How to install WordPress themes using cPanel

One of the nicest new features in WordPress 2.7 for self-hosted sites is the ability to install WordPress plugins directly from within the admin console – no more having to FTP files around (note that this only works with plugins that are listed in the WordPress plugins list – for others that aren’t in the list you still have to use the old method).

No such luck with WordPress Themes however; for self-hosted sites you still have to manually upload the files to your hosting account before you can activate them, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see this change in a future release – watch this space.

In this tutorial I’ll walk you through the steps to find and install a new Theme using the cPanel File Manager:

  1. Find a new Theme
  2. Download the Theme to your computer
  3. Upload the Theme to your hosting account
  4. Unzip the Theme
  5. Activate the Theme

Find a new Theme

One of the many great things about WordPress is the vast array of free and premium themes that are available to style your site how you like – particularly if you’re graphically challenged like me! The obvious place to start your search for a new theme is the WordPress Theme Directory; if you don’t find anything to your liking, there are also plenty of other options available. For instance the other day I came across the BuckMaker site which has some eyecatching free themes.

Most places will allow you to preview what different themes look like to help you decide if they’re right for your site; it’s worth checking these out before you continue or you could find yourself uploading multiple different themes to your hosting account before you settle on one.

Download the Theme to your computer

Once you’ve found a theme you like, simply click the download link and save it to your computer – all the theme files should come bundled in a single zip file. Simple.

Upload the Theme to your hosting account

cPanel File Manager iconThe next step is to upload the zip file to your hosting account. You could use a program like FileZilla to FTP the files, but for the sake of this tutorial I’ll be using the cPanel File Manager. So you’ll need to log into your cPanel account, then open the File Manager by clicking on the icon (pictured). The resulting window resembles your operating system file manager: a list of folders on the left, with the selected folder’s files displayed on the right.

cPanel File Manager

  • navigate to your /wp-content/themes folder (as shown)
  • click the Upload button, then navigate to the zip file you downloaded in the previous step. After a brief pause (depending on the speed of your internet connection), a copy of the file should show up in your File Manager.

Unzip the Theme

Still in the File Manager window, select the zip file you’ve just uploaded, then click the Extract button. This unpacks all the theme’s files from the zip file onto the file system, ready to use.

Activate the Theme

The final step is to go to the Appearance > Themes section of your WordPress admin console – you should now see the new Theme available for selection alongside any others that were there to start with. Selecting the theme gives you the opportunity to preview it showing your own content, but without affecting the way visitors see your site. At this point you can either Activate the new theme (top right-hand corner) or back out (top left-hand corner).

And that’s it. It’s a slightly long-winded process, but taking into account that you most likely won’t be changing your theme very often, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s not too arduous!

Related posts:

  1. How to widen the sidebar in WordPress K2
  2. How to exclude pages from WordPress’s page listings
  3. Managing images with the WordPress media manager
  4. WordPress Roles and Capabilities
  5. How to use FTP to transfer files

33 Responses to “How to install WordPress themes using cPanel”

  1. Gravatar of Dover 1 Dover

    I too am graphically challenged, so the ease at which you can use new themes is a major selling point for me with wordpress. I do a good deal of coding and always end up tweaking my themes, but the actual design part is not something I enjoy.

    That is surprising that they did not include the ability to upload themes in 2.7. This seems like a natural step, especially since they let you do it with plugins.

  2. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 2 Rodney Smith

    Dover: I agree, but like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they include this in an upcoming release. WordPress seems to be moving in the direction of being completely self-contained, which obviously makes it a lot easier for novices to use.

  3. Gravatar of insideWebmaster 3 insideWebmaster

    A feature like that would be great. I don’t mind uploading the files, but it sure would be nice if it were as easy as plugins.

  4. Gravatar of Swarovski Crystals 4 Swarovski Crystals

    I think I’ll wait until WordPress Themes can be uploaded. Im pretty sure it will be soon anyway.

  5. Gravatar of Emma Plumber 5 Emma Plumber

    Hi Rodney,

    I have a couple of WP Blogs and a few free hosted blogs. I never have any trouble with the free blogs, but the sites I pay for give me nothing but trouble on nearly every update.

    Today I broke my oldest and best WP blog. I updated to WP 2.7 through Fantastico in cpanel and uploaded a new theme to my site. The new theme wouldn’t upload and now I cannot log into wp-admin and my site has gone.

    So now I have to wait for Host Gator to get back to me.

    Can’t wait for the next update, LOL


  6. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 6 Rodney Smith

    Emma: sorry to hear about your troubles. I hope you made a backup before upgrading…?

    Thankfully, as of 2.7 they’ve made it a lot easier to upgrade to future versions (automatically from within the admin console). So hopefully things’ll go a bit smoother for you in future.

  7. Gravatar of Best Deals Online 7 Best Deals Online

    I find it very easy just to unzip them first and then upload them using ftp to my themes folder.
    I guess whatever you feel comfortable with is best

  8. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 8 Rodney Smith

    Best deals: to be honest, that’s what I normally do to. Uploading the zip before unpacking it is definitely quicker though, and probably uses a lot less bandwidth.

  9. Gravatar of Tina | Tattoo Removal 9 Tina | Tattoo Removal

    I have tried doing some update on my blogs using the cpanel once, and it was a disaster. My blog becomes a mess and it takes about 3 days to have it working well again. The process you discuss in this post seems so easy but I’m still paranoid in using the cpanel…(grin)

  10. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 10 Rodney Smith

    Tina: it is easy, but there is always an element of risk doing upgrades to a site, and you should always make a backup before you start. That way if it goes wrong at least you can roll everything back to where it was before you started.

