Remember that your website server is a computer. When it comes to blogging/web hosting, FTP allows you to transfer files between your computer and your web host.

Most tasks can be done through File Manager as well, but having FTP accounts set up on your computer allows you to more quickly and easily edit/move/upload/download files using a free FTP client such as Core FTP (that’s what I use!).

As a beginner, you likely will only need one single FTP account, which is already set up for you. You can create additional FTP accounts for different users needing access, add-on domains, subdomains etc.

MySQL Databases

MySQL is a Relational DataBase Management System (RDBMS) using Structured Query Language (SQL). This is the most popular RDBMS used to power website databases.

So that’s the technical term. Basically, it manages databases housing information. In relation to WordPress, you will have MySQL database for any and every WordPress site, which will store all of your key information – such as usernames, passwords, blog posts, page content etc.

All you really need to know is that you can create databases here. With every database, you need to create a User (with a Password) and assign it to the database. Having a username/password to access the database is how WordPress will access it.

I recommend using the MySQL Database Wizard when creating a new database, as it walks you through each step super easily.


A subdomain is as straightforward as the name describe if you think about it. It’s like a domain name, but a subsection of your current domain.

For example, if your domain is mysite.ca, a subdomain could be blog.mysite.ca

This could be used as a completely different website, or a subsection of your current website. It will exist in a sub-directory of your website (such as mysite.ca/blog), you could create a separate FTP account for it and everything.

Addon Domains

Similar to subdomains, addon domains have a subfolder within your website (ie. mysite.ca/portfolio) but instead of portfolio.mysite.ca (which you could also still use) it would be myportfolio.ca.

With this, you would have to purchase an additional domain name.

Though this will appear publicly as a completely different website, keep in mind you will still be using your core resources (disk space, bandwidth etc) with your add-on domain.

Email Accounts

Most web hosting allows you to create email accounts on your server. You can easily create an email account that is you@yourdomain.ca for a professional look!

Emails stored in your email accounts will count toward your core resources (disk space) in most cases. Some web hosts limit the storage per email account, as well.

In this area, you can also find instructions on how to set up your email account(s) on your devices (using IMAP or POP3).

In simplest terms, IMAP set-ups will mirror on the server and where you’ve set it up (ie. if you have your email set up on your phone, and delete an email, it will delete it from the server as well) where as POP3 creates a copy on your phone, so if you delete an email from your phone, it will still be stored on the server.

Email Forwarders

As simple as it sounds, this allows you to forward emails sent to a specific address with your domain to another email account.

A common use here, is to forward you@yourdomain.ca to yourdomain@gmail.com for example. Keep in mind, if you respond to an email, it will come from your @gmail address, or whichever address the email is forwarded to.


The most popular one-click installer out there! The Softaculous wizard guides you through setting up different software on your server, making it easy-peasy.

The most commonly installed software from here is WordPress. It’s fun to have a peek through to see what other cool software is at your finger tips! Another one I use is YOURLS – which is like bit.ly but on your own domain.

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