The instructions here are for backing up and moving your website from Wealthy Affiliate to another host. There are only a few good hosting companies that I recommend so if you haven’t already chosen your new host please read this article.
Your website consists of a lot of files and a database. Every post and page is a file and all the images you’ve uploaded are files. The database holds the information that links all those files together so your website just ‘works’.
Your Domain Name Servers (DNS) tell the internet where to find those files. In other words the DNS provides the information of which hosting company is hosting your files and database on their servers. If you were to change the DNS before you moved the files then the internet wouldn’t be able to find your website.
In order to move your website to another hosting company you’ll need to backup your entire website (all the files and the database) and save the backups on your computer. Then you’ll need to upload the entire website to the new hosting company.
I’ll show you how to do this every single step of the way. And I’ll give you a checklist to print out and mark off your progress.
To ensure that you don’t waste all your blood sweat and tears from when you built out your website follow the instructions one step at a time in the order given. If you read through all the steps that follow you may become overwhelmed. Just relax, take a deep breath, and then do the steps one at a time. It will all make sense as you follow along.
You’ll be using some free plugins (therefore no money back guarantees) so please exercise due care.
I strongly recommend that you use FTP as well as the plugins to ensure that all your website content is included in the backups. You may have some files outside of the WordPress installation so you’ll want to back them up too. And there’s always the chance that the plugin won’t work as expected.
Is it techie?
Yes, the process is a little techie and also time consuming, so I have two things to say to you at this point.
- If a 70 year-old grandmother (me) can do this then so can you.
- If you’re really technologically challenged or you just don’t have time then I provide a professional website migration service. Just leave a message in the comments or send an email to marion[at]marionblackonline.com. There’s a 50% discount for my Wealthy Affiliate friends so be sure to mention your WA username.
- Backup with WP Clone
- Backup the database
- Backup with FTP
- Change the DNS (Domain Name Servers)
- Install WordPress
- Create a new WP Clone backup
- Upload your original backup file
- Restore your website
Your WordPress admin login username and password will be different to your FTP username and FTP password. And you’ll need both. To find your usernames and passwords go to Websites > Site Manager and click on Details.
- Deactivate any security plugins you have installed. You won’t want to get locked out of your website during the migration process.
- Install and activate WP Clone plugin by WP Academy. This is the plugin you’re going to use to backup now and you’ll use it again later to restore the site at your new host. Please note that the plugin’s developers warn that it fails in about 10% of cases. The bigger the website the more likely the process will fail which is another reason why you’ll also want to use FTP. If the plugin works properly it makes backing up and restoring your website very easy. Otherwise we resort to Plan B, the techie method.
- Install and activate WP Database Backup plugin by Prashant Walke to backup the database. WP Clone includes a database backup but, as mentioned before, the plugin may fail.
- Create a text file using Notepad or similar to store all the usernames and passwords that you’ll be needing. Save the file in a folder on your computer’s desktop where you’ll be able to keep all the information and backup files together.
- Use copy and paste to save your WordPress administrator login username and password in your text file.
- Save your FTP username and FTP password.
- Get your usernames, passwords and DNS (Domain Name Servers) details from your new hosting company. Add these to your text file and save.
- Go to your website’s dashboard and make sure your themes, plugins and WordPress are all up to date. When you install WordPress on your new host it will be the latest version so you’ll want to ensure that the versions match. Sometimes new versions are not backwards compatible.
Backup with WP Clone
In your website’s dashboard click on WP Clone.
Read the welcome message paying particular attention to the paragraph which explains that the restore process will fail on approximately 10% of installations. The bigger the website the more likely that the process will fail. For a small website WP Clone usually works fine.
If you’ve been using WP Clone for a while delete all but the latest backup before you go any further. There’s no point in carrying excess weight. You’ll only want to keep two WP Clone backups on the server, the older backups should be saved on your computer.
Click Create Backup, click OK and wait for a few minutes while it does its thing.
Click on the link to download the file and save it in your backup folder. Don’t bother with saving the URL as it won’t be accessible once you’ve moved your website.
If you get an error message don’t panic. I’ll cover the alternative method in another post.
Backup your database
You’ll find WP-DP Backup under Tools in your dashboard.
Click on Create New Database Backup. Wait until it’s ready then download the file and save it in your backup folder.
Connecting with FileZilla and FTP
Download and install FileZilla, free from FileZilla Project. Please be careful downloading and installing any free software. For safety’s sake I recommend you click the ‘Show additional download options’ link under the big green Download button. As with all free programs, install with care in case there are other unwanted programs attached.
FileZilla can be used on Windows, Mac or Linux, so get the right version for your operating system.
Run FileZilla and click on File near the top of the window. Select Site Manager.
Add a New Site giving it the name of your website (your domain name).
Fill out all the fields in the General tab:
- Host (your domain name without https://www)
- Port (leave blank)
- Protocol (FTP)
- Encryption (Use explicit FTP over TLS if available)
- Logon Type (Normal)
- User (the FTP username you copied from Wealthy Affiliate)
- Password (the FTP password you copied from Wealthy Affiliate)
Use copy and paste for the FTP username and FTP password to minimize the chance of errors. Make sure that there’s no spaces before or after the username and password.
Yes, I know there’s a Quickconnect option but you’ll be using FileZilla again and again so it’s nice to have Site Manager remember all the details for you. After the move your FTP username and FTP password will be different so you’ll be able to edit the settings in Site Manager.
If you have difficulty connecting then try this troubleshooter.
Using FTP to backup
On the left side of FileZilla you’ll see your computer (Local site). On the right side is your website (Remote site).
On your local site navigate to your backup folder on your desktop. Use right-click and create directory and enter it. Name the directory (folder) with today’s date (yyyy-mm-dd).
On the remote site you’ll see httpdocs and httpsdocs. The httpsdocs is a shortcut which leads nowhere. The folder you want to download is httpdocs.
Drag and drop the httpdocs folder on the remote site to the local site (from the right-hand side to the left-hand side). Or right-click and select Download.
…make a cuppa, walk around, do some stretching exercises, check your emails, go shopping…
…depending on your internet connection and how big your website is this will take some time. You can just sit and watch the files being transferred. If you can’t see any files being transferred in the bottom window then you may have selected the wrong folder. It’s ‘httpdocs’ not ‘httpsdocs’.
While you’re waiting, check your checklist. You did print out the checklist didn’t you? Make sure you’ve completed every single step on the list before you change the name servers to point to your new hosting company.
Domain Name Servers (DNS)
When all the files have been downloaded safely to your computer, and you’ve followed all the other instructions, you can change the name servers.
If you bought your domain name at Wealthy Affiliate go to Site Rubix > Site Domains and click on Settings.
You’ll find Name Servers at the top of the list. Do not click on Transfer Domain as that is to transfer the domain name registration to a different registrar. Not something you want to do at the same time as migrating your website. Even after you’ve cancelled your premium account you’ll still have access to Site Domains.
Type in (or copy and paste) the nameservers you got from your new hosting company. And Save Settings.
If you bought your domain name from another registrar then you may need to ask them how to change the nameservers.
It takes time
It can take anything from a few minutes to several hours before your new website is visible throughout the internet. During this period people in different parts of the world will see your website on either the old host or the new host. There is nothing you can do to speed up the process but you can check what’s happening in different parts of the world at whatsmydns.net or dnschecker.org.
Once the DNS had propagated you can go to your control panel at your new host and install WordPress. Installing WordPress is very easy at most hosting companies. Look for Quick Install or OneClick Install. If you have any difficulties with this then you can test your new hosting company’s customer support service. They should be happy to help.
If you get a new WordPress username and password add them to your text file. You’ll need them to log in the first time. After you’ve restored your website you’ll be able to use your original username and password to login.
Your (almost) empty website
A standard WordPress install includes some stuff that you won’t need. You may get a sample page, a sample post and a sample comment. There will also be some plugins you may not have seen before. Hello Dolly and Akismet will most likely be there as well as other plugins that your new host thinks you may want. Delete the sample page, post and comment and make sure the plugins are deactivated.
Create New WP Clone Backup
Now you can install and activate WP Clone and create a backup of the empty website. This will create a path and folder where you can upload your WP Clone backup of your website that you saved on your computer. It’s so much easier to upload the file when you know exactly where to put it.
Your hosting company may provide a file manager for you to access your website’s files but, as you’re now familiar with FileZilla, we’ll use FTP to upload the backup file.
Upload Your Original WP Clone Backup File
Launch FileZilla and open File > Site Manager. Edit your website’s details with the new information you got from your new host. They may require you to use SFTP (SSH file transfer protocol) so use whatever they recommend. SFTP is more secure than FTP.
Click on Connect.
What you see on the Remote site will vary from host to host. The folder you want to be in may be under your domain name or under public_html or something similar. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you can see wp-admin, wp-content and wp-includes.
On the Local site side locate the WP Clone backup. It’s a zip file named wpclone_backup with the date you saved it. If you have more than one WP Clone backup make sure you’re using the latest.
On the Remote site open wp-content > uploads > wp-clone. You should see the backup you created of the empty website.
Drag and drop the much bigger WP Clone backup file from the local site side to the remote site side (left to right).
If you need any files outside of the WordPress installation then navigate back to the root directory (where you can see wp-admin, wp-content and wp-includes). Only upload the files that you know you will need such as Google verification or HTML pages that you’ve created or had created for your website. Do not change anything in wp-admin or wp-includes. There’s a lot of stuff that you’ve saved on your computer that you won’t really need if WP Clone works properly.
Restore your website
Wait until all files have finished uploading then go back inside your WordPress dashboard.
Click on WP Clone and click on the ‘Scan and repopulate the backup list’ button.
Now you should have two backup files. Click the ‘Restore backup’ button next to the bigger file.
Tick the box that you agree that you have nothing of value in the current site. Then click on the ‘Restore Backup’ button.
If everything goes according to plan then you’ll have to login to your dashboard again. This time you’ll use your original username and password that you had at Wealthy Affiliate.
WP Clone changes the Permalinks Setting during the restore process so you’ll want to go to Settings > Permalinks and change the setting to ‘Post Name’. Then check to make sure all your internal links are working properly now.
Congratulations! You’ve learned how to use FTP and migrate a WordPress website. Give yourself a pat on the back.
And please leave a quick comment to tell me how this has worked for you.
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