Easy Guide to .htaccess Files
Publish By : Sourabh / Date :10-05-2024 / Reading Time : 6 mint / Tags : .htaccess file

Easy Guide to .htaccess Files: What They Are and How to Use Them

What Is an .htaccess File?

An .htaccess file is like a set of instructions for a website. It tells the web server how to handle certain things, like redirects, password protection, or custom error pages. It's kind of like a control panel for managing aspects of your website's behavior.

Example of an .htaccess file -

# Enable rewriting

RewriteEngine On

# Redirect from HTTP to HTTPS

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

# Force www

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\. [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

Explanation of above example - 

  • The RewriteEngine On line enables the rewriting engine.
  • The next two blocks handle redirects: the first one redirects HTTP traffic to HTTPS, and the second one adds "www" to the domain if it's missing.
  • Each RewriteCond line sets a condition for the following RewriteRule to apply.
  • RewriteRule lines specify the actual rewriting or redirection rules.
  • [L,R=301] flags specify options for the rule, such as redirect status codes (e.g., 301 for permanent redirect) and whether to stop processing other rules (L for last).

Where Is the .htaccess File located?

The .htaccess file is typically located in the root directory of your website. This is the main folder where all your website files are stored. It's called the root directory because it's the top-level directory in your website's file structure.

For example, if your website is located at www.example.com, the .htaccess file would usually be found in the directory that corresponds to the main folder of your website on the server. This is often named public_html, htdocs, or www, depending on your web hosting setup.

Keep in mind that the .htaccess file is a hidden file, so you might need to adjust your file browser settings to show hidden files in order to see it.

How to Edit Your .htaccess File?

To edit your .htaccess file, you'll need access to your website's files either through an FTP client (like FileZilla) or through your web hosting control panel's file manager. Here's a general guide:

  • Locate the .htaccess file: Using your FTP client or file manager, navigate to the root directory of your website where the .htaccess file is located.
  • Download a copy (optional): Before making any changes, it's a good idea to download a backup copy of your .htaccess file. This way, you can restore it if anything goes wrong.
  • Open the .htaccess file for editing: Right-click on the .htaccess file and select an option like "Edit" or "View/Edit" from the context menu. Alternatively, you can download the file, edit it using a text editor like Notepad or Visual Studio Code, and then upload it back to your server.
  • Make your changes: Use a text editor to make the desired changes to your .htaccess file. Remember to follow the correct syntax and formatting rules for .htaccess directives.
  • Save your changes: After making your edits, save the .htaccess file.
  • Upload the modified .htaccess file (if necessary): If you downloaded the .htaccess file to edit it, upload the modified version back to the root directory of your website using your FTP client or file manager.
  • Check your website: Visit your website to ensure that the changes you made to the .htaccess file are working as expected. If you encounter any errors or unexpected behavior, you can revert to the backup copy of your .htaccess file.

Steps to Create an .htaccess File

Creating an .htaccess file is a straightforward process. Here's how you can do it:

  • Open a text editor: You can use any text editor of your choice, such as Notepad (on Windows), TextEdit (on macOS), or any code editor like Visual Studio Code or Sublime Text.
  • Write your .htaccess directives: Start by writing the directives you want to include in your .htaccess file. These directives can control various aspects of your website's behavior, such as URL rewriting, access control, or error handling. Make sure to follow the correct syntax and formatting rules for .htaccess directives.
  • Save the file: Once you've written your .htaccess directives, save the file with the name ".htaccess" (including the dot) and without any file extension. Some text editors might add a ".txt" extension by default, so make sure to remove it when saving the file.
  • Upload the .htaccess file: If you're creating the .htaccess file locally on your computer, you'll need to upload it to the root directory of your website using an FTP client (like FileZilla) or through your web hosting control panel's file manager. Make sure to place the .htaccess file in the main folder where your website files are located.
  • Set file permissions (if necessary): Depending on your server configuration, you might need to set the correct file permissions for the .htaccess file to ensure that it's readable by the web server. Typically, setting the permissions to 644 (readable by owner, group, and others) should suffice, but you may need to adjust permissions based on your specific setup.
  • Test your .htaccess directives: After creating and uploading the .htaccess file, visit your website and test the functionality controlled by the directives in the .htaccess file to ensure that they're working as expected.

Some Common .htaccess Directives:

1. Add Redirects Using .htaccess

Directive: Redirect

Purpose: Redirects client requests from one URL to another.


Redirect /old-page.html http://www.example.com/new-page.html

2. Redirect Individual URLs

Directive: Redirect

Purpose: Redirects a specific URL to another location.


Redirect 301 /old-page.html http://www.example.com/new-page.html

3. Redirect WWW URLs to Non-WWW URLs

Directive: RewriteEngine, RewriteCond, RewriteRule

Purpose: Redirects URLs with "www" to the non-www version or vice versa.


RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.example\.com [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://example.com/$1 [L,R=301]

4. Redirect Subfolders to New Locations

Directive: Redirect

Purpose: Redirects requests for a subfolder to a new location.


Redirect /old-folder http://www.example.com/new-folder

5. Redirect an Old Domain to a New Domain

Directive: Redirect

Purpose: Redirects traffic from an old domain to a new domain.


Redirect 301 / http://www.newdomain.com/

In conclusion, .htaccess directives provide powerful tools for managing redirects and controlling the behavior of your website's URLs. Whether you need to redirect individual URLs, entire subfolders, or even entire domains, .htaccess allows you to easily configure these redirects to ensure a smooth user experience and maintain SEO integrity. By understanding and utilizing common .htaccess directives effectively, you can efficiently handle URL redirections and maintain the integrity and accessibility of your website's content.


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