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What to do if the .htaccess file is missing

What to do if the .htaccess file is missing

The .htaccess file is an important component of many websites. It provides configuration instructions that allow you to customize and secure your site in various ways. However, sometimes this file can go missing or become corrupted, which can cause problems. 

In this post, we’ll explore why the .htaccess file is important, what can go wrong when it’s missing, and most importantly – what you need to do to restore it.

Why is the .htaccess file important?

The .htaccess file allows you to override default server settings for your specific website. Here are some of the key functions it provides:

  • Redirects – Create 301 redirects to change URLs or direct pages to new locations. This is crucial for maintaining SEO value after changing permalinks.
  • Security – Block or restrict access to certain files and directories. This can help protect sensitive information.
  • Performance – Caching and compression rules can speed up page loading. This improves site speed and user experience.
  • Customization – Enable or disable PHP modules. Adjust handler mappings for file types. Modify default DirectoryIndex.
  • Protect files – Prevent image and file hotlinking to conserve bandwidth.

Without the .htaccess file, you lose access to this important functionality.

Common problems that occur

When the .htaccess file goes missing, you may notice various issues like:

  • 404 errors – Pages and assets that were previously redirected may start resulting in 404s.
  • Loss of security protections – The site is more exposed to attacks or unauthorized changes.
  • Performance declines – Caching and compression added via .htaccess will stop working.
  • Hotlinking returns – Images and other files can be hotlinked again.
  • Functionality breaks – Custom PHP configurations won’t load, affecting site features.
  • Indexing defaults – The default index document may change from your custom selection.

These problems can range from mere annoyances to catastrophic security and SEO issues. So it’s important to restore .htaccess functionality quickly.

How to check if the .htaccess file is missing

Before you can restore the .htaccess file, you need to confirm if it’s actually missing from the server. Here are a few ways to check:

  • FTP – Connect to your web host via FTP and check for a .htaccess file in the root folder.
  • File manager – Your host may provide a file manager interface. Check here for the .htaccess file.
  • SSH – If you have command line access, connect via SSH and run ls -la to view all hidden files.
  • Symptoms – If your site is experiencing any of the common problems noted above, .htaccess may be missing.
  • Logs – Check your HTTP server error logs. Missing .htaccess errors may show there.
  • History – If you have a site backup or version history, check when the .htaccess file disappeared.

Once you confirm the file is missing, it’s time to restore it.

How to restore or recreate the .htaccess file

If your .htaccess file has gone missing, use one of these options to restore it:

1. Restore from backup

If you have a recent backup or version history for your site files, you may be able to grab the .htaccess file directly from there and reupload it.

Be sure it’s the most recent copy, so you don’t lose any subsequent changes.

2. Copy from another environment

If you run the site in multiple environments (e.g. dev, staging, live), you may be able to copy the .htaccess file from another environment where it still exists.

3. Generate a new file

If you cannot recover the original .htaccess file, generate a new default file.

You can often find example .htaccess files for your CMS or framework online to use as a starting point.

Populate it with the main rules you know you had implemented previously.

4. Check with the host or developer

Your web host may have a default .htaccess file they can provide if yours has gone missing.

If a developer set up the original file, they may have a backup they can send you.

Once restored or recreated, there are a few steps to check:

  • Verify file permissions are set properly (usually 644).
  • Confirm it is located in the correct web root folder.
  • Load the site and check for any errors related to .htaccess.
  • Test site functionality that relies on .htaccess rules.

Also be sure to implement regular site backups, so you can easily restore missing files in the future.

Key things to add to your .htaccess file

When generating a new .htaccess file, there are a few key directives you will want to include:


  • 301 redirect rules for changed URLs and site sections that were moved. This maintains SEO value.


  • Block access to configuration files like wp-config.php.
  • Disable directory browsing.
  • Restrict access to sensitive folders like /wp-admin.


  • Compression for resources like CSS, JS and images.
  • Caching directives via Expirations or Cache-Control.


  • Force www vs non-www domain (or vice versa).
  • Adjust default index document order.
  • Enable or disable PHP modules and extensions.

Protect files

  • Prevent direct access to image files and other assets.
  • Block embedding of videos for copyright protection.

The exact contents will vary based on your CMS and site configuration. But these give you a good starting point for essential .htaccess rules.

Alternative options if you cannot use .htaccess

In some cases, you may not be able to utilize a .htaccess file to configure your site – for instance, if your server runs Nginx instead of Apache.

If so, there are a couple of alternative options:

  • Virtual host configuration – Rules can be added to the virtual host config for your site instead. This allows similar functionality as .htaccess.
  • Adapt plugin – For CMSs like WordPress, plugins may be available that adapt .htaccess functionality into the admin dashboard. Then you can manage those rules through the UI rather than the file.

So while .htaccess is commonly used, it is not necessarily required. Contact your host for guidance on alternate solutions suitable for your site.


The .htaccess file is used to customize and optimize sites in many ways. When it goes missing, the consequences can range from mild to severe. Be sure to periodically back up your .htaccess file so it can be easily restored. 

Monitor your site for unusual errors or behavior, as that may indicate the file has become corrupted or lost. Consider alternative options if your hosting configuration does not permit standard .htaccess use. With the right preparation and responses, you can minimize any disruptions caused by a missing .htaccess file.


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