14 Aug 2019

Step-by-Step cPanel Beginners Guide | Create, Login & Manage

What is cPanel?

cPanel is a tool that allows you to manage your entire web hosting account. cPanel is secure, updated regularity and easy  to use – making it the perfect choice for people or web masters managing one or multiple websites. 

cPanel is the most popular award-winning Linux web hosting control panel, often offered for free by many website hosts. In saying that, some hosts charge monthly for cPanel, so it pays to shop around. 

cPanel has been around for two decades and is an extremely useful tool for website administration.There is some confusion as to what the difference is between WordPress and cPanel is, as well as why you should use cPanel in the first place. In this article we’ll discuss everything to do with cPanel, how to use it, who should use it, and it’s many applications.

cPanel user statistics are pretty impressive – they have over 3 million customers and support 889,970 live websites around the world. cPanel is the fifth most used Content management system in the UK. WordPress is still number one with 62% of UK websites running on WordPress and just 4.65% using cPanel as a CMS. 

 cPanel is a lot more than a CMS. You can administer your whole server direct from your web browser through their easy to use interface or API. This includes setting up email addresses, configuring domain names as well was managing content. 

This article is meant as a complete beginners guide to using cPanel in 2019, so I’ll keep it super simple and easy to follow even for the complete cPanel or technical novice. I’ll start off with the basics so that you have a foundation to work from. So if you already know a bit about cPanel you can fast forward to the more technical aspects.

What’s the Difference between cPanel, FTP and WordPress?

cPanel – is your server control panel. Use cPanel to set up domains, sub-domains, emails, user permissions, upload large files and databases for your website. 

WordPress – is a content management system (CMS) similar to Drupal or Joomla. 

FTP – allows you to upload files to your website. However, you can also do this directly from cPanel.

cPanel – A brief history

cPanel and Web Host Manager (WHM) are both owned by the same company and are based in Houston, Texas. The first version of cPanel was released in 1996 and was initially created as the control panel for a web hosting company called “Speed Hosting” – now defunct. cPanel was acquired by Oakley capital in 2018. Oakley capital also own Plesk and SolusVM.

What is Web Host Manager (WHM)?

WHM is the master account, under which you can access cPanel accounts for each of your websites. You should see a list of websites (if you own a few domain names). From here you can manage your cPanel accounts. 

What Can You Do With cPanel?

Before you jump in to use cPanel, it’s important to decide if the tool is for you. If you are managing multiple websites, cPanel is extremely useful. Here is a brief list of what you can do with cPanel:-

  • Point domain names to your website hosting
  • Create professional email addresses for your website.
  • Make website backups
  • Upload content to your website
  • Manage your usage and bandwidth
  • Install applications to your server
  • Manage security settings easily 
  • Manage databases and add new databases
  • And much more…

Although cPanel is comprehensive, they have done a great job of making the graphical user interface (GUI) easy to use. You don’t need to use all of the features to benefit from cPanel and their easy –to-use interface allows you to get as advanced as you like, once you are comfortable with the features. 

How Do I Find My cPanel?

It’s really easy to locate your cPanel. All you have to do is add “/cPanel” to your domain name, for example “mysite.com/cpanel”. Once you are there you’ll need to input your username and password, simple as that.

Alternatively you can find your cPanel account inside your hosting provider dashboard. Depending on what web hosting provider you are using, the dashboard may differ.  For example, on Bluehost you’ll find your cPanel by clicking on the word “Advanced”. If you cannot locate your cPanel via your dashboard on your hosting account then reach out to their customer support team. 

How Do I Log in to cPanel?

After you have located your cPanel account, bookmark the login page for future use. You should see the following login screen. You’ll need to set up a secure username and password to login to your cPanel, so keep these details safe to make it simple to login in the future. 

PRO TIP: Make sure to use a secure password as password breaches are possible if you use a weak password. Meaning people could easily access and hack your websites with a weak password.

Want to be a cPanel Pro?

If you want to dive in deep and get pro at cPanel, you can do this for free by visiting the cPanel Tutorials page. Here you’ll find all sorts of information on branding your cPanel (if you are setting up a hosting company or want to make your cPanel look professional). You can also learn how to set up mailing lists, forwarders, manage SSH keys and much more.

Finding Your Way Around cPanel

Great, you’ve logged into cPanel, what now? 

You should see a dashboard similar to the one below.

You’re dashboard might not look like ours but its ease enough to change the look and feel of your cPanel dashboard. 

cPanel Styling

If you want to change the look and feel of your cPanel, you can do so by selecting “PREFERENCES” and then “Change Style”. You’ll normally find this at the bottom of your screen, however this varies depending on the current theme of your cPanel dashboard. 

You should find a list of theme types, again this can vary depending on your host. We’re using the Paper Lantern theme. You can check what theme that you are using down the right hand side. 

If you scroll down to the very bottom of your dashboard you should find the “Change Style” icon.

Once in there you can choose from: Basic, dark, light and retro (we’re using “Basic”)

Reorganizing your cPanel’s Dashboard/ Homepage

Your cPanel dashboard can be customized by re-organising sections, to allow you to have the most used functions at the top. It’s as simple as hovering over the section header – for example the  “FILES” section and then dragging them to re-order the sections. 

What are cPanel Functions and How Do I use them?

cPanel calls each action that you want to perform via their user interface a “function”. “Change style” is an example of a function and “domains” is another example of a function (accessible via the cPanel dashboard). Inside each of the functions you can manage various aspects of your website. 

You can easily access functions on the dashboard by searching in the white search bar which reads “Find functions quickly by typing here”. Begin typing and cPanel will populate your screen with the corresponding function.

cPanel Navigation Bar

At the very top of the dashboard page you’ll see the navigation bar. The far left is the cPanel logo and a simple search to search the entire management system. To the right of the search you’ll see a white silhouette and the name of the specific account (we’ve covered this for privacy reasons). 

If you hover over the arrow to the right of your username then there is a user preferences tab where you can reset your password, change security, change language, change style, update contact information and reset page settings. There is also a notifications bell that lets you know about cPanel updates, and finally – a link to logout. 

Updating Your Password

Make sure to keep your password safe, changing it periodically is a good idea for security. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to change your password and keep it safe.  

1. Hover over the arrow to the right of your username

2. Select “Password & Security”

3. Enter your old password in the top box that says “Old Password”.

4. Click the “password generator” to automatically generate a new strong password

Or

5. a) Input a strong password of your choice

6. Press the blue button at the bottom of the page that says “Change your password now” to save your new password.

7. Keep your new password safe by following the “Protect Your Password” tips at the bottom of the page.

Update Your Contact Information 

Make sure to keep your contact information current. cPanel uses this information to keep you up to date with your configuration. You mustn’t use an email address on the domain name that you are managing as a contact email, because if your domain name goes down you’ll not be able to find out.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to update your contact information.   

1. Hover over the arrow to the right of your username

2. Select “Contact Information”

3. Add in a few email addresses that you can be contacted on

4. Contact Preferences (Recommended: select all of the checkboxes)

The check boxes at the bottom of the page are selected so that you get information about any suspicious activity on your account, SSL certification expiry, when your account reaches bandwidth etc… So it is a good idea to have all of these selected so that you’ll get alerted if there are any changes to your account. 

5. Once you have updated your email address then make sure to hit the blue “save” button at the bottom of the page.

Navigating the cPanel Side Bar 

On the far left of your screen (just under the cPanel logo) you’ll find some icons. These vary depending on your web host provider. On mine I have “home” that takes you back to the main dashboard and “user manager”.

Depending on what your host offers, you may have more icons with additional features like “statistics” (where you’ll be able to overview the bandwidth and usage). I don’t have this feature on this particular domain. 

The cPanel “user manager” icon that appears just under the “home” icon in my account allows the management of additional users on your account. Simple – right?! You can check what rights the users have, for instance – do they have FTP access or email accounts? You can add, edit and delete user preferences in this area. 

How to Add a New User in cPanel 

Why would you want to add a new user to your cPanel account? New users can be added for anyone else who wants to manage your websites. This may be a business partner, web developer, colleague or anyone else you want to be able to access your cPanel. 

1. You can access your user manager from the icon on the left of the screen, under the logo (or by going to the preferences section on your dashboard). Once selected you should see the following screen:

Here you can see I have two users – “veganhealth” and “veganhealth_logs”. I am currently logged in as veganhealth. You will see all of your registered users here. 

