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How to Migrate WordPress: 10 Steps to Move Your WordPress Site to New Host or Server


Hello, my fellow WordPress enthusiasts! Are you considering a strategic shift in your website’s management or contemplating a key location change? Wonderful! This blog post is aimed at making your WordPress site migration experience smooth and seamless. With a plethora of web hosting companies to choose from, like SiteGround, Hostinger, GoDaddy, HostGator, and many more, deciding on a new hosting provider can be challenging. Plus, setting up a new web hosting account and ensuring your data flows effortlessly onto a new server, there’s a lot to handle. From transferring your domain nameservers to keeping them with the current service provider, you have several options. Let’s get into it!

Setting the Stage for Migration

Why You Might Want to Migrate Your WordPress Site

A WordPress migration comes with good reasons. Maybe your current hosting service is showing some lapses, like sluggish loading speed, excessive downtime, or missing essential features. Or perhaps your website is attracting more organic traffic, and you need a host capable of handling the surge efficiently. Rebranding and setting up a staging site are also worthy reasons to consider migration. Now, let’s make our way to picking out a new home for your WordPress site.

Choosing Your New WordPress Host


Choosing a new host isn’t a random pick from the market; it requires meticulous research. You should aim for web hosting companies that not only match your website’s needs but are also known for providing top-notch features and tools you might need, such as a WordPress migration plugin and convenient integration of services. Performance, security, uptime, and WordPress compatibility, along with budget considerations, are crucial factors in this decision. Among the reliable options, you might want to consider SiteGround, WP Engine—particularly known for its ease of migration due to the Migrate Guru tool that’s compatible with over 5,000 web hosting companies globally— and Bluehost, DreamHost, and A2 Hosting. These hosts are specially tailored for WordPress, offering vital features including automatic backups, staging environment, free SSL, multisite capabilities, and expert support. Remember to keep your credentials safely as you enter the phase of migration configuration. Remember, if you’re moving from a localhost environment, you’ll need to alter the WordPress address during configuration. So, let’s walk through the steps you need to perform before initiating your migration.

Pre-Migration Checklist: Things to Consider Before Moving

Gather All Relevant Information

For a smooth migration, gathering all necessary information is your first commandment. This includes the critical data like the database zip file, usernames, password, and hostnames for both the existing and new host. Important domain nameserver details for your new host are also critical in this phase. You will also need your DNS records, file manager or FTP/SFTP account details (config files, server, password, and possibly port), login information for your old and new sites. It’s also wise to keep the cnames records, and logins to your domain registrar handy. Consolidate all these pertinent details, including the new host’s nameserver information, in the databases section of a text file kept handy throughout the process. Long story short? Be organized – it saves time and helps avoid any unnecessary confusion. Now, it’s time to delve into data protection before any migration process begins.

Back Up Your Old Site

An absolute must before migration is backing up your WordPress site. This keeps your digital space secure by creating essential site backups, which prove invaluable in quickly restoring your WordPress site, should any issues arise during migration. Make comprehensive backups of your entire WordPress installation, particularly the public_html folder, wp-content folder, and your MySQL database. Remember to designate these as ‘OLD’ during storage. Prepare to switch dns as part of the migration later. Congratulations! Thanks to the site pre-configuration and manual backups, you’re now one step closer to migrating your site. Now, let’s delve into the specifics of website migration using the notable export method.

How to Export Your WordPress Database

Navigate to the control panel of your hosting platform. Under the “Databases” section, identify and right-click on the relevant database name that corresponds to the website you aim to migrate. Employ the download option to effectuate a full database download—effectively obtaining your website’s database copy.

After the initial download, fine-tuning your database copy may be essential. Use a code editor, right-click on the file, and click the Edit option to open it. Adjust necessary aspects. In this step, you may need to modify wp_blogs entries, ensuring the correct alteration of the folder name, and other relevant wp_site and wp_posts tables.

By making sure you replace the database name, username, password, and (optionally) hostname with that of your new host’s, you minimize potential complications. This becomes particularly important during multisite migration when the database references multiple server names and folder locations.

By following this process methodically, even though many are unfamiliar with the command line interface, you can successfully export a copy of your site database, a critical step in ensuring your website’s transition to its new location is smooth and efficient.

