Why do I see a WordPress error message saying “Unable to create directory” when uploading media files?

Customers who upload media files sometimes report a WordPress error message saying something like “Unable to create directory uploads/year/month. Is its parent directory writable by the server?”

In most cases, this problem is not caused by permissions (unless you actually changed your directory permissions, which is very unusual).

Instead, it happens when your copy of WordPress has an incorrect custom setting telling it where to store the media files. This can happen if you transfer a site to us from an old hosting company that required you to use an unusual setting.

To fix this:

  • Login to your WordPress dashboard
  • Click Settings, then Media
  • Locate the “Store uploads in this folder” space and make it completely blank
  • Save the change.

This restores the setting to the WordPress default, which should work properly.

(If you don’t see a “Store uploads in this folder” setting on that screen, it means WordPress doesn’t have a custom setting for it, and you’re one of the few cases where the problem has a different cause. It may indeed be permissions-related. Our hosting customers can contact us for assistance determining the cause.)