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When I was using Plesk it was simply under /var/www, however it is empty when I have at least 2 sites now on a cPanel machine. What is cPanel's architecture in terms of storing files?

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Assuming you are using a plain vanilla install on a Centos server, then cPanel accounts are created under /home

The actual website root will be under: /home/accountname/public_html and a helpful link: /home/accountname/www

Edit: thanks for that hint re not using angle brackets in these comments

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I think you must have put username in angle brackets and it was stripped out. try *username* instead of <username> –  Josh Apr 5 '10 at 22:25
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The path is usually /home/USERNAME for a user's cPanel-related files. The public-html directory is where web files actually sit (i.e. http://example.org/index.html would be pulled from /home/example/public_html/index.html assuming the cPanel username would be example and that the user would be hosting example.org on his occount).

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