Transferring Your Site to its New Location

Once your database copy has been created and modified accordingly, the next step is to determine the new website location. Identify the root folder containing your website. Commonly referred to as the root directory, this is usually the public_html or public directory that sits at the top of your WordPress site structure.

Upload the content of the WordPress folder from your hard drive to this root directory on the server via your FTP client. Here, you have the option to compress the database beforehand to expedite its download. After successful transfer, right-click to download your transferred files. Confirming the correct folder name and site database name will ensure successful migration.

After successfully transferring your site backups and ensuring correct database and website locations, you are well on your way to accessing your WordPress website at its new location, maintaining the same domain and authenticity of your original content. The whole migration process might seem daunting, but by following these procedures, you ensure the successful transition of your WordPress site.

Remember, the key to successful migration is meticulousness in every step—from backing up your old site to relocating to the new website location. So, pause, take your time, and undertake each step carefully with the necessary switch to the new DNS and use of the interface. Happy migrating!

The Migration Process in Detail

Export Your WordPress Database

First, let’s start with the most vital part of your site—your database. Residing within the databases section, it stores your posts, pages, comments, and much more. To move it over, you’ll need to work with an ‘Export’ function. Begin by first finding your way to the ‘phpMyAdmin’ application via your cPanel account and select, by name, your WordPress database. Simply click on the specialized ‘Export’ tab, hence engaging with the export method you’d need.

The default ‘Quick’ export, preferably enabled on the import tab, and ‘SQL’ format works just fine. Once you give it a go, your database export begins, resulting in a .sql file downloading to your local computer. Remember, the crucial step here is to secure this heavily important file with its unique database name. What follows next? The essential process of backing up your site files.

Back Up Your Site Files

Second, you need to back up your WordPress files. These files constitute your site’s backbone and include things like themes, plugins, and media. You can use FileZilla or any FTP client to download these files directly from your root directory, the public_html or public directory at the very top of your website’s structure. Alternatively, consider a fully-featured WordPress backup plugin for automated, scheduled site backups to ensure you never experience downtime. Either way, guarantee you secure a local copy of your WordPress site files. Now, we’re prepared to navigate to new territory: your new host.

Create a Fresh WordPress Installation on New Host

Our path now leads to your new host. Your first step here is to install a new WordPress instance. Using your hosting admin panel or dashboard, seek out ‘Softaculous’ or a comparable WordPress installer plugin. Initiate the setup and proceed as per the guidelines to establish your fresh WordPress installation, which will act as a blank canvas for your previous site’s content. Besides, if you’re migrating to ‘WP Engine,’ the WP Engine Automated Migration plugin becomes a prerequisite—it needs to be installed and activated. Now, with the use of WP-CLI, a potent command-line tool, you can streamline the procedure further. If you’re wondering how to install WP-CLI, just run the appropriate command in your server’s SSH terminal. Once the setup is ready, click on ‘Sites’ in the admin menu, then ‘start import’ after you hit the ‘Add site’ button and follow the prompts. It’s now time to integrate your old database; even if it entails a little polish using WP Migrate Pro!

Import Your Old Database

Time to familiarize yourself with ‘phpMyAdmin’ (again! ) on your new hosting server. To start the import process, launch it from your cPanel, pick your fresh database from the list you want to populate, the database name so to speak, and select the ‘Import tab.’

The ‘File to Import’ section in this import tab is your next move. Click ‘Choose File,’ locate your previously exported SQL file which is essentially your database copy, click ‘Open,’ ensure the format is set to ‘SQL,’ untick the ‘Partial Import’ box, and finally hit the ‘Go’ button. This is how you gracefully slip in the database table. And voila! You’ve set the database import process in motion. Once it’s finished, a success message greets you. Now that your database has found its new home let’s bring in the rest of your WordPress site.

Upload Your WordPress Site Files to the New Web Host

Continuing, it’s time to transport our backed-up site files. Your target is the new host’s root directory, often referred to as the public_html folder. You can accomplish this via two distinct methods: using an FTP tool or a reliable command line interface like SSH.

FTP method: Simply right-click on the option that allows you to transfer files using a tool like FileZilla and your new host’s FTP details. Transfer the zipped WordPress files into the root folder on your new host and unzip them. Always remember to correctly set the folder name after unzipping.

