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How to migrate a WordPress site

How to Migrate a WordPress Site (Beginner’s Guide for 2024) 

Written By: author image Joella Dunn
author image Joella Dunn
Joella is a writer with years of experience in WordPress. At Duplicator, she specializes in site maintenance — from basic backups to large-scale migrations. Her ultimate goal is to make sure your WordPress website is safe and ready for growth.
     Reviewed By: John Turner
reviewer image John Turner
John Turner is the President of Duplicator. He has over 20+ years of business and development experience and his plugins have been downloaded over 25 million times.

Migrating your WordPress site can give you a fresh start with a new host or domain name. However, you don’t want to risk losing any of your website’s content.

Whether you’re moving to a new web host, domain, or server, it doesn’t have to be a complicated process. With the right approach, you’ll migrate your site without any downtime or data loss.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to migrate a WordPress site! 

Quick Summary: How to Migrate a WordPress Site

To quickly get you started, here’s how to migrate a WordPress site!

1. Back up your original website.
To avoid losing any data, you’ll need to create a full backup of your current site. We’d recommend using Duplicator Pro, the best backup and migration plugin.
2. Set up the new WordPress site.
Next, set up your new web host, domain name, or server. Be sure to install WordPress and activate Duplicator Pro on the second site.
3. Drag and drop the backup into the new location.
Finally, find Duplicator’s Import page. Drag and drop your original site’s backup here. Duplicator will then walk you through every step in the migration process.

When You Might Need to Migrate Your Website

When you migrate a website, you’ll move your entire site to a different location. Usually, this is a big change like using a new host, server, or domain. 

Over time, you’ll start increasing your online traffic. Your current hosting provider may not be able to support this higher volume. In this case, it’s a good idea to find a new WordPress host or upgrade your hosting plan.

During this process, you won’t want to lose any of your website’s content or traffic. To make a smooth transition, you can migrate your website.  

Here are some common reasons why you might need to migrate your website:

A WordPress site migration can also be helpful when you’re changing your website’s design, navigation, or structure. You can simply move your site to a local server for safe testing and updates. Then, migrate these changes back to your live server. 

How to Migrate a WordPress Site Easily (Beginner’s Guide)

As a beginner, you might not know exactly how to migrate your WordPress site safely. To help you get started, we’ll walk you through this process step by step!

Method 1: Migrating a WordPress Site With a Plugin

If you manage an e-commerce store or blog, you’ll want to find the fastest way to move WordPress sites. Fortunately, there are many WordPress migration plugins available to make this process easier. 

Step 1: Install Duplicator

Duplicator is a popular and flexible tool for migrating your website. With this plugin, you can create copies of your site and upload them to another location.

Duplicator Pro plugin

During a manual migration, you might be worried about downtime or data loss. Using Duplicator, you can quickly and safely move your entire site to a different domain or hosting provider. This makes it one of the best WordPress migration plugins you can find.

Here are some more helpful features you can expect from Duplicator Pro:

  • Manual and automatic backups
  • File and database filters to customize backups
  • Supports large sites and WordPress multisite networks
  • Cloud backup storage to Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, and more
  • One-click restores
  • One-click remote restores
  • Disaster recovery
  • Step-by-step migration wizard
  • Supports managed WordPress hosts like WordPress.com, GoDaddy, and WP Engine

Not sure if Duplicator is right for your site? Learn how Rock Lobster Webdesign uses it to make migrations “incredibly easy”!

When you’re ready to migrate your website, sign up for a Duplicator subscription. With Duplicator Pro, you can access unlimited migrations, drag-and-drop installs, and cloud storage integrations.

After downloading Duplicator, open the WordPress dashboard for your original site. Then, install and activate the plugin

You’ll also need to activate the license key you received with your purchase. To do this, go to Duplicator Pro » Settings » Licensing. Paste your license key and hit Activate:

Duplicator license key

Before you start migrating your site, we’d recommend disabling any caching plugins. Often, these can cause errors during the migration process.

Step 2: Build a Package

After this, it’s time to create a backup of your original site. This is a copy of all your existing site’s content, plugins, themes, database, and WordPress files. 

First, navigate to Duplicator Pro » Packages » Create New:

Create new backup

Give the backup a name. To continue, hit Next:

Duplicator package

The Duplicator plugin will then check your website’s setup for any issues. If you see Good notices for every setting, click on Build:

Duplicator package scan

As Duplicator builds the backup, you can track its progress. You’ll know the files are ready to download when they appear on the Packages page. 

Download site archive package

To migrate your website, you’ll need to download the zip file with your site’s data. Next to the package you just created, click on Download » Archive (zip).

Step 3: Import Your WordPress Site

Once you download your website files, log into your second site. In your new dashboard, install and activate Duplicator Pro. This will allow you to import your core data without needing a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client or phpMyAdmin. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to create a new database on the new hosting server. You can usually do this through your new hosting provider’s control panel.

Next, click on Duplicator Pro » Import. Here, drop your saved archive file into the import box:

Import website archive

You’ll see a list of information about the package you imported. If everything looks correct, hit Continue:

Duplicator imported package

Before you replace the current site with the original content, consider setting a recovery point. Essentially, you can revert your website to a previous version if anything goes wrong during the migration.

Once you build a new package, select it as a recovery point and copy the recovery URL:

Set recovery point

However, you may not need a recovery point for a completely fresh WordPress installation. To continue migrating your site, click on Launch Installer:

Launch site installer

On the next page, select Full install single site as the Install type. This will completely clear the current site and replace it with your original files:

Install type

Then, click on Validate. After you review any notices and warnings, select the terms and notices checkbox and continue to the next page:

Import validation

Lastly, you’ll need to confirm the installation settings. Make sure the WordPress database parameters are correct before hitting OK. This will override the new database:

Install confirmation

Now Duplicator will migrate your previous WordPress website to its new home! Keep in mind that if you’re migrating to a new domain, you may also need to update your Domain Name Server (DNS). 

You don’t have to install WordPress! Simply upload your old website’s archive and installer files to the new server. Then, visit this URL to launch the migration wizard: https://your-domain/installer.php

Method 2: Migrating a WordPress Site Without a Plugin

If you don’t want to install a new plugin, you can also migrate your site manually. However, this method is best for more advanced WordPress users.

For beginners, we’d recommend using a migration plugin like Duplicator to move your content quickly and safely. 

In a manual migration, you’ll need to access and edit your site files and database. Before you get started, it’s important to back up your website. This way, you can easily restore a previous version if you accidentally break your site.

Fortunately, Duplicator also works as a backup plugin. After packaging your files and database, download them to your local computer. Then, feel free to continue migrating your website. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that many web hosts offer free migration services. This can prevent you from having to perform this process manually. 

Step 1: Export Your Database

First, start by exporting your database. If your old site is live, sign into phpMyAdmin to manage your database. For a localhost, you can use MySQL Workbench instead.

In this tutorial, we’ll be using phpMyAdmin. First, click on the Export tab at the top of your dashboard:

phpMyAdmin export

For the Export method, select Quick. The Format should be SQL. Then, hit Go:

Export WordPress database

After the database downloads, save the file to your local computer. If your new web host also uses phpMyAdmin, zip the file. 

Step 2: Upload Your Site Files to the New Server

Next, log into the file manager for your original hosting account. Depending on your host, this could be cPanel or a custom-branded manager. Alternatively, you may have to use an SFTP/FTP client like FileZilla.

Then, select all of the files in the root folder, or public_html. This includes important files like wp-admin and wp-content. Right-click on them and hit Download:

Download site files

After downloading your site files to your local computer, compress them into a zip file. 

Now you’ll need to go to the file manager for your new site. Open the root directory, select all of the files, and delete them:

Delete site files

Once the root directory is empty, hit Upload. In the upload box, add your zipped file:

Upload site files

Lastly, extract the zip file. After this step, you should see the files from your original site. 

Step 3: Create a New Database

To store your site’s data, it’s important to create a new MySQL database. If you’re using cPanel, start by finding the MySQL Databases button:

MySQL databases
MySQL Databases

Then, give the database a name and hit Create Database:

Create MySQL database

After creating a database, you’ll need to create a new user with rights to control the database. Under MySQL Users, add a username and password for the new user:

Create MySQL user

Find the Add User To Database section. Here, select the user and database you just created:

Add user to database

You can then assign all privileges to the new user. This will allow the user to make changes to the database.

Step 4: Import the Original Database

Open phpMyAdmin for the new site. At the top of the page, select the Import tab.

Now you’re going to import the database that you saved earlier. Under File to import, upload your saved SQL file:

Import database

Make sure the database is a zipped SQL file. Then, import the new database.

Step 5: Update the wp-config.php File

After a manual migration, you’ll need to update a few values in your new site’s wp-config.php file. To do this, reopen the file manager for your new site. Then, find the wp-config.php file in the public_html folder.

In the wp-config.php file, locate the database settings. You’ll need to redefine the database name, username, and password values to match your new site. 

Here are the values to update:

  • db_name
  • db_user 
  • db_password
Update wp-config.php file

You’ll also need to search this file for your old domain name. Delete this text and replace it with your new domain. Similarly, search for your old URL path and add your new one. 

What to Do After Migrating Your WordPress Site

Whether you migrate your WordPress site manually or with a plugin, there are a few post-migration tasks you’ll need to complete. This way, your new site functions well and continues to appear in search results.

After fully moving your site’s files and database to the new location, here’s what to do next:

  • Review your new site’s functionality and speed
  • Fix broken links
  • Add redirects
  • Update your DNS
  • Inform Google about the migration
  • Test your SSL certificate
  • Crawl your new website

If you moved your site manually, you’ll also need to run a search and replace script to make sure your database references the new site’s URL. If you’re not sure how to do this, a plugin like Better Search Replace can automate this process for you.

However, Duplicator is a better option because it performs a search and replace during the migration. You won’t have to worry about doing any extra steps or installing a new plugin to do this job.

Duplicator search and replace

To take advantage of this feature, make sure to click the Advanced option after you upload your archive file to the new site. Under Custom Search & Replace in Step 3, enter your old and new website URLs.

After a migration, it’s important to remember that it takes time for your DNS to propagate. We’d recommend not deleting your old hosting account until this is finished.

Especially after a manual migration, you could see errors. If your newly migrated website isn’t working as it should, see these troubleshooting tips.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I migrate my WordPress site for free?

You can migrate your WordPress site for free using the free version of Duplicator. After creating a package, download both the archive and installer files. Then, you’ll need to upload these files to the new server.

Upload Duplicator Lite package to FTP

In a new browser window, paste this URL: https://your-domain/installer.php

This will automatically open the Duplicator migration wizard. In the Setup, section, add the details for your new database:

Duplicator Lite database connection

Continue confirming the installation. Once the migration is complete, use the Admin Login button to sign into your newly migrated site!

Finished Duplicator Lite migration

Alternatively, you can have your hosting service migrate your site for you. Usually, web hosts provide a free way to move your old content to the new website.

Does migrating a site affect SEO?

Migrating your website can temporarily affect your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings. When you start using a new web host, you’ll have an entirely new IP address and server location. Search engine bots will re-crawl your website, which could impact SEO and organic traffic.

However, you can easily migrate your site without losing SEO. The Duplicator plugin can help you safely move your content to a new location. Then, be sure to set up permanent redirects and notify Google about any domain changes. 

To optimize your new website, be sure to install an SEO plugin!

How long does it take to migrate a WordPress site?

Migrating a WordPress site can take just a few minutes with the right tools. Using Duplicator, you can quickly package your site files and database. To migrate this data to another WordPress site, simply drag and drop them into the Import box. 

What is the best WordPress migration plugin?

Duplicator is the best WordPress plugin for quick and easy migrations. You can use this tool to drag and drop your website to a new server, domain name, or any other location that hosts WordPress. 

Alternative: All-in-One WP Migration is another effective plugin for migrating WordPress sites. However, Duplicator Pro is better equipped for handling larger sites and WordPress multisite networks.

How do I copy my WordPress site to another website?

To copy a WordPress site, we’d recommend using a cloning plugin like Duplicator Pro. With this tool, you can create copies (or backups) of your site. If you want to move them somewhere else, upload the backup archive and installer to the new server. Use this link to launch the installer: https://your-domain/installer.php

Can I move my WordPress site to another domain?

Yes, you can move your WordPress site to another domain. Duplicator offers the easiest way to do this. Back up your site and drag and drop it into the new location. When the installer launches, choose the Advanced mode.

Advanced Duplicator migration

In Step 3, use the search and replace tool to update your database with the new domain. Simply enter the old domain for the Search value and the new domain underneath it.

Duplicator search and replace

Conclusion

Hopefully by now, you know how to migrate a WordPress site! 

While you’re here, you may also like these extra WordPress tutorials:

Do you want to avoid the hassle of a manual migration? Download Duplicator Pro to access drag-and-drop WordPress migrations!

author avatar
Joella Dunn Content Writer
Joella is a writer with years of experience in WordPress. At Duplicator, she specializes in site maintenance — from basic backups to large-scale migrations. Her ultimate goal is to make sure your WordPress website is safe and ready for growth.

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