2. Next to the account you can see three icons – an envelope, a vehicle and a server box.

a).The Envelope –The envelope tells you if the user has an email registered. Grey means there is no email registered; blue indicates that they do have an email registered.

b).The Vehicle – The vehicle lets you know if the user has an FTP account. Grey means they don’t have an FTP account; blue indicates that they do have an FTP account.

c).The Server Box – The server box icon lets you know if the user can access the web discs. 

3. If you are the administrator of the account you can change their password, delete user.

How to Add Users to Your cPanel Account 

1. Tap blue “Add user” button (top right). You should now see the following screen:-

2. Fill in the new user details on the form, including their name, username and email. Account notifications and password reset confirmations to this email address you provide.

3. Create a secure password for your new user

The Services Section 

4. In the services section you can set preferences that will be shown next to your new user as the icons I outlined above. Email, FTP and Web Disc space.

5. Email: Toggle to enable and disable the users email address

6. Email: Allocate the amount of email resources that they have as the allocated “quota”.

7. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol: FTP access gives the user permission to upload files to your server. 

8. FTP: You can enable or disable FTP access. 

9. FTP: Allocate what directory (folder on your server) that the user can access. Like the email setting you can allocate the amount of space they can use on your server.

10. Web Disk: So long as you allocate the correct folder to the user, they can only alter files in that area. However, to be sure, save the Web Disk space for admin users that you trust. 

11. Web Disk: You’ll see that you can select Read-Write or Read-Only. Read-Write allows the user to delete and write over files. Read only is for users that you want to be able to read the files but not over write them.

12. Save User: To save the new user click the blue “Create” button, alternatively you can cancel or decide to go ahead and create another user account.

Managing Your Domain Names in cPanel 

To manage your domain names you need to go to the “DOMAINS” section on the main dashboard. You can simply begin to type Domains and be taken directly to the domain name function section of your cPanel dashboard.

Adding/ Modifying Domain Names 

To add a new domain name to your cPanel account you’ll want to select “Addon Domains” as seen above. Just click the green “plus” sign. You should then be taken to the screen below:

Adding/ Modifying Domain Names 

To add a new domain name to your cPanel account you’ll want to select “Addon Domains” as seen above. Just click the green “plus” sign. You should then be taken to the screen below:

To find out more about this feature you can review the cPanel documentation here.

1a) Type in the domain name that you own in the top field, omit the http://www. And just put “yourdomain.com” – substituting “yourdomain.com” for your actual domain name and extension.

1b) After you have added in your “New Domain Name” the subdomain field will automatically populate with the domain name when you click on it.

1c) The domain root will automatically fill in

1d) Tap “Add Domain” to save your add on domain.

Modifying Domain Names

2a) If you scroll down on the addon domain screen you should see the modify domain name screen (shown below)

If you have already set up subdomains you can manage them on this page

3. Fill in the “Subdomain” field with the subdomain you want to add to your site 

4. Click the blue “create” button to save.

Subdomain Redirection

Once your subdomain is set up you’ll want to decide where it is pointed. 

To do this you can follow these steps:

1. Scroll down to the “Modify Subdomains” section (at the bottom of the subdomains page)

2. Hit “redirection” next to the subdomain you want to point.

3. Add in the url of the page that you want your subdomain to point to

4. Press the blue “save” button (alternatively you can disable the redirection that you’ve set)

Why Create a Subdomain? 

You might want to expand on a certain area of your site, for example a blog or a recipe section. A subdomain gives you more flexibility to add on whole new sections and features to your website.

Create Custom Email Accounts 

You can create professional looking email addresses for your domain directly from your cPanel. To do this simply go back to dashboard and follow these steps.

1. Search for “email accounts” on your cPanel dashboard

2. Click “email accounts” and you’ll be taken to the following screen:

3. To create a new email address hit the blue “create” button – neatly circled in red above.

4. Select your website from the dropdown shown in silver – make sure you have added your domain name to cPanel. If not then add it as shown above.

5. Then you’ll want to enter the email address for your website, for example “info” or “hello” 

6. Create a secure password for your new email address. You can do that with the “generate” button next to the password field

7. Set Mailbox Quota, that will be the amount of data in email format that can be stored in this mailbox. Set a reasonable limit depending on the amount of space you have on your server.

8. Click on the blue “Create” to set up your  new email address

How do I use my New Email Address? 

Good question! Once you have set up your new professional email address you need to be able to access software to send and receive emails. You can do this with either:

1. Email Client – eg. Gmail or Outlook

2. Webmail

Let’s roll with Webmail to start with. Here is a step by step guide to setting up Webmail to use your email address. 

1. Select “Check Email” on your email accounts page – next to the email account you are trying to access. I was offered two options as seen below:-

1. I then selected “Roundcube” which is an open source software that is completely free

2. I can now send and receive emails this way, super easy!

Accessing Your Webmail 

Whenever you want to go in and send and receive emails you can simply go back to the “check email” tab next to your email address and check your mail.

You can also access your webmail by adding the suffix /webmail to your domain name in the URL navigation bar. You then need to enter the email address and password that you set in your cPanel. 

PRO TIP: Webmail is great when you are setting up multiple email addresses as they can be set up free and easily shared with team members. 

Email Forwarding 

You might want to manage all of your emails from a central email address. If so, you’ll want to set up an email forwarder. 

1. Back on the dashboard, search for “Forwarders” and you’ll find it in the EMAIL section

You can choose to forward a single email address or all email addresses for a domain.

The blue “Add Forwarder” button allows you to add a forwarder for a single email address. The blue “Add Domain Forwarder” allows you to add an email forwarder for all emails on that domain.

Let’s focus on the first “Add forwarder button”.

Step 1 – Click the first blue “Add Forwarder” button and you should see this screen

Step 2 – Add the user part of the email address, for example “your.name” or “hello” (eg. If you wanted to forward your email Michael@yoursite.com you’d simply input Michael into the “address to forward” field.

Step 3 – The domain section is a dropdown of all available domain names on your cPanel account. Tap the arrow to the right and select the domain name of the email address that you want to forward. (eg. Using our previous example Michael @yoursite.com – you’d select yoursite.com from the dropdown)

PROTIP: You’ll only see domain names that you own and are on this current instance of cPanel in the dropdown field.

Step 4 – Choose the destination by selecting “forward to email address” and inputting the email address that you want your “address to forward” (email on  your domain) to forward to.

Step 5 – Make sure to tap the blue “Add Forwarder” button at the bottom to action your email forwarding.

How to Set Up Spam Filters 

This part is important, as you won’t want your email address filled with pointless spam emails. Software like Gmail puts spam in a folder, however with your Webmail account you need to set up these filters. 

Step 1 – On your cPanel Dashboard select “Spam Filters” from the EMAIL section. You should now see the following screen:

Normally the spam filter is enabled as standard. However, it’s a good idea to check this and also select what preferences suit you. As you can see my spam filter (Apache SpamAssassin) is enabled.

Step 2 – You can also choose to Automatically Delete New Spam.  However, that means that you might miss out on an email that was marked as spam by mistake. Instead I’d suggest putting your spam emails in a spam folder so that  you can double check it when you want. 

Step 3 – Select the toggle – “Move New Spam to a Separate Folder (Spam Box)” – and the slider will go blue. You can empty your spam folder

Step 4 – Empty your spam box periodically to free up disc space by selecting “Configure Spam Box Settings” and then emptying the spam box folder by clicking on the “Empty the Spam box older for “youremail 

Using the cPanel File Manager 

Use your file manager to upload files, backing up your website and FTP management.  The “File Manager” is a really handy tool for managing all of the files on your site. You can do this directly from the file manager section of cPanel, without needing to use an FTP tool, which is great as FTP tools are a bit daunting for the beginner. 

1.  Search for “File Manager” on your dashboard – select this option and you should see the following screen:

PROTIP: Be very careful, and double check everything when you are in the File Manager section. 

Navigating the File Manger

The left pane shows your root folder, which is the main folder on your website. You can click on the plus sign next to the folders to expand the section and see the subfolders inside the file.

The middle pane shows the files that you have double clicked on. 

2. To Create New Folder follow the following steps:

Step 1 – Click on the “+ Folder”  icon seen below:

Step 2 – Give your new folder a name and decide where the folder will be created – the destination of the folder

Step 3 – Save your new folder by tapping the  “Create New Folder” button.

