FileZilla Tutorial – Setting Default Directories

FileZilla is a real nice FTP utility that competes well with WS_FTP, CuteFTP and other popular tools. The best part about FileZilla is that it is a free download from Source Forge.

The only issue I have with FileZilla is that the user interface is designed more for seasoned professionals and tends to stump users who are not familiar with FTP utilities. In this tutorial lesson we will show you how to set default directories in order to make your file transfer connections simpler and more efficient.

Setting Default Directories for Downloading

When you set default directories, every time you make a connection using an FTP utility you are assured that both the local (your PC) and the remote (the server) directories will be set to the root directories or wherever you want to start. This avoids the annoying task of having to navigate to the correct directories every time you want to transfer files.

FileZilla site Manager

To set default directories:

  1. Open FireZilla.
  2. Select the Site Manager button on the left side of the toolbar. FileZilla site Manager icon
  3. Single click to select (do not start the connection) an FTP site you already have set up from the Site Manager menu.
  4. Click the Advanced button near the bottom.

FileZilla setting default directories

  1. When the Advanced screen opens, use the button with the three dots to navigate to the local directory on your PC where your web site files are located. Select that directory. The path will display in the Default local directory box. Your path will look different from mine. The working copies of my sites are all on an in-house development server that is designated as Z on my network. The working copy of your site most likely will have a local path on your C drive.
  2. You may or may not need to manually fill in a directory in the Default remote directory box. If you are already connected to the root directory when you make the FTP connection to your web site, you do not need to fill in this box. If however, you are in connected in a directory that is above the root directory, you may have to fill in the server name for the root directory. On most servers running apache, this will be public_html or html. If you see either of these directory names in Remote Site box in FireZilla’s main screen, you are probably not in the root directory, so you will have to enter the name of the root directory. The information you received from your hosting company when you set up the account should explain this.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Click Save and Exit.

When you start the next connection FileZilla should use the default directories that you designated. That means you will no longer have to navigate through your hard drive to find the files you wish to transfer.


  1. chris says

    hehe…this purports to help noobs but then it completely leaves the default remote directory blank – THAT’s the hard bit that noobs have trouble with :)

    Eg. I put in public_html into that box and I get “default remote path” cannot be parsed.
    I tried various permutations but still nothing.

  2. Doogie says

    Hi Chris

    That is just because you did not read the instructions. The Default remote Directory box was intentionally left blank in the example. With some hosting companies, you already are in the default directory when you connect via FTP. You therefore do not need to enter anything. The important part is, “The information you received from your hosting company when you set up the account should explain this.

    If your FTP login places you above the root directory, you will probably see a directory named html
    or public_html listed. Sometimes it is called wwwroot. If you see one of these directory names, that is the root directory name that needs to be placed in the Default Remote Directory box.

    We cannot predict the name of the root directory because that varies depending upon how your hosting company configured the server. ALWAYS check with your hosting company if you are not sure.

  3. Rob Poole says


    Just FYI, your response to Chris was kind of flippant, and also presumptive and not necessarily correct for all of us. Some of us aren’t uploading files to or downloading files from a hosting provider. In my case, I’m sending files to and receiving files from a telecommunication vendor who is helping me troubleshoot an issue at work.

    According to the Filezilla forums, you apparently need to provide a value in the Default Remote Directory field that starts with a / character, in most cases. I’m uploading to a Unix-like (probably Linux) system, and I figured I could use ~/foo instead of /some/absolute/path/foo, but that apparently will not work.

    Please see the following on the Filezilla forums:

  4. Rob Poole says

    Also, just for completeness, I should add that the behavior of the Default Remote Directory field has changed, again per the Filezilla forum post I linked in my previous comment. Apparently, the contents of the field weren’t validated until version 3.2.0 — or perhaps they were validated, but differently.

    Again for reference:

    Sorry if my previous comment seemed a bit strident, but I can’t stand when folks assume someone didn’t read their instructions carefully enough. Chris is right, n00bs (and even seasoned developers) have trouble with this setting.