Finalizing the Migration

Update URLs and DNS Settings

Quite an important step, updating your URLs and DNS settings ensures your site is accessible at its new location. When conducting this process, it’s highly beneficial to use tools like ‘Better Search Replace.'” With this plugin, you can easily update all internal links, images, and references by simply changing the ‘old domain URL’ to the ‘new domain URL.’ Alongside, you need to change the DNS records at your domain registrar to point towards your new host’s nameserver information.

However, keep in mind that DNS changes might take around 48 hours to fully propagate, as per supplementary research. Besides, it’s necessary to replace the database name, username, password, and optionally the hostname with those of your new host’s.

Similarly, the values for the WordPress Address (URL), the primary domain you’re using with the site, should reflect your new domain.

Furthermore, ensure your new site matches the old structure for SEO compatibility, involving permalinks— which you can easily access in the WordPress location under settings, select permalinks and edit it as per your requirements.

Test Everything After Migration

It’s “D” day—diagnose, debug, and delight in your triumph! After migrating—which can be a stress-free process with zero site downtime—it’s crucial to test your new WordPress site. With a few clicks, navigate through your pages and examine the design, check for missing images, and ensure all functionality is working. This includes buttons, links, forms, and caching plugins.

Remember to log into your new site and disable maintenance mode. Clear all caches: WordPress cache, browser cache, and if you have any, disable caching plugins temporarily.

Potential Hiccups and Troubleshooting

Dealing with Domain Name and URL Changes

One major hitch during migration is dealing with domain name and URL changes. Here, the role of your wordpress address or the website location surfaces majorly. Employing tools like the “Search Replace DB” script or “Better Search Replace” plugin comes handy, seamlessly replacing instances of the old domain with the new one. This is one technique of transferring your site where you require an existing WordPress website in the target location.

An added benefit? It automatically adjusts your site_url and home url values in the database, preventing unexpected redirects. This is essentially a change in values for WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) to point to your new domain. An important note: always delete the Search Replace DB script post-migration for security reasons.

Permalinks can also come into play. If you’re not migrating your domain, then you can conveniently bypass this step. Simply visit settings, select Permalinks and change it as per your requirement. Buckle up, because we’re about to get more technical. What if you mistakenly change your WordPress site URL? Make sure to reload the Permalinks setting page and select your original structure. This could involve resetting permalinks or ising search and replace method.

What if You Have Accidentally Changed Your WordPress Site URL?

Fear not, even if your URIs change before moving files, it’s fixable! With access to the login page, you can modify the WordPress Address (URL) and the Site Address (URL) using wp-login.php. Locate the line require( dirname(FILE) . ‘/wp-load.php’ ); and insert the following lines below:

//FIXME: do comment/remove these hack lines. (once the database is updated)

update_option('siteurl', '' );

update_option('home', '' );

Your website location is reset. Remember, if the URL change implies a new WordPress address for your site, notify your audience and consider adding some redirection instructions in your .htaccess file!

If you’ve transferred files to a new location before changing URIs, create a symlink (acts as a shortcut) to the new path, ln -s /path/to/new /path/to/old. After completing URI changes, delete the symlink.

Extra Tips for Smooth Migration

Tools for Migrating WordPress Site Easily

Migrating manually can be complex but fear no more; numerous tools out there simplify the process. One such powerful tool is the WP Migrate DB, an efficient wordpress migration plugin that eases the transfer of data, particularly databases. For instance, the Duplicator Pro, just like the WP Migrate Pro, wraps up your entire site in a zip archive, ready for plugging into a fresh WordPress installation. It eliminates the need for manual DB exports and transfers.

Going further, the All-in-One WP Migration plugin efficiently compresses your database, media files, plugins, and themes into a single package. For larger websites, it handles size with grace, enabling split exports in a seamless manner. Lastly, dynamic tools like Cloudways WordPress Migrator smoothly undertake the challenging process of moving to specific hosts, like Cloudways. You can even opt for a professional migration service for effortless transition.

Using Plugins for Easier Migration

Running the migration manually may feel intimidating. But why fuss when plugins like the Cloudways WordPress Migrator and the user-friendly WP Migrate Pro, complete with advanced features such as WP-CLI support, push and pull migrations, and one-click migrations, have your back? Alongside Total Upkeep Plugin, All-in-One WP Migration Plugin, UpdraftPlus, Duplicator, and BackWPup, these tools simplify wordpress migration using plugins. They provide comprehensive site backup and recovery while offering a streamlined approach to migration with the help of command-line tools such as WP-CLI. But note, conflicting plugins or missing widgets may cause trouble and error messages if you don’t have WP-CLI installed. So, liaise with your host on compatibility before installing any wordpress migration plugin. As handpicked tools make the migration smoother, one might still come across questions. Shall we take a plunge into the FAQs?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long does a WordPress site migration take?

It’s a tough question. The time for WordPress site migration, especially considering potential site downtime, can vary vastly based on your site size, the migration method you choose, and your internet connection speed. Typically, the tasks needed to migrate your WordPress site from one host to another, ensuring zero downtime, take about two hours. The rest is the time it takes to download and upload your data. Plus, it can take up to 48 hours for your domain to point to the new host. Remember, we’re aiming to move your WordPress site to a new host with zero site downtime, so slow and steady wins the race! So, what’s your next question?

How do I restore my WordPress site to a new host?

Restoring a WordPress site to a new host is quite straightforward. Firstly, ensure that you have a recent backup of your site, accessible through your web hosting dashboard. Typically, these backups are updated frequently and are essential for a frictionless database download process.

Then, create a new MySQL database, user, and password on your new web hosting server. To import the content from your old database, use the command ‘mysql -u username -p new_database < backupfile.sql’ and check the Download and import file attachments checkbox.

Next, to migrate your website’s files, upload the backup files to your new web hosting account using an FTP or SFTP client. Before completing this process, tweak your ‘wp-config.php’ file to align with the new host database and user details. Utilize the “Duplicator” plugin, a critical tool to initiate import and make the operation smooth. Remember to choose the options you want by clicking the relevant options in the Check all checkbox below the list of tables and select Export in the dropdown box.

Finally, remember to not hastily delete your old web host account. Allow sufficient time after the migration to confirm everything is functioning correctly. Always cross-verify by checking the checkbox at the bottom of the settings page, and click the Next button.

Can I transfer one WordPress site to another?

Indeed, you can transfer one WordPress site to another. This involves not only creating a copy of the original site, which can be efficiently done with the help of a WordPress migration plugin, like Duplicator Pro or WP Migrate Pro, but it also involves adjusting certain database settings manually.

The first step is using the plugin to generate a package of the old site in your WordPress dashboard. After this, you should import this package into the new site, which can be a localhost or multisite network, or even a subdomain. Don’t forget to edit wp_blogs entries, wp_posts tables, wp_site, and wp_options – home, siteurl, fileupload_url – to ensure the seamless transition of the contents.

Next, adhere to the steps in the Duplicator migration wizard or use the corresponding plugin option to successfully integrate content from the old site into the new one. Adjust the .htaccess file and value for SUBDOMAIN_INSTALL in your wp-config when moving from subdomains to subfolders or vice versa.

Which host should I transfer my WordPress site to?

Choosing a new host requires a deep dive into the hosting market. Each web hosting provider offers a unique blend of features, performance, security, and pricing. Popular options for your web hosting account are Bluehost, DreamHost, and A2 Hosting, known for their extensive WordPress features and exclusive support from a variety of web hosting servers. Your decision should ultimately align with your website’s needs, traffic expectations, and your personal budget constraints. Lastly, let’s address a question for those willing to navigate the technical aspects – How do you migrate a WordPress site to a new web host account manually?

How do I manually migrate my WordPress site?

To manually migrate a WordPress site, follow these steps:

  1. Initiate site backups of your files and the database at the old host using a suitable FTP tool to download the files to your local system and a database export method for creating a database zip file.
  2. Move on to the databases section of your new host and use the ‘import tab’ to import the backed-up database, thus beginning the database import.
  3. Use an FTP tool to transfer the old WordPress files, particularly the config files, to the root folder of your new host.
  4. Edit the ‘wp-config.php’ file with your new database details – this includes the database name, user credentials, and host IP address.
  5. Lastly, remember to update DNS settings to point your WordPress address to the new IP address.

As daunting as it may seem, a step-by-step guide makes manual WordPress migration manageable. Armed with this tutorial and the right WordPress migration plugin, even first-timers can take on the challenge. Remember, every aspect, from the choice of host, migration method, to troubleshooting, carries weight. Your site’s successful migration is a reflection of your success! The journey of WordPress migration is much like scaling a mountain – challenging, but immensely rewarding. Happy Migration!

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