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.htaccess Tutorial

In this tutorial, you will find out about the .htaccess file and the power it has to improve your website. Bluehost supports .htaccess files; however, as a customer, you are responsible for what is in this file and how it changes your site.


Creating a .htaccess File

You can create a .htaccess file on your local computer or on the server.

On your computer

Windows: Using Notepad save the file as .htaccess

Mac OS X: Using TextEdit save the file as ".htaccess"
Note: If you save the file as .htaccess it will be hidden and you will not be able to see it in the Finder.

Using your preferred FTP client upload the file to the server. The .htaccess file will need to be in the folder where your site is located, typically the public_html folder.
 

On the server

Rock

  1. Login to your Bluehost control panel.
  2. Click the Advanced tab on the left-hand side menu.
  3. Under the File section, click the File Manager icon.
  4. Look for the Settings button, located towards the upper right corner of your screen.
  5. From here, click the Preferences popup, then toggle the radio button for "Show Hidden Files (dotfiles)".
  6. Click the Save button when finished.
  7. Click the 'File' icon to create a new file, and name it .htaccess.

Legacy

  1. Login to your Bluehost control panel.
  2. Click the File Manager icon, located in the Files section.
  3. From the File Manager popup choose "Choose Hidden Files (dotfiles)."
    Note: If you do not see this popup you will need to click the "reset all interface settings" link at the bottom of the cPanel page.
  4. From the File Manager popup choose the folder you would like to open, most often the "Web Root (public_html/www)"
  5. Click the Go button.
    Note: If you are in the File Manager already you can add &showhidden=1 to the end of the URL.
  6. Click the New File icon to create a new file and name it .htaccess
 

Editing a .htaccess File

It is possible that you may need to edit the .htaccess file at some point, for various reasons. This article covers how to edit the file, but not what to change. (You may need to consult other articles and resources for that information.)

There are many ways to edit a .htaccess file.

  1. Edit the file on your computer and upload it to the server via FTP.
  2. Use an FTP program's "Edit" mode that allows you to edit a file remotely.
  3. Use SSH and a text editor to edit the file.
  4. Use the File Manager in cPanel to edit the file.

The fastest and easiest way to edit a .htaccess file for most people is to use the File Manager in cPanel. This article covers how to edit it using this method. Read further sections for some common .htaccess edits.

How to Edit .htaccess in cPanel's File Manager

Before we do anything, it is suggested that you backup your website so that you can revert back to a previous version if something goes wrong.

To edit the .htaccess file, first, you will need to open the File Manager.

Rock

  1. Login to your Bluehost control panel.
  2. Click the Advanced tab on the left-hand side menu.
  3. Under the File section, click the File Manager icon.
  4. Look for the Settings button, located towards the upper right corner of your screen.
  5. From here, click the Preferences popup, then toggle the radio button for "Show Hidden Files (dotfiles)".
  6. Scroll to locate the .htaccess file from the list.
  7. Right-click on the file, then click on Edit from the menu.
  8. A dialogue box may appear asking you about encoding; just click on the Edit button to continue. The editor will open in a new window.
  9. Edit the file as needed, then click the Save Changes button.
  10. Test your website to make sure it has the desired effect. If not, correct the error or revert back to the previous version until your site works again.

Legacy

  1. Login to Bluehost cPanel.
  2. Click on File Manager in the Files section.
  3. Select "Document Root for:" and select the domain name you wish to access.
  4. Make sure "Show Hidden Files (dotfiles)" is checked.
  5. Click the Go button. 
    The File Manager will open in a new tab or window.
  6. Look for the .htaccess file in the list of files. You may need to scroll to find this file.
  7. Right-click on the file and click on Code Edit from the menu. (Alternatively, you can click on the icon for the .htaccess file and then click on the "Code Editor" icon at the top of the page.)
  8. A dialogue box may appear asking you about encoding. Just click on the Edit button to continue. 
    The editor will open in a new window.
  9. Edit the file as needed.
  10. Click on the Save Changes button in the upper right-hand corner when done. 
    The changes have been saved. Test your website to make sure it has the desired effect. If not, correct the error or revert back to the previous version until your site works again.

Once complete, you can click Close to close the window.

