Moving a WordPress website to a new host could be a daunting task if you don't have the right tools and info. But this tutorial will make it hands-down easy-peasy.
Sure, it could get complicated with FTP and database backups or you could just use one plugin and skip the drama.
I'll walk you through every step of the way. So, just follow along one step at a time.
Take a deep breath. You can do it!
Table of Contents
7 Steps to Back Up and Move a Website
- Back up your website
- Choose a host
- Back up your emails
- Change the DNS
- Install WordPress
- Restore your website
- Check everything
1. Back Up your Website
Backing up is the most important part of the entire proceedings.
Murphy's Law states that if anything can go wrong it will, at the worse possible time.
If you don't back up your website before your current hosting plan expires you won't be able to move your website to a new hosting provider.
The plugin we'll use is free for creating the backup. And, for a website under 512MB there's a free extension that is required for restoring your site. But if your site, like most, is bigger than 512MB then you can expect to pay for the premium extension when it's time to import your website at the new host.
At the time of writing this article the cost of the premium extension is $69. But there is a simple hack to increase the import upload limit if you want to save money.
Watch the video to learn how to increase the upload file size imposed by All-in-One WP Migration plugin to whatever size you need to accommodate your website.
Before we go any further, I want to point out that it is legal to access and modify the source code of the free version of this plugin because, like all plugins from wordpress.org, it’s licensed as open source.
But there is a small problem. The legacy version of the plugin is no longer available at wordpress.org so you'll want to download it from FreeAndCheapEbooks for a small fee. (Hint: it's a lot less than the premium extension.)
- Download All-in-One WP Migration plugin from FreeAndCheapEbooks
- Install and Activate the plugin
- Open Plugins Editor
- Select All-in-One WP Migration plugin
- Edit constants.php file
- Change number 28 on Line 284 to 56
- Save the updated file
Let's do this
Anyway, let's get on with creating the backup.
In your WordPress website dashboard go to Plugins > Add New and search for All-in-One WP Migration.
Install and Activate the plugin.
You'll see a new item in your menu, All-in-One WP Migration, between Tools and Settings.
Choose "Export" and select "Export to" > "File".
Depending on the size of your website, creating the backup can take several minutes.
Click on the green "Download" button and save the file on your computer where you can find it easily.
Keep your browser open while your backup is downloading, as the bigger the file is, the longer it's going to take. And it will take even longer on a slow connection.
2. Choose a Host
While you're waiting for your file to download, it's a good time to consider which host you'll choose.
Your needs are different to someone else's so the hosting company you choose should be the one that suits your needs and budget best.
CLAIM YOUR DISCOUNT:
As the owner of this website I've tracked down special deals and discounts for some of the products and services mentioned herein. When you use the links on this page to make a purchase I may get a small commission and you may get a great bargain. It's a win-win all around. Full disclosure.
Your new host may provide a free migration service for new clients. Check before deciding on the Do-It-Yourself approach to website migration. Tap the buttons below, look for Live Chat or Support and ask the question.
They'll need the backup file from All-in-One WP Migration to complete the migration for you.
If they can't (or won't) do it for you then you have the choice of either completing the migration yourself or hiring a professional to do it for you.
I've successfully migrated many websites to different hosting companies. And my professional fees are very reasonable. Please leave a comment below (your email address will not be published) if you'd like a quote. Or send an email to marion [at] marionblackonline.com
Should I Use Managed WordPress?
Managed WordPress is a tad more expensive than the usual shared hosting option. If you'd prefer to pay extra to have some of the techie stuff done for you then it's something to consider. But, if you're capable of installing a few plugins, and saving your own backup files, then you may not need Managed WordPress.
Having said that, if this is the first time you've ever created a website then the extra support you'd get with Managed WordPress could help to reduce the learning curve.
Shared, Virtual Private Server, or Dedicated Server?
Most website owners will want shared hosting. Shared hosting simply means that your website shares space and resources (memory, bandwidth, etc.) with other websites on the same server.
It's a bit like having several different apps on your home computer. They all run independently but they're taking up space on the same hard drive. If you try to run too many programs at the same time then your computer may get sluggish or even crash.
Some shared hosting, particularly on cheap services, may get a bit overcrowded, slowing down your website.
The hosting providers I recommend take pride in offering blazing-fast servers and at least 99.9% up-time rates.
A virtual private server (VPS) keeps your websites, and the VPS's resources, separate to the other sites using the same server.
And a dedicated server means you have the entire server to yourself.
Only consider using a virtual private server or a dedicated server if that's really what you need.
For most website owners I strongly recommend using shared hosting, at least until such time as you find it less than optimal for your needs... that could take a long time.
As you know, there are many hosts vying for your business.
My personal choice is DreamHost but you may find one of the others a better fit for you and your website(s).
But if you're a seasoned webmaster with large websites then WPX may be exactly what you need.
Most hosting providers offer a "honeymoon" period at a cheaper price than the ongoing subscription. Make sure you check the "regular" price as well as the special offer as that's what you're going to be paying after the "honeymoon" period is over.
The longer the initial period of hosting you purchase the more you'll save. Try to get at least 1 year's hosting to start with.
After extensive research I narrowed down the top hosting companies to just four. Check them out using the buttons below so you can decide which one is best for your website(s) and your budget.
Domain Name Registration
Let me mention here that you can have your domain name registered with one company and your website hosted at another. In fact that's what I recommend. If you do want to change the registration of your domain name to another registrar then it's a good idea to do that as a separate exercise from the migration process. You'll want to minimize down time and trying to do both together could get messy.
Migrating a Website Overview
Your website consists of a lot of files, folders, and a database. All your posts, pages, and comments are in files, your themes and plugins are in files, and all the images and other media you've uploaded are in files. The database holds the information that links all those files together so your website just 'works'.
Tools > Export creates an XML file which is something like a text file. It's a quick and dirty backup of your database but it's totally useless for migrating a website to another server. You need to back up your Media Library, Themes and Plugins as well as the database. Fortunately we have an easy-to-use method to do just that.
Moving a website is similar to moving house. You need to pack up your belongings (files, folders, and database) before the removalists arrive. Then you'll want to let everyone know about your new address (DNS). And, after the move, you'll need to unpack everything (install WordPress and restore the site).
Your Domain Name Servers (DNS) tell the internet where to find your website's files. In other words the DNS provides the information of which hosting company is hosting your files, database, and emails 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 host you'll need to back up your entire website (all the files, database, and your emails) and save the backup on your computer. Then you'll need to upload the entire website to the new hosting company after changing the DNS.
Save your info
It may seem obvious but I'll mention it anyway, you're going to need your current website login information to access your website after the migration process.
Use the Notepad or TextEdit app on your computer to store the information and save it somewhere easy to find, say your desktop.
You'll need your:
- Current website username, email address, and password
- Login URL, username and password for your new hosting provider
- DNS (Domain Name Servers) for your new hosting provider
Check with your current host and your new hosting provider for any of the details you don't already have stored in your text file.
To log into your website just type your domain name /wp-admin into the address bar of your browser e.g. example.com/wp-admin
3. Back up Your Emails Using POP3
Backing up your domain specific emails is something you'll need to do for yourself if you want to be able to access the old emails after the move.
If you haven't set up domain specific emails for your website then feel free to skip this section.
Just to clarify, IMAP and POP3 are different ways of accessing your emails.
IMAP syncs your email client with the server and your emails stay on the server. But when you change to another server at another host your existing emails will disappear forever. Ooops!
POP3 downloads all mail from the server and stores it on your own computer. This enables you to access your emails even when you're not connected to the internet. So even when they've been deleted from the server you'll still have access to them.
POP3 is the method you'll need to put into place before you migrate your website to another host.
Your emails will only be available on the devices you've downloaded them to, so you may want to use POP3 on your mobile devices as well as your computer.
When you've finished setting up your email client for POP3 test it by disconnecting from the internet. If you can still access your emails then you should be good to go.
4. Change the DNS
When you've created and saved your backup using All-in-One WP Migration it's time to change the DNS (Domain Name Servers) to point to your new hosting provider.
At your domain name registrar, paste in the nameservers you've been given by your new hosting provider and click on Save Settings.
It takes time for the change of nameservers to propagate throughout the internet. Possibly up to 48 hours though it's usually a lot less.
Wait until the DNS has propagated and then install WordPress on your empty website at the new host.
5. Install WordPress
The instructions here are for DreamHost, my #1 recommendation. If you've chosen a different hosting provider then follow their instructions for installing WordPress. Most of them have a very simple way to automatically install WordPress with just a few clicks.
Log into your Web Panel at DreamHost, click on Domains > One-Click Installs, and select WordPress.
Select your website from the drop-down list and allow the app to create the database automatically.
Deluxe Install would add some extra plugