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WordPress is by far the most popular content management system. There are good reasons for that. It is relatively easy to install WordPress and the control panel is very user-friendly. It is also a flexible system: you can install themes to change the design of your website and install plugins to add new functionality. That means that you can use WordPress for just about type of website: from a personal blog to an ecommerce site. Plus, the core system is completely free and open source. Some themes and plugins are not free, but there are plenty of free themes and plugins available.

If you are new to WordPress, we are happy to install WordPress for you. Please submit a support ticket if you would like us to get help you started with hosting your own WordPress website.

Before you install WordPress

There are three things you might want to do before you install WordPress:

  • Firstly, make sure that you are using the latest PHP version. Our cPanel servers let you use different PHP versions, and the default version isn’t always the latest and greatest version.
  • Secondly, get an SSL certificate for your domain if you don’t already have one. We offer a wide range of SSL certificates, including free Let’s Encrypt certificates.
  • And finally, if the DNS for your domain is currently hosted elsewhere then you can use a temporary URL to view your website on the new server (without pointing the DNS to the server). Please contact us if you would like a temporary URL.

Installing WordPress via Softaculous

There are two common ways to install WordPress: you can do so manually or via Softaculous. Both methods are perfectly fine – there is no preferred way of installing WordPress. If you want to install WordPress manually then you should follow the official WordPress guide. Note that you need to know how to use FTP, cPanel’s file manager and create a database.

For this article I will use Softaculous. You can use Softaculous to install various applications, including Drupal, Joomla and Magento. You find Softaculous in the cPanel control panel: enter “softaculous” in cPanel’s search bar and then either select “Softaculous Apps Installer” (under “Software”) or WordPress (under “Softaculous Apps Installer”).

You can install WordPress via cPanel using 'Softaculous'.
Image: opening the Softaculous WordPress installer via cPanel.

Because there are over 400 Softaculous install scripts the interface looks a little busy. Just note for now that you can get back to the cPanel front page by clicking the “cP” logo in the horizontal navigation at the top.

To install WordPress, click on the down-arrow next to the blue Install button and select Custom. The main difference between a quick and custom install is that the latter gives you a few more options. This includes options to automatically update WordPress.

Selecting a custom WordPress install in Softaculous.
Image: selecting ‘Customer Install’ gives you more installation options.

Either way, clicking Install takes you to a new page. Most of the options can be changed after the install has been done, but let’s try to get everything right the first time!

WordPress version and installation URL

At the very top of the page, in the Software Setup section, you can select the WordPress version you want to install and define the website’s URL.

Selecting the WordPress version and installation URL in Softaculous.

By default the latest and greatest WordPress version is installed (which is version 5.6 as I write this article). It is recommended to use the latest version. Like all good software, WordPress is updated regularly. These updates often fix security issues, so by using the latest version your website will be more secure.

The “Installation URL” is an important section. There are three bits of information you need to enter:

  • The protocol
  • Your domain name
  • The directory in which WordPress should be installed

The Protocol can be http://, http://www., https:// or https://www. The two HTTPS options can only be used if your website already has an SSL certificate. If you don’t have an SSL certificate yet, choose either http:// or http://www, depending on whether or not you want your website address to include the www subdomain. It is worth mentioning that you can change the website URL at any time via the WordPress dashboard (under Settings » General).

As an aside, the domain can be a temporary URL. When the website is ready to go live you can change the website URL via the WordPress dashboard and then point the DNS for your domain to the new server.

By default the In Directory field is set to ‘wp’. What that means is that WordPress is installed in the public_html/wp directory. If your domain is example.net then the home page is going to be example.net/wp. If you want to instead install WordPress in the website’s root directory (that is, the public_html folder) then you can simply delete ‘wp’ from the field.

In most cases, you want to remove ‘wp’ from the ‘In Directory’ field. There is one exception though. If there are already website files in the public_html directory then you don’t want to install WordPress in that folder. You would end up with two websites installed in the same directory. That will break things, and it will be difficult to unpick.