 

Alternative Index Files

You may not always want to use index.htm or index.html as your index file for a directory, for example, if you are using PHP files in your site, you may want index.php to be the index file for a directory. You are not limited to 'index' files though. Using .htaccess you can set foofoo.blah to be your index file if you want to!

Alternate index files are entered in a list. The server will work from left to right, checking to see if each file exists, if none of them exist it will display a directory listing (unless, of course, you have turned this off).

DirectoryIndex index.php index.php3 messagebrd.pl index.html index.htm


Custom Error Pages

You can customize your own, personal error pages (for example when a file is not found) instead of using Bluehost's error pages or not having an error page. This will make your site seem much more professional.

You can use custom error pages for any error as long as you know its number (like 404 for page not found) by adding the following to your .htaccess file:

ErrorDocument errornumber /file.html

For example, if I had the file notfound.html in the root directory of my site and I wanted to use it for a 404 error I would use:

ErrorDocument 404 /notfound.html
If the error page is not in the root directory of your site, you can enter the path to the file:
ErrorDocument 500 /errorpages/500.html
These are some of the most common errors:
401 - Authorization Required
400 - Bad request
403 - Forbidden
500 - Internal Server Error
404 - Wrong page


Stop a Directory Index From Being Shown

Sometimes, for one reason or another, you will have no index file in your directory. This will, of course, mean that if someone types the directory name into their browser, a full listing of all the files in that directory will be shown. This could be a security risk for your site.

To prevent this (without creating lots of new 'index' files), you can enter a command into your .htaccess file to stop the directory list from being shown:

# disable directory browsing

Options ExecCGI Includes IncludesNOEXEC SymLinksIfOwnerMatch -Indexes

# enable directory browsing
Options All +Indexes


Deny/Allow Certain IP Addresses

To only allow people with specific IP addresses to access your site (for example, only allowing people using a particular network to get into a certain directory) or you may want to ban certain IP addresses (for example, keeping disruptive members out of your message boards). This will only work if you know the IP addresses you would like to ban.

Please keep in mind that most ISP's use dynamic IP addresses, so this is not always the best way to limit/grant access.
 

Block an IP Address

#Deny List

order allow,deny
deny from 123.123.123.123 #specify a specific address
deny from 123.123.123.123/30 #specify a subnet range
deny from 123.123.* #specify an IP address wildcard
allow from all

Allow only Certain IP Addresses

#Allow List

order deny,allow
allow from 123.123.123.123 #specify a specific address
allow from 123.123.123.123/30 #specify a subnet range
allow from 123.123.* #specify an IP address wildcard
deny from all
Note: This will still allow scripts to use the files in the directory.

Redirection

There is a tool in the cPanel that can create the Redirects for you, please see How to create a Redirect.
 

Redirect from a specific file to a new file

Example:

Redirect /redirect_from.html http://www.newsite.com/folder/redirect_to.html

In the above example, a file in the root directory called redirect_example.html is redirected to the URL http://www.newsite.com/folder/redirect_example.html
If the old file were in a subdirectory then you could use:

/subdirectory/redirect_from.html

WildCard Redirect / Redirecting from one folder to a new folder

Redirect /redirect_from http://www.newsite.com/redirect_to

Now any request to your site below /olddirectory will be redirected to the new site, with the extra information in the URL added on, for example, if someone typed in:

http://www.example.com/redirect_from/images/image.gif

They would be redirected to:

http://www.newsite.com/redirect_to/images/image.gif

Redirecting (URL Rewriting) with Joomla

To enable URL Rewriting in Joomla you will need to copy and paste the following code into your .htaccess file.

# For security reasons, Option followsymlinks cannot be overridden.
#Options +FollowSymLinks
Options +SymLinksIfOwnerMatch


Mod_Rewrite

Mod Rewrite allows you to change the URL that everyone sees when they visit your domain or a specific address. Just add the code to your .htaccess file (typically the one inside public_html).

Please remember we do not offer support to code this, nor do we promise to make your code work. Some of these codes work in combination, and some do not.

