How to Get a Free SSL Certificate for GoDaddy

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Screenshot of cPanel showing the tool for installing a free SSL certificate from Let's Encrypt

Introduction

An SSL certificate converts an HTTP website to a more secure HTTPS website. GoDaddy offers SSL certificates for an additional fee. That is, if you are on any of the shared web hosting plans. However, there is a way to get a free SSL certificate for your GoDaddy website.

One possible scenario is to use a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate. Lets Encrypt is a public service by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG). It is a certificate authority that provides free SSL certificates for everyone’s use.

We can use Certbot, a Linux-based utility, to retrieve a free Let’s Encrypt certificate. Afterwards, we can install it in GoDaddy using the cPanel.

The following is a step by step guide to get a free SSL certificate for Godaddy.

Step 1 – Install Certbot

Open a Linux terminal window. Type the command sudo apt-get install certbot, and then press the ENTER key. See the resulting screenshot below.

Screenshot image of Linux terminal showing how to install Certbot, the tool for obtaining a free SSL certificate for GoDaddy

Step 2 – Start Certbot

On the terminal prompt, type sudo certbot certonly –manual, and press the ENTER key.

Step 3 – Provide a valid e-mail address

Certbot will prompt you for an e-mail address. Provide a working e-mail address. Let’s Encrypt will send you a notice when the certificate is about to expire. As an example, I got an e-mail nineteen (19) days before my Let’s Encrypt certificate expired.

Another screenshot of a Linux terminal windows illustrating how to start Certbot to get a free SSL certificate for a GoDaddy hosted website

Step 4 – Agree to the Let’s Encrypt TOS

Agree to the Let’s Encrypt Terms of Service by pressing “A”. You may read the TOS at https://letsencrypt.org/documents/LE-SA-v1.2-November-15-2017.pdf.

A picture of Linux terminal with Certbot running asking to agree with Terms of Service for acquiring a free SSL certificate

Step 5 – Answer the question about sharing your email address

Next, Certbot asks you if you are willing to share your e-mail address with Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF is the non-profit organization responsible for creating Certbot. The answer depends on you but for me it’s a No (N).

Screenshot of Certbot asking permission to share the user-provided email address with the Electronic Frontier Foundation before proceeding with the acquisition of a free SSL certificate

Step 6 – Provide the domain name(s) needing the free SSL certificate

Finally, Certbot asks you for your domain name. Note that if your website starts with “www.”, then include it here. Otherwise, do not prefix it with “www.”. As an example, this website’s canonical address is cyberblogspot.com, without “www.”. If I were to enter www.cyberblogspot.com, Certbot would accept it and it would create a certificate. But after installing the resulting certificate, I would get an error saying that the certificate does not match my website’s domain name. In short, the domain name www.cyberblogspot.com is entirely different from the domain name cyberblogspot.com.

Certbot tool for getting a free SSL certificate for a GoDaddy website asking for the domain names

After entering your domain name and pressing the ENTER key, you will be given a challenge. This challenge will prove if you really own the domain name that you provided. Please refer to the screenshot below.

Finally, Certbot displays the required challenge file and its required contents in order to retrieve a free SSL certificate

The challenge consists of creating a file inside your website’s public_html folder. As shown in the screenshot below, I must create a file named 7GYKjGUTJ3EnWT2iW59JTUdrGL9LOg-j0qtU-S1po4w. This file must reside in public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge. Furthermore, this file must contain the following data: 7GYKjGUTJ3EnWT2iW59JTUdrGL9LOg-j0qtU-S1po4w._Z4xQCSLZcEte55G3Cgm3Dix_i08ZvdxCOW-XWOc_UY.

We will leave certbot for the meantime and return to it later after creating the acme challenge file. Do not close the Linux terminal where Certbot is running.

Step 7 – Create the ACME challenge file required to get a free SSL certificate

Let’s walk through the steps in creating the ACME (Automated Certificate Management Environment) challenge file.

Step 7A – Open the cPanel File Manager

First, open the cPanel login page in your internet browser. You can do this by typing your-domain-name/cpanel on the browser’s address bar. Or you may type, your-domain-name:2083 on the address bar. Then, once inside the cPanel, find the File Manager under the Files menu.

Screenshot of GoDaddy's cPanel login screen

If you don’t know your cPanel credentials, log in to your GoDaddy web hosting account. Then, find the File Manager link on your My Hosting dashboard.

Before we create the challenge file, we need to go to the File Manager’s Settings. We want to enable the Show Hidden Files setting. As stated above, we need to create the challenge file inside the directory .well-known/acme-challenge. Since the .well-known directory starts with a dot, it is a hidden directory. Therefore, unless we enable the Show Hidden Files setting, we won’t see directory or folder we are creating. Moreover, any file that we create inside the hidden folder won’t be visible, too.

