What are the WordPress core files?

When you install WordPress, you are actually installing a group of files (the “WordPress core”) that become the admin interface of your website.

You may never need to look into these WordPress core files. However, you will probably need to troubleshoot them at some point, and it will be very useful to have an understanding of what you’re looking at when you’re trying to find an offending file.

You could split the WordPress files into two groups – the core files and the content files. Core files make up the appearance and functionality of the WordPress platform, and content files are added by the user in the form of themes, plugins, and images. There is also a special file called wp-config.php that tells WordPress where to find your site’s database.


To access the WordPress files, you’ll need to use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client. To put it simply, when you access a site via FTP, you are viewing the files that live online, and transferring these files to and from your computer. To achieve this, you either need to access the files through your browser (by logging into your web host’s cPanel), or by using an FTP client (a desktop application). There are many of these to choose from, however I use and recommend Cyberduck, an open source client. The instructions and screencast in this course are using Cyberduck, however you can adapt them for any FTP client.

To access your site in Cyberduck, you’ll need to input the FTP login details for your server. You can find these in the welcome email from your web host, or by logging into your host’s cPanel and finding the “FTP accounts” section. The details you’ll need are: FTP server address, user name, and password.

Once you log in, you’ll see a few folders. The structure and naming of these folders depends on your web host. However, most of the time you’ll see a folder called “public_html” or “www.” That’s where your website files live.

If your WordPress site is installed in the root (the top level) of your domain, opening up this folder will reveal a list of all the WordPress files and folders. If your site is installed in a subdirectory, you will need to also open the folder it’s contained in.

This is what you’ll see:


To transfer files to and from your computer, you can just drag-and-drop. And to delete, just highlight the file you want to delete and choose “delete” from the action menu button. So, for instance, if you’ve installed a plugin and it has broken your site (this has happened to me on more than one occasion), you can simply navigate to the plugins folder (wp-content>plugins) and delete the offending plugin folder. Or, if you’re having trouble with the automatic installation of a theme or plugin, you can navigate to the appropriate place via FTP and drag-and-drop the folder right into the right place. This will be the main reason for accessing your site via FTP, so as I said in the beginning, it’s worth knowing how to do it!

2 responses to “What are the WordPress core files?”

  1. […] special file called wp-config.php that tells WordPress where to find your site’s database. (ref. http://wpsupergeek.com/what-are-the-wordpress-core-files/ […]

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