  11. Gravatar of Make Money From Home 11 Make Money From Home

    Very easy to do with cPanel…thanks for the info.

  12. Gravatar of Qantas 12 Qantas

    “Still in the File Manager window, select the zip file you’ve just uploaded, then click the Extract button. This unpacks all the theme’s files from the zip file onto the file system, ready to use.”

    - I never realised that there were unzip tools in the control panel! I have been unzipping themes on my computer & loading them up 1 by 1 through FTP. This bit of info (which I probably should have already known) has made my day! Thanks :)

  13. Gravatar of Odzyskiwanie Danych 13 Odzyskiwanie Danych

    Most hosting administration panels like cpanel allow unzipping and uploading files. Even without ftp client you can upgrade your software now. Using WP is easier every day.

  14. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 14 Rodney Smith

    Qantas: glad to be of help. I only discovered that one recently myself :-)

  15. Gravatar of Rent PS2 Games 15 Rent PS2 Games

    I have always been nervous about upgrading WP. Currently I just FTP the files using Dreamweaver. Takes a little while longer, but at least there are no worries. The big issue I had last year was installing WP on new sites with Fantastico. The service was often down with the host I use. The issue seems to be resolved now though. Thanks for the post.

  16. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 16 Rodney Smith

    PS2: fortunately it gets easier with every release – upgrading wordpress is now a breeze. Of course, you can still do it manually, but why would you? I’ve never heard of anyone using Dreamweaver to upgrade wordpress, but if it works for you… :)

  17. Gravatar of Caesar 17 Caesar

    I recommend you to use FireFTP instead of FileZilla. Just try it and you will understand why I am using it. A cPanel is there only to help, not to make your job harder. BTW, blogging without WordPress would be just like hell!

  18. Gravatar of Eden 18 Eden

    I’ve known you used the translator plugin, however it is very useful, make me believe the Chinese article was written by yourself!

  19. Gravatar of Stu 19 Stu

    @Caeser – why is FireFTP better than Filezilla?

    Surely it can’t be any easier than dragging the files into the folder on the server you want to put them in, as is the case with Filezilla?

  20. Gravatar of Best Printer Reviews 20 Best Printer Reviews

    I heard WordPress 2.8 allows us to install the theme from the dashboard itself without having to ftp?

  21. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 21 Rodney Smith

    Printers: yes, I think it will, but we’ll have to wait and see.

  22. Gravatar of Shel 22 Shel

    I’ve uploaded a new theme using Filezilla. Everything looks fine but it’s not showing up in wp 2.7 appearance-theme area. I’ve read a few posts elsewhere that this has happened to a few bloggers. Anyone know how I can get the theme to appear? Only the classic ad default themes are showing.

  23. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 23 Rodney Smith

    Shel: make sure you’re uploading the files to the correct location – the whole theme directory must be uploaded to your wp-content/themes directory.

  24. Gravatar of Felix 24 Felix

    I really love WordPress so much and CPanel’s auto install of the package is really convenient. However, CPanel can be very useful during new installation but for upgrade I think it is better that we leave it to the new version of WP to update the core.

  25. Gravatar of Morgan – The Directory Link 25 Morgan – The Directory Link

    I used to unzipped the files before uploaded them. It took a long time. Now I find a way to make it easier. Thank you for this clarification.

  26. Gravatar of yasinta 26 yasinta

    I usually give this work to my friend, lol.. because he hasn’t taught me how to do it, and he said that any minor mistakes could take to a serious mess in my blog, I don’t want to try any experiment for now. Already read your steps, but still can’t get it because many word I don’t understand. Anyway thanks, at least I’ve tried.

  27. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 27 Rodney Smith

    Hi Yasinta, fortunately changing themes isn’t something you need to do all that often anyhow. But really, it’s not hard – get your friend to show you sometime :-)

  28. Gravatar of Romantic Getaways 28 Romantic Getaways

    Damn you plesk… seems like everyone uses cPanel these days!

  29. Gravatar of DLB 29 DLB

    This is actually very helpful, I recently built a site, and was thinking of adding a blog. I was stuck between coding my own (I’m not very good at PHP yet, so its taking a while) or adding wordpress. I did not know about the ability to change themes before but I think that is a good option and adds a point in the argument for WordPress.

  30. Gravatar of Mark 30 Mark

    they included a feature like that in WordPress 2.8 , now you can browse and install themes with just one click, much like plugins…

  31. Gravatar of download adobe photoshop 31 download adobe photoshop

    “One of the many great things about WordPress is the vast array of free and premium themes that are available to style your site how you like – particularly if you’re graphically challenged like me!”

    This is one of the reasons why I transferred my blog from Blogger to WordPress. Blogger is just too limiting, and if you install a free template found in other sites, I oftentimes had problems. WordPress is definitely becoming the blog of choice among discriminating bloggers.

  32. Gravatar of Chris F. Znajomych 32 Chris F. Znajomych

    Funny thing is, that I was using WP 2.8 and the automatic update was working just fine. But now the update feature stopped working with version 2.8.4 – really strange.
    And the update feature for plugins is really annoying. Every second time the update cannot be completed but the plugin itself is already deleted. So you have to manually download it again and install it.
    Pretty unstable in my opinion – but the rest about WP I just like of course a lot.

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