Website name and description

Every WordPress website has a site name an site description. The site name is the name of your website and is displayed prominently in the header, while the site description is a tag line that may or may not be displayed, depending on the theme you use. Both the website’s name and description can be changed via the WordPress dashboard. You can keep the default name and description for now if you haven’t yet made up your mind about them.

You can enter your website's name and tag line in Softaculous under 'Site Settings'.
Image: the website name and tag line of your new WordPress website.

Administrator account

The Admin Account section is where you create an account for the WordPress administrator. By default, the administrator’s username is admin and the password is pass. You need to change both. Changing the username makes it more difficult for attackers to hack their way into your WordPress dashboard (because attackers know the default username is “admin”) and the password “pass” is obviously one of the weakest passwords ever created. Choose a sensible username and password, and store them somewhere safe (i.e. in your password manager).

Automatic updates

There are a couple of useful options in the Advanced Options section. By default, WordPress does not automatically update itself. As there will be regular updates you might want to change that setting. Updates add new features and, more importantly, fix security issues. The same is true for any plugins and themes you use. You are going to need to update WordPress regularly, and letting WordPress update itself is a convenient way of doing so.

The Softaculous installer includes options for automatically upgrading your WordPress install.

The one thing to consider is that updates can break things. Should that happen, we can help troubleshoot such issues. If needed we can even restore the entire website from one of our backups – we always got full nightly backups for the last seven days. Still, you may not immediately notice issues caused by automatic updates, and for that reason you might prefer to do updates manually.

If you want you can limit automatic updates to minor versions only (that is, for instance, an upgrade from version 5.6.1 to 5.6.2). These updates are relatively small and unlikely to cause any issues. They are different from major version updates (for instance, from 5.6 to 5.7). Major versions often introduce lots of changes and are therefore more likely to break things. So, if you are worried about automatic updates then only updating minor versions might be a sensible approach.

You can also automatically update plugins and themes. You don’t have to select this options, but if you don’t you will need to manually update them. It is particularly important to update plugins, as the updates often fix security issues.

Automatic backups

Finally, you also got the option to enable automatic backups. By default no backups are made, which is a sensible default. Backups can take up a lot of disk space, in particular if your website has lots of photos and/or videos. If you take regular backups then you might suddenly run out disk space, in which case both your website and email stop working. Also, remember that we have backups of your website for the last seven days. If anything bad happens then we can always roll back your website to a known good state.

That said, we do recommend that you make the occasional backup of your website. In particular, it is always a good idea to make a backup before you do any major work on your website. You can do so via the Backups interface in cPanel. This lets you download a backup file to your computer (so it doesn’t take up space on the server) and you can use the backup file to restore the website if needed.

Hit the button!

After you have double-checked that all the settings are correct you can simply click the Install button. The installation usually only takes a few seconds, but don’t worry if it takes one or two minutes. If all goes well you should see a “Congratulations” message.

As said, you can change most of the settings of your new WordPress install via the WordPress dashboard. For instance, the website name, description and URL are all under Settings » General. It is also possible to make some changes via Softaculous. The main Softaculous page shows an Installations link, which is an overview of all applications you have installed via Softaculous. You can edit most of the information you entered during the install. There is also an option to completely remove the WordPress website.

View your website

You should now be able to see your website. Unless you picked a specific theme in the Softaculous installer uses the default WordPress theme, and it will show some placeholder content.

Our new WordPress website, installed via Softaculous.
Image: the new WordPress website, installed via Softaculous.

The login page for the WordPress dashboard is normally yourdomain/wp-login.php. For instance, the login page for our example.net website is example.net/wp-login.php. If you didn’t make a note of the logins then you can reset your password via the login page. If you can’t remember any of your login credentials, just let us know and we will reset your logins.

At this point you can start tweaking settings, add content and install plugins and themes. If you are new to WordPress then the dashboard may seem a little overwhelming. Take your time to familiarise yourself with WordPress, and make use of online resources. We quite like WP Beginner. Or, if you prefer to learn by watching then you will find lots of tutorials on YouTube as well. And if you run into any errors, we are here to help.

Related articles

This article is part of a series of articles about Softaculous and WordPress. The other articles are:

And the following articles my be of interest if you are (relatively) new to WordPress: