Knowledge Base

How to change the document root directory

This article describes how to change the document root directory for an account on a shared server. By default, the document root directory for the primary domain is the public_html directory.

If you want to change the document root directory for an addon domain, do not follow the procedure below. Instead, use cPanel to change the addon domain's document root directory. For more information about how to do this, please see this article.

Changing the document root directory

By default, your account's document root directory on a shared server is the /home/username/public_html directory, where username represents your A2 Hosting account username. However, sometimes you may want to use a different directory as the document root. This is frequently the case if you want to try out a new application or test a website configuration.

You can change the document root directory by moving the contents of the public_html directory to another directory, and then creating a symbolic link that points public_html to the new document root directory. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your account using SSH.
  2. At the command prompt, type the following command:
    mv ~/public_html ~/public_html_backup
    • This command moves the public_html directory, and all of the files it contains, to the public_html_backup directory. You can use another name besides public_html_backup if you want.
    • After you run this command, you must run the next command in step 3 as soon as possible for two reasons. First, your site is inaccessible as long as public_html is missing. Second, cPanel will automatically recreate the public_html directory if it detects that it is missing. If you have not run the command in step 3 before this occurs, your site will not function like you expect.
  3. Type the following command, replacing new_document_root with the name of the directory that you want to use as the new document root:

    ln -s ~/new_document_root ~/public_html

    Your site may be inaccessible until the server's cron job sets the correct file permissions and group ownership for the new document root directory. This cron job runs at twelve minutes past the hour on every hour evenly divisible by four (4:12, 8:12, 12:12, etc.). To minimize any possible downtime for your site, you can change the document root directory just before one of these scheduled times. After the cron job runs, the new document root directory file permissions are set to 750, and the group ownership is set to nobody, as shown in the following sample directory listing:

    drwxr-x---  3 username nobody       4096 Mar 10 10:08 new_document_root/
  4. Use a web browser to test your web site. The browser should display content from the new document root directory.

    If your web site does not function correctly:

    • Make sure that the new document root directory exists and contains web site files (such as index.html or index.php).
    • Make sure you run the commands in step 2 and 3 in quick succession. To verify that the symbolic link is correct, type the following command:
      ls -l ~/public_html

      You should see output similar to the following, where username represents your account username:

      /home/username/public_html -> /home/username/new_document_root

      If you do not see similar output, then the symbolic link is not set up correctly. Type the following command:

      rm -rf ~/public_html
      

      Then repeat steps 2 and 3.

Restoring the public_html directory

You can restore the original configuration and use the public_html directory as the document root again by reversing the procedure that you followed above. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your account using SSH.
  2. At the command prompt, type the following:
    rm ~/public_html
    • This command removes the symbolic link that redirects public_html to the modified document root directory.
    • After you run this command, you must run the next command in step 3 as soon as possible for two reasons. First, your site is inaccessible as long as public_html is missing. Second, cPanel will automatically recreate the public_html directory if it detects that it is missing. If you have not run the command in step 3 before this occurs, your site will not function like you expect.
  3. Type the following command, replacing source_directory with the name of the directory that you want to use as public_html. For example, this directory could be the public_html_backup directory that you created in the previous procedure, the new_document_root directory that you were using for testing, or an entirely different directory:

    mv ~/source_directory ~/public_html
  4. Use a web browser to test your web site. The browser should display content from the public_html directory.