Step 7B – Enable the File Manager’s Show Hidden Files setting

At the File Manager, click Settings the button.

Screenshot of cPanel File Manager showing how to open the Settings to enable the Show Hidden Files feature
The Preferences window of the cPanel File Manager with an illustration of how to enable the Show Hidden Files setting

On the Preferences windows, click the Show Hidden Files (dotfiles) checkbox. Then, click on the Save button.

Step 7C – Create the .well-known folder or directory inside the public_html folder

Screenshot of cPanel File Manager showing the root directory or root folder of the example website for obtaining a free SSL certificate

First click on public_html, and then press the Folder button.

Screenshot picture of the cPanel File Manager's New Folder window depicting how to create the .well-known folder for the acme challenge

On the New Folder window, type the folder name .well-known on the New Folder Name textbox. Verify that below the input textbox, it says that the new folder will be created in /public_html. Then click Create New Folder button. The folder .well-known should now have been created under the folder /public_html.

Step 7D – Create the folder acme-challenge under .well-known folder

Another screenshot of the File Manager with annotated steps in creating the folder name acme-challenge, a prerequisite to obtaining a free SSL certificate for a GoDaddy hosted website

Click on the newly created .well-known folder, and click the Folder button again.

Screenshot depicting how to create the folder acme-challenge in the New Folder window of the cPanel File Manager

First, type the folder name acme-challenge on the New Folder Name textbox. Below the textbox should be the message: New Folder will be created in /public_html/.well-known. Then, click on the Create New Folder button once more. See the illustration above.

Step 7E – Create the challenge file

Now, we are ready to create the challenge file. First, click on the .well-known folder. Second, click on the acme-challenge folder. And finally, click on the File button.

Image showing the created folder public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge

In the New File window, we need to enter the acme-challenge filename. Since the filename is very long and consists of random alphanumeric characters, typing it is prone to errors. Therefore, it is better to copy and paste the link from the Linux terminal: your-domain-name/.well-known/acme-challenge/7GYKjGUTJ3EnWT2iW59JTUdrGL9LOg-j0qtU-S1po4w. Afterwards, delete the leading URL name: your-domain-name/.well-known/acme-challenge. That leaves you with just the needed filename. Then click the Create New File button.

Picture showing how to create the actual acme challenge file

Step 7F – Place the challenge data into the challenge file

Now, the challenge file is already created. Notice that the file size is zero bytes. We need to edit the file and put the data that is needed for the acme-challenge. Click on the newly created file to select it, and then click on the Edit button.

Screenshot of cPanel File Manager showing the newly created acme chalenge file
Screenshot for starting the cPanel File Manager file editor to edit a file

On the Edit window, click on the Edit button.

Screenshot for the instruction on how to put the data for the acme challenge file

When the File Manager editor appears, copy and paste the challenge data from the Linux terminal. Then, click the Save Changes button, and finally, hit the Close button.

That completes the creation of the acme challenge file. Let’s go back to the Linux terminal with the Certbot program.

Step 8 – Let Certbot check the challenge file and retrieve your free SSL certificate for GoDaddy

Now that the acme challenge file has been created, we can go back to where we left off in Step 6. Open or switch to the Linux terminal running the Certbot program.

Press the ENTER key to let Certbot check the just created acme challenge file. If everything is OK, Certbot returns with a congratulatory message.

Screenshot of the congratulatory message of Certbot confirming the retrieval and storage of the free SSL certificate from Let's Encrypt for possible use with GoDaddy hosted website to convert an HTTP website to an HTTPS website

The Let’s Encrypt issued SSL certificate and its corresponding private key are located at /etc/letsencrypt/live/your-domain-name. The files are fullchain.pem for the certificate and privkey.pem for the private key file.

If you open the file fullchain.pem with a text editor, you should see something similar to this:

Opening the privkey.pem will give you this:

Summary on How to Get a Free SSL Certificate for GoDaddy

In conclusion, to get a free SSL certificate for a Godady hosted website, install and run Certbot. Then, Certbot will ask you to place a challenge file in your website to prove that you are the owner of the site. If it finds the challenge file in its proper place, it retrieves a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt. However, the certificate is only valid for three (3) months.

THE NEXT STEP

Now, for the next step, see How to Install SSL Certificate in GoDaddy

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References on How to Get a Free SSL Certificate for GoDaddy

Let’s Encrypt – A service providing free SSL certificates. A project of the Internet Security Research Group.
Certbot – A Linux tool for acquiring and installing SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt.
Electronic Frontier Foundation – Creator of Certbot.

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