Beginner’s Guide to cPanel

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Are you planning to sign up for a new web server? around 90% of web hosting companies run on cPanel. So you also may get a server which runs on cPanel. If you are a newbie, definitely you will be needing a guide to learn about cPanel. So, here it is!
In this tutorial, you will learn,

  • To use cPanel
  • And to configure your domain name in cPanel
  • To set up your website with cPanel
  • And much more

The Basics

What is cPanel?

Simply it is a kind of control panel. So you will be able to manage every element of your web hosting account.
Most of the web hosting companies make cPanel available to their clients. That is because it’s a simple, user-friendly dashboard and well maintained with regular updates, improvements, and security measures.

What Can I do using cPanel?

You will be able to perform a series of functions using cPanel such as,

  • Connecting domain names to your hosting
  • Setting up emails for your site
  • Installation of WordPress (or your preferred CMS)
  • Uploading files to your server
  • Back up your website
  • Assess your bandwidth and usage statistics
  • Install add on updates on your server
  • Change security settings
  • Set up different optimizations
  • Create and manage databases

And much more! The above list contains only the main features of cPanel. However, you don’t have to understand all of them to manage your website successfully. We will be teaching you everything you need to know.

How do I log in to cPanel?

If you are logging in for the first time, your hosting provider will give you the username and password. Please keep in mind that a majority of hosting companies have links to your cPanel when you have signed into your hosting account.

Just take a look at the following example. If SiteGround as your hosting provider, the cPanel access will be in your user profiles > My Accounts section.

If you are a Bluehost client, the link to cPanel will be the one named as Advanced.

And if you are unable to find a direct link in your hosting provider’s panel, there are two options. You can contact their support team and ask or else you can try guessing the correct cPanel address. Even though the second option sounds somewhat impossible, we will tell you how to do it.
First, open your browser and enter the address of your website followed by :2082 (for Http) or :2083 (for https).
Ex. http://www.YOURDOMAIN.com:2082 or https://www.YOURDOMAIN.com:2083

Then you will just have to enter your cPanel username and password. That’s it!

Where can I find further guidance?

As I mentioned previously, this tutorial will cover all the basics while giving you step-wise instructions to handle some common tasks. Those tasks include setting up websites, email accounts, and domain names. In case if you need further assistance, cPanel has its own video tutorials. And also there is a lot of documentation available on every page in cPanel, which are often listed as in the below image.

A Quick Look at cPanel interface

When you logged in successfully, you will see a screen just like this:

The above image shows the latest version of cPanel for 2020 which uses the “Paper Lantern” theme.

My cPanel is not like that! Why??

First of all. Don’t worry.
In order to change your cPanel style, go to PREFERENCES section (near the bottom) and click Change Style. There will be some choices. In our example, the choices were Basic, Dark, Light, and Retro styles.
To get an interface as we have shown you previously, select Basic and then click Apply. That’s all!

Let’s take a tour around cPanel interface

Navigation Bar

You will see the navigation bar at the top right corner of the screen. In that particular bar, you’ll see a simple search area, a link to your user preferences, a notification bell, and the logout link. To find the main options within cPanel, the search field will help you. Additionally, it is faster than trying to browse here and there to get an option manually. And also while you are typing, the search field will start presenting results.

Once you click the user preferences link you will be able to change the password, language, edit and manage contact information. Furthermore, you can reset the page settings with just one click.
In the notification area, you will see notifications about essential updates about your hosting setup or cPanel, news, critical updates, security concerns, and other relevant information.
Finally, please don’t forget to logout every time you are finished working with cPanel by clicking the logout button.

Search bar

There will be another search field just below the navigation bar. This works the same as the first one. But it filters the center part of cPanel rather than displaying the results within a dropdown. The only thing you have to do is type what you are looking for.

Sidebar

There will be a sidebar on the left side of your screen with some icons. The number of icons may vary on what your host makes available. In the below example the icons indicate Home, Statistics, Dashboard, and User Management from top to bottom. The primary page of cPanel will be the Home. From there you will be able to access almost all of the functions.
Once you click on Statistics you will be shown a variety of important numbers such as how many email accounts, file transfer protocol accounts, and domain names you have. And also you will see the amount of bandwidth and disk space you are utilizing.

