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A Beginners Guide to cPanel

If you are just getting started with web hosting, it is likely you will hear about cPanel at some point, but what is it? In short, cPanel is a control panel for your hosting account. When you think about hosting, even if you are not too familiar with how to use a hosting web server, the control panel is what you see and how you access all the features of that server.

Why cPanel? 

If you are a beginner, you may not know that cPanel is considered to be the hosting management platform of choice amongst amateur and professional developers alike; and is regarded as an industry standard. As an example, cPanel is typically available on nearly every major web hosting provider's server offerings. In fact, if you have been building sites for a while, odds are, you’re already very familiar with cPanel, much like Photoshop users are very familiar with the different looks despite the always changing versions.

In this article, we will cover the look, the feel, and getting started with the control dashboard for beginners of cPanel on HostGator.

Getting Started: The Steps to cPanel

To get started using cPanel, you’ll first need to purchase the appropriate hosting package and choose Linux as your operating system. For more assistance with account types, check out: New Account Sign Up v2.

Once you have ordered your hosting package, you will have two ways to log in and access your cPanel features. Continue reading for more information about accessing cPanel.

How To Log into cPanel

Since cPanel has a lot of ins-and-outs to cover, we have assembled a detailed guide explaining the necessary steps to logging in here: How to Log into cPanel.

Want to login now to cPanel? Take me there!

What Can You Do with cPanel?

If you have used cPanel before, you may already be familiar with the different features that come with each type of cPanel installation. If not, no worries, we have you covered on the basics in the rest of this guide.

Video Tutorials for cPanel

HostGator is ready to help the users of cPanel by creating helpful Tutorial videos to guide new users as well as those who are familiar with the platform. Aside from the steps provided below and the link to Learn cPanel, you can now visually follow the steps with what you need to accomplish with cPanel.

See the list of the videos by HostGator in this link: HostGator cPanel Video Tutorials.

The Control Dashboard Explained for Beginners

What are the Different Features of cPanel?

As a beginner, the cPanel dashboard can be quite overwhelming. First, you will see all these different icons in rows and columns, with tables of information clustered together with words and numbers that all seem unfamiliar.

Rest assured, all of this will start to make perfect sense the more you use your cPanel dashboard. 

Let’s break down the important stuff.


One way to reduce the eyestrain created by seeing so much new data is to think about your cPanel just like keys on a keyboard. Some keys you use a lot, while others you have never even touched. Some you may apply by themselves, or you can use multiple at a time to achieve a particular result. 

You may notice each section has a header with a title and some icons underneath. These titles and icons help to quickly sort the necessary features of your control panel, which all web servers have. 

Look through the sections and check out the icons contained within. Remember, it’s not important to know or memorize every icon. We recommend getting familiar with the sections and understanding why those icons were grouped into that section.

Popular Links - These icons here will be your most commonly used and most popular features. As you grow and become more familiar with your dashboard, this will change to suit your needs.

cPanel Popular Links

Special Offers - Contains recommendations for things considered to be necessary for most any account. 

cPanel Special Offers

Files - This popular area will allow you to access all your files, including webpage files, images, FTP accounts, and the data associated with those.

cPanel Files

Databases - This is where you can manage your database content, features, and users. Think of Databases as large spreadsheets of information that your website is keeping track of. 

cPanel Databases

Domains - This more common area is where you go to manage domains, sub-domains, and DNS. 

cPanel Domains

Email - Here, you can add new addresses, manage email, and other things like contacts, security, and email filters. For more information on email, check out: How Do I Create Email Accounts in cPanel?

cPanel Email

Metrics - This is where you can review the performance numbers associated with your site and server, such as bandwidth, errors, and visitors statistics. 

cPanel Metrics

Security - This area will help you to monitor and manage the more sensitive areas of your site.

cPanel Security

Software - For more advanced users, or developers, this area will be useful for providing more in-depth tools regarding things like PHP, Ruby, and Perl. If you are unfamiliar with these, no worries, you won’t need these items to get started.

cPanel Software

Advanced - Just like software, this area is for the more useful but still Advanced features of your server, such as Cron jobs, Apache Handlers, and more error pages. 

cPanel Advanced

Preferences - Here, you can edit the look, feel, and specifics of your cPanel dashboard to better suit your needs.

cPanel Preferences

You may also see (to the right or left of your cPanel) the following data sections:

Website Traffic - This information will reveal the specific traffic information for designated time-frames pertinent to each domain added to cPanel. Though, we also inform customers to check Google Analytics instead.

cPanel Website Traffic

Backups - Here, you can monitor the status and timeframes that cPanel will archive your content.

cPanel Backups

Usage and Statistics - This important area will serve as a reference point for your complete usage including, CPU, Memory, and Processes.

cPanel Usage

Sometimes separated, the statistical data will provide the overall # of features you are utilizing and the data associated. For example, here you will see the number of the email address you have created, the number of Databases and the total amount of usage they contain as well as the number of domain/ subdomains you have added to the cPanel and more. 

cPanel Statistics

General Information - Will provide the unique information needed to identify and link to your server, such as your current user name, IP address, nameservers, and so much more.

cPanel General Information

Why Is It Important to Learn about cPanel?

cPanel is the core area where you will begin to identify all the things needed to make your project successful. From development to maintenance and security to troubleshooting, it’s all done from within your cPanel dashboard. The layout is designed to create the least amount of steps along the path to success. 

Troubleshooting / FAQ:

  • What if you need more help than you can find in the cPanel? Can HostGator walk you through cPanel?

    Yes! One of our Support Agents will be there to assist you via phones or chat should you need assistance with your cPanel. Just reach out to us via phone or Live Chat so we can assist you.
  • Why do you need cPanel for HostGator?

    Although it is not necessary or standard on all HostGator hosting servers, cPanel is the industry standard and comes installed on most packages.
  • How do you add a new user?

    This is not applicable for Shared hosting as it allows only one cPanel per one user. However, WHM gives the option to create multiple cPanels. To learn more about how to create a new user in WHM, please check out this article: How Do I Create a cPanel Account?.
  • How do you navigate email accounts and settings?

    For help with email on cPanel, check out this helpful guide here: How Do I Create Email Accounts in cPanel?
  • Does cPanel cost anything?

    Although free on shared accounts, cPanel's price starts at $15 a month with another hosting.


Now that you know a little more about cPanel and its core functions, you should be able to walk into your server environment ready to get started confidently. If not, that is totally fine. We have plenty of information for you to dive deeper into cPanel, should you desire. For more information, check out: Learn cPanel.