Using File Manager to Upload Files

Step 1 – Select the folder that you’d like to add your new file to

Step2 – Tap on the “Upload” icon as seen in the screen shot below:

Step 3 – Select the file that you want to upload from your computer. 

Managing FTP Accounts 

In the “FILES” section on your main cPanel dashboard you’ll find both a link to your FTP accounts and FTP connections. You’ll find your main (root) FTP account details at the bottom of the page under “Special FTP Accounts”.

If you select the action “Configure FTP client” then the section should expand and let you know more details about your FTP account. Depending on your host, you might be able to access your root FTP account with the same details as your cPanel account.

Creating a New FTP Account

Creating a new FTP account for people to access a specific area of your server is good practice.  To create a new FTP account follow these steps:

Step 1 – Search for FTP accounts on the dashboard. When you click through you should see the following screen:

Step 2 – Create the username and password for the new FTP account. 

Step 3 – Select the domain name from the dropdown

Step 4 – IMPORTANT – make sure you select a folder that will be the highest level of access for that particular FTP account. You don’t want to leave the field blank as that’ll give the user full access to the main or root FTP account. 

Step 5 – Decide on the maximum amount of space that user will have, you can select unlimited or decide on a quota.. 

Step 6 – Tap the blue button “Create FTP Account”, to create the new FTP account.

PROTIP: You will find the FTP accounts listed on the same page at the bottom. You can search for FTP accounts if you have a lot of them and manage the permissions on the same page.

Create & Manage Databases 

You can create and manage databases associated with your website directly from cPanel. Firstly lets look at creating a database:

Creating a Database

Websites that use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress,  will always require a database to run them. 

You can use either MySQL or Postgre SQL databases with your cPanel account. 

Step 1 – Search for MySQL and then choose “MySQL Database Wizard” from the “DATABASES” section of your cPanel dashboard.

Step 2 – Type in a name for your database.

Step 3 – You’ll then be taken to a page titled “Create database users”, create a username and secure password

Step 4 Select option “ALL PRIVILEGES” to assign privileges to that user. 

To see it, go back to the main page of cPanel and click on “MySQL Databases”.

PRO TIP: You can go in and view/ edit your databases by searching for MySQL Databases on your cPanel dashboard.

Manage Databases & Users

To manage your databases go to the MySQL database section on your dashboard and scroll down to view “Current Databases”.

You can rename or delete a database directly from this section of the page

If you scroll down you can manage users under the “Current Users” heading. Here you can change the user’s password, rename or delete the users.

Software & Installation 

Depending on your hosting package, you might be able to install apps with one click using the “Softaculous Apps Installer” under the SOFTWARE section in your cPanel dashboard.  If you have access to the “Softaculous Apps Installer” then you’ll be able to install apps like WordPress with one click. 

Website Backups with cPanel 

Loosing your website and content can be costly and devastating. Ensuring that you’ve properly backed up your website will keep your website and content safe in the event that your site gets hacked, corrupted or the server dies. Here is a guide on how to create website backups with cPanel:

Step 1 – Search for “Backup Wizard” on your cPanel dashboard. You’ll find it under “FILES”. Then you should see the following page:

FTP client” then the section should expand and let you know more details about your FTP account. Depending on your host, you might be able to access your root FTP account with the same details as your cPanel account.

Creating a New FTP Account

Creating a new FTP account for people to access a specific area of your server is good practice.  To create a new FTP account follow these steps:

Step 1 – Search for FTP accounts on the dashboard. When you click through you should see the following screen:

Step 2 – You can begin a full or partial backup by clicking the blue “backup” button. 

PROTIP: Keep your website backup on a different server or external drive. 

Step 3 – Wait for the backup to complete and then download it. 

Manage Disk Usage 

You normally get allocated a certain amount of disc space to upload files to your server. If you have a great host, you might even have unlimited space. 

PRO TIP: Check your disc space at least once a month to see where you’re using the most  space and free it up by deleting un-necessary files. 

Check the right hand “STATISTICS” section on your dashboard to view your used disc space. 

All in All 

cPanel is really easy to use, even for the complete beginner, mainly thanks to the fact that more advanced options are not shown immediately. The user interface is extremely simple to use and navigate, especially when following the steps in this guide. I hope that you found this guide to cPanel useful.

Share this

UKWebHostReview.com - Best Web Hosting Comparison