The Dashboard will be a quick reference page. It will help you to find the most used links and also a classified version of your bandwidth and disk space usage, mail statistics, etc.

By clicking on User Manager, you will be able to add or remove users from your cPanel account. Similarly, you can see the email accounts you have set up already and even who has access to your FTP and web disk if you are sharing an account.


How to reorganize the Homepage

To collapse sections just click on the “-” sign in the right upper corner of each homepage section. And also you drag and drop entire sections to rearrange them. By doing that you will be able to put the commonly used sections at the top.


How to update your Preferences

Please don’t forget to visit the PREFERENCES section to update your contact information and change your password during your first log in to cPanel. Just follow the below steps.

Change your password

As I have mentioned earlier, this is the first thing you should do once logged in to the cPanel.
First, click on Password & Security. Then you will see a page just the same as the below image. Before choosing a new password you have to enter the old one.
In order to set up a new password, you can use a Password Generator or create a one by yourself. I think using the Password Generator is better because it will give you a stronger password. Just click on Generate Password and wait till the Generator creates the password. When talking about saving the password the best way would be using a password manager like LastPass. So you won’t have to memorize it. And please keep in mind not to save your password on your computer as it is easily discoverable.


How to update your contact information

Providing an email address is essential in cPanel. That is because of several reasons. They are,

  • To receive updates when needed
  • To communicate with cPanel

And another important thing is you have to set the email address to one that is not attached to any domain name that you are hosting in this particular cPanel, or else if something happens with your config and that particular domain is also compromised cPanel won’t be able to communicate with you.
You can click on Contact Information to get these settings. Please check all the boxes under Contact Preferences because they all are important updates that will notify you about any suspicious activity or a hosting issue.


How to add a new user

If you are planning to get some help to manage your website or you work with a business partner you can add that person to the hosting setup. He/she will require their own user profile in cPanel.
To create another user profile, first, go to the PREFERENCES section and then click the User Manager icon. Then you will see the following screen. In there you will see all accounts that are currently set in your cPanel. At your right-hand side of each account, there will be three icons.

  • The envelope icon
    Indicates the email account setup status
    If the icon is colored – an email account is setup
    If the icon is grayed – no email account is setup
  • The truck icon
    Indicates whether the person has an FTP acct
    If the icon is colored – yes
    If the icon is grayed – no
  • The disk icon
    Indicates whether the user is able to use the web disk services that are part of cPanel.

With the options listed below the account name, you will be able to edit any user, change their password or delete. You can add a new user by clicking the Add User button in the right upper corner. Then you will be navigated to the following screen.

Then just fill out the full name of the user, user name, and the domain that the new user is associated with. Additionally, you can add an alternative email to reach that user. Finally, you have to create a password for the user.
There will be a section named as Services just below those sections. In there also you have to manage Email, FTP, and Web Disk.

  • Email
    To enable or disable email accounts for the new user
    And to set a limit for the account space
  • FTP
    To enable or disable accounts which are accessing via FTP
    Also to select what directory the new user will have access to
    And to limit the space
    (FTP is used to upload files to your website)
  • Web Disk
    Only give permission for your top-level admins.
    Read-Write level – gives the user full permission to do anything within the specified directory including deleting files
    Read-Only level – only allows reading, downloading and listing files

Once you have finished, click Create or Create and Add Another User which is located at the end of the Settings page.


Managing Domain Names

If you want to add a new domain name to your hosting account or to manage existing domains and also to set up subdomains you have to go to the DOMAINS section.

How to add a new domain name

For that click Addon Domains in the DOMAINS section. You can use addon domains to create a website and in other words, you will be able to host multiple domain names from the same control panel.
Just fill out the following in the Addon Domains section.

  1. New Domain Name
    The same name that you’ve already registered, without the part.
  2. Subdomain
    This will be filled out automatically once you enter the domain name
    So just leave it
  3. Document Root
    This is the location where your new domain’s files will be.
    It also will be filled out automatically.

