How to manage File and Folder Permissions on WordPress Websites



Managing file and folder permissions is a crucial aspect of maintaining a secure and functional WordPress website. Proper permissions ensure that only authorized users can access, modify, or execute files and directories, preventing unauthorized access and potential security vulnerabilities. This guide covers the essential aspects of managing file and folder permissions on your WordPress website.

Understanding File and Folder Permissions

File and folder permissions determine who can read, write, or execute files and directories on your server. These permissions are typically represented by a set of three numbers, such as 755 or 644, which correspond to the permissions for the owner, group, and others.

Permission Notation

  • Read (r): Allows viewing the contents of the file or directory.
  • Write (w): Allows modifying the file or directory contents.
  • Execute (x): Allows executing the file or accessing the directory.

Permissions are set in three groups:

  1. Owner: The user who owns the file.
  2. Group: Other users in the file’s group.
  3. Others: Everyone else.

For example, the permission 755 means:

  • Owner: Read, Write, Execute (7)
  • Group: Read, Execute (5)
  • Others: Read, Execute (5)

Recommended Permissions for WordPress


  • Standard Files: 644
    • Owner: Read, Write
    • Group: Read
    • Others: Read


  • Standard Directories: 755
    • Owner: Read, Write, Execute
    • Group: Read, Execute
    • Others: Read, Execute

Important Files

  • wp-config.php: 440 or 400
    • Owner: Read (and Write if 400)
    • Group: None
    • Others: None

Changing Permissions


  1. Connect to Your Server: Use an FTP/SFTP client like FileZilla to connect to your web server.
  2. Navigate to Your WordPress Directory: Locate the files and folders you want to modify.
  3. Change Permissions: Right-click on the file or folder and select “File Permissions” or “Attributes.” Enter the desired numeric value (e.g., 644 for files, 755 for directories) and apply the changes.

Using cPanel File Manager

  1. Log in to cPanel: Access your hosting account’s cPanel.
  2. Open File Manager: Navigate to the “File Manager” tool.
  3. Change Permissions: Locate your WordPress installation, right-click the file or folder, and select “Change Permissions.” Set the permissions as needed and save.

Using Command Line (SSH)

  1. Access Your Server via SSH: Use an SSH client to connect to your server.
  2. Navigate to Your WordPress Directory
  3. Change Permissions: Use the chmod command to set permissions. For example:
    chmod 644 wp-config.php
    chmod 755 wp-content

Security Considerations

  1. Least Privilege Principle: Assign the minimum permissions necessary to reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
  2. Regular Audits: Periodically check and adjust permissions where required to maintain maximum security.
  3. Sensitive Files: Ensure files like wp-config.php have restrictive permissions (440 or 400) to protect sensitive information.
  4. Plugin and Theme Permissions: Be cautious with plugin and theme directories; ensure they don’t have overly permissive settings.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Permission Errors

  • 403 Forbidden Errors: These usually occur when permissions are too restrictive. Ensure directories are set to 755 and files to 644.
  • 500 Internal Server Errors: Incorrect permissions on important files like .htaccess or wp-config.php can cause this. Verify and correct their permissions.

Upload Errors

  • Unable to Upload Files: This may be due to insufficient permissions on the wp-content/uploads directory. Ensure it is set to 755.

Update Errors

  • Cannot Update Plugins/Themes: This can occur if the web server doesn’t have write permissions. Ensure the wp-content directory and its subdirectories are set to 755.


Managing file and folder permissions is a fundamental aspect of maintaining a secure and efficient WordPress website. By following best practices and regularly auditing your permissions, you can significantly reduce the risk of security breaches and ensure your website runs smoothly. Always remember to apply the principle of least privilege, giving users only the permissions they need to perform their tasks.
WP Foundry will soon include a function which, where possible, fixes your permissions for you. If WP Foundry is unable to fix the permissions automatically (e.g. if sudo access is required), it will generate the shell commands for you to copy and paste into the terminal. Easy!


One response to “How to manage File and Folder Permissions on WordPress Websites”

  1. […] Your File Permissions:Set appropriate file permissions on your WordPress directories and files to prevent unauthorized modification or access. Limit the […]

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