EXAMPLES

#Specify a default home page (index page)
DirectoryIndex home.html

#Allow only specified IPs to access your site
deny from all
allow from 64.95.219.140
allow from 210.23.45.67

# Redirect all pages from olddomain.com
# to newdomain.com
Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.olddomain.com$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^olddomain.com$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.newdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

#Prevent subfolder loading. This goes
# in htaccess for the primary domain
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^primary.com$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.primary.com$
RewriteRule ^addon.com/?(.*)$ "http://www.addon.com/$1" [R=301,L]

#Prevent subdomain name loading.
#This goes in htaccess for the primary domain
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^subname.primary.com$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.subname.primary.com$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ "http://www.addon.com/$1" [R=301,L]

# Never use www in the domain
# Replace 'example.com' with your domain name
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.(([a-z0-9_]+.)?example.com)$ [NC]
RewriteRule .? http://%1%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

# Always use www in the domain
# Replace 'example.com' with your domain name
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^([a-z.]+)?example.com$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www. [NC]
RewriteRule .? http://www.%1example.com%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

# Set a default home directory, (this subfolder always loads)
# Replace 'folder' with your subfolder name
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^$ /folder/ [R=301,L]
</IfModule>

# Rename a directory and force visitors to the new name
# Replace 'old' with your old folder name
# Replace 'new' with your new folder name
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^/?old([a-z/.]*)$ /new$1 [R=301,L]

# Always use https for secure connections
# Replace 'www.example.com' with your domain name
# (as it appears on your SSL certificate)
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

# Block traffic from multiple referrers
RewriteEngine on
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} badsite.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} badforum.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} badsearchengine.com [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F]

#Do not allow these file types to be called
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule .*.(jpg|jpeg|gif|png|bmp|exe|swf)$ - [F,NC]

Guides to dot-htaccess coding:

 

Password Protection

One of the many uses of the .htaccess is being able to reliably password protect directories on websites.
Note: If you would like to use the cPanel tool to password protect your folders please see our article: Password Protect a folder on your website
 

The .htaccess File

Adding password protection to a directory using .htaccess takes two stages. The first part is to add the appropriate lines to your .htaccess file in the directory you would like to protect. Everything below this directory will be password protected:

AuthName "Section Name"
AuthType Basic
AuthUserFile /home/username/.htpasswds
Require valid-user 

There are a few parts of this which you will need to change for your site. You should replace "Section Name" with the name of the part of the site you are protecting e.g. "Members Area".

The /home/username/.htpasswds should be changed to reflect the full server path to the .htpasswds file (more on this later). If you do not know what the full path to your web space is, check your Bluehost cPanel. Look on the left "stats" column of the cPanel.
 

The .htpasswds File

Password protecting a directory takes a little more work than any of the other .htaccess functions because you must also create a file to contain the usernames and passwords which are allowed to access the site. These should be placed in a file which (by default) should be called .htpasswd. This can be placed anywhere within your website (as the passwords are encrypted) but it is advisable to store it outside the web root (in your home directory) so that it is impossible to access it from the web.
 

Entering Usernames And Passwords

Once you have created your .htpasswd file (you can do this in a standard text editor) you must enter the usernames and passwords to access the site. They should be entered as follows:

username:password

Where the password is the encrypted format of the password. There is a good username/password service at the KxS site which will allow you to enter the username and password and will output it in the correct format.

For multiple users, just add extra lines to your .htpasswd file in the same format as the first.
 

Accessing The Site

When you try to access a site which has been protected by .htaccess your browser will pop up a standard username/password dialog box. Alternatively, you can send the username and password (unencrypted) in the URL as follows:

http://username:password@www.website.com/directory/ 

Fix ExecCGI

Open the .htaccess file located in the public_html/addondomain/ directory in the File Manager, and enter this line:

Options ExecCGI

Click the Save button at the bottom of the screen, and you are done!
 

Restart Apache

You will not need to restart Apache. You will; however, need to "hard refresh" your web page to see the changes. Simply browse your site and go to the page that should be affected. Then hit Ctrl + F5 to refresh everything. (Some computers require the F Lock to be on before you can use F5.) Now you should see your new .htaccess code take effect.

Alternatively, you can clear your browser's cache, close the browser, relaunch the browser, and try your web page again.

Safari users: Safari will require you to use the cmd + R hotkey for Safari 3 and below. Safari 4 and above will require that you hold shift and click the refresh icon next to your address bar.