Finally, click on Add Domain.

How to edit or remove a domain name

In the Addon Domains screen, there will be a section called Modify Addon Domain. From there you can manage all domains currently assigned to your account. Managing is setting redirections or even the complete removal of domains. That will be very simple. To remove and manage the redirections there will be some links on the right side. Once you click on them, it will carry you to another setting panel. At there you can confirm the deletion or enter the destination that you want to redirect the domain.

How to manage subdomains

Each and every time you add a new domain to your account, cPanel will make a corresponding subdomain to go alongside. Let’s look at the following example:

First, let’s take your cPanel account name as alex and the host is goodhost.com. So your primary server domain will be alex.goodhost.com. When you add a new addon domain-like alexsworld.com, cPanel will automatically create a subdomain named as alexsworld.alex.goodhost.com.

But the problem with that setup is the new subdomain usually has a copy of your previous website which is available under alexsworld.com. Similarly, you have the same website twice under two addresses. Those would be alexsworld.com and alexsworld.alex.goodhost.com.
Therefore to fix this you have to redirect the new subdomain to your standard domain. Once that is done anyone who is trying to go to alexsworld.alex.goodhost.com will be redirected to alexsworld.com automatically.

Just follow the steps given below to do that.
Go to the DOMAINS section and click Subdomains. Then you will see all of your existing subdomains in a panel. The Redirection column will be blank as in the below image. Now you have to click on the Manage Redirection which is situated next to the subdomain you are planning to edit.
After that, in the next screen type the full domain name that you are planning to redirect to. That will be alexsworld.com in our case. Once done, click Save.

How to create custom subdomains

Even though custom subdomains may cause very tiny inconveniences they also allow you to expand some areas of your site.
Imagine if you want to launch a new blog post as part of your website, doing that under a subdomain will be a very good approach. Let’s take an example and take alexsworld.com it as the main website. Now you may consider launching a blog named blog.alexsworld.com.
blog is just an example and you can choose whatever subdomain you prefer. Another thing is you will be able to create a custom subdomain on the same screen where you managed the existing domains. The only thing you have to do is fill the form!

  • Subdomain
    The name of the subdomain
    Only use letters, dashes, and numbers
    Make it short
  • Domain
    The main domain of your subdomain
  • Document Root
    The directory/folder on the server where you are planning to keep the files of the new subdomain
    Ex: blog.alexsworld.com

Once done, click Create.

Email accounts and settings

If you are choosing a cPanel enabled web host you’ll get some benefits. Like to create custom email accounts for that particular domain. You can do this by entering the EMAILS section. You will be seeing a number of tools there that can be used in creating new emails, setting forwarders, autoresponders, taking care of spam likewise.

 

How to set up an email account

Before going into the advanced stuff, you have to add a new email account to your domain. First, click Email Accounts and then stay in the first tab. That will be Add Email Account.

Then follow me and fill out the form.

  • Email
    Enter your preferred address
    Ex: hello or yourname
  • Domain
    Choose the proper domain name from the drop-down list. (If you have not added the domain name to cPanel, first do that!)
  • Password
    Create a strong, secure one
  • Mailbox Quota
    Adjust accordingly
    1GB (=1024MB) would be the minimum

Then click on Create Account.

Then you can change to the Email Accounts tab. There you will see that the email you created just a while ago is added to the list. In near future you will be able to manage that account; the password, quota, and all other details.

How to use your email

Basically there are two options

  • To configure the email in an email client like Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook, etc
  • Use Webmail
Configuring your email locally

The first thing you have to do is go to the Email Accounts tab. Then next to your address there will be a link named Access Webmail. Click it. After that, you will be navigated to a new panel. There, navigate down to the section named as Mail Client Automatic Configuration Scripts. As you can see in the above image there are some links. Those links are with instructions or ready-made configuration scripts for famous clients. If you can see yours in the list, click the link next to it. Then complete the configuration accordingly.
Either you want a manual configuration or you can’t see your client just scroll down a bit. You will see another section named as Mail Client Manual Settings. Then proceed as you wish.

How to access your Webmail?

In the Email Accounts tab, click on Access Webmail which is on the right side of your address. Then click on one of the available webmail clients. Once you click you will be in your email inbox.
Similarly, you can access your Webmail directly using a browser. Just go to http://YOURDOMAIN.com/webmail and you will see the following screen. So, just enter the email address and password.

How to forward your email to another address

Imagine if you want to have your emails to arrive at YOUREMAIL@YOURDOMAIN.com to be forwarded to YOUREMAIL@gmail.com. Actually you can do that within minutes.
Click on Forwarders. Then you can create a sample email forwarder or else another forwarder for your entire domain name.
Let’s look at the former one.
First, click on Add Forwarder. Then you will see the following screen with several fields.

  • Address to Forward
    Enter the user part of the email address that you want to forward.
    Ex: enter alex if your email is alex@domain.com
  • Domain
    The domain part of the email address that you want to forward.
    Ex: enter domain.com if your email is alex@domain.com
  • Destination
    Select Forward to Email Address
    Enter the full email address where you want to redirect in the field below

Then click Add Forwarder to finalize.

How to set up a default address

By setting up a default address you will be able to catch any incoming email that is sent to an invalid email address under your domain name.
In other words, you can use fake or non-existent email addresses when signing up for various online things but still can get those emails delivered to you.
Let me explain to you more using an example. Let’s take your email address as alex@alexsworld.com. And it is the only one that is set up for your domain name. You want to sign up for Netflix but don’t want to use that address. Therefore you can use something like netflix@alexsworld.com.

Now let’s look at how to set that up.
Go to the EMAIL section in cPanel and click Default Address.
Your screen will look like this. From the drop-down select your domain name. Then tick the box saying Forward to Email Address. In the below box enter your existing email address. Finally, click the Change button. And you are good to go!

How to set up spam filters

Fortunately, cPanel has an option to filter the troublesome plans.
First, click on Spam Filters and see the available options. As your web host has only enabled some options, there won’t be a lot to handle. In my case, the spam filters were on by default and I couldn’t disable them. But I still managed to adjust some settings.
First, let’s start with Automatically Delete New Spam. I think it is better to leave it because some important emails may falsely be taken as spam and you may miss them if you enable that option.
Then click on the link under Additional Configurations. You can see how the blacklist and whitelist work by manually blacklisting or whitelisting some email addresses. Once the experiment is over you can whitelist all emails from your company or any other important contacts.

How to Manage Your Files

You can go to the FILES section in the cPanel to upload files, backup your website, and manage your files using FTP.
FTP indicates File Transfer Protocol which you can use to manage the files which are associated with your website. That may be uploading, reading, or retrieving even. You have to use FTP with a client application like FileZilla.

How to use the File Manager

Initially go to the FILES section and then File Manager. Basically File Manager lets you manage all the files of your site directly via cPanel. You won’t be needing a single third party FTP tool.
Click the File Manager and you will see a screen like this. From here you can manage all the files in your server so you have to be extra cautious when making any modifications.
On the left side of the screen, you will see the root folder and some subfolders. In the middle, you will see the contents of the selected folder.
Now let’s take a look at what you can do here.

Creating a new folder

You just have to click on +Folder button as shown below. Then you will be asked to enter the name of the new folder and its location. Once done, click Create New Folder.

 

Uploading a file using File Manager

The first thing you have to do is click on the folder where you want to upload the file into. And then click the Upload button which is located in the top menu. Then just drag and drop the file or else you can select the file from your local drive.

Important: you can use your website software to upload files if it allows you to do so via the user interface. That will be easier than going all the way to File Manager in cPanel. Because your website software will see the files immediately.

How to access your main FTP account

You might be or might not be able to log into your main FTP account using the same cPanel login and pass. That will depend on how your web host has set up your cPanel account.
To confirm that click on FTP Accounts after going to the FILES section. Then navigate down to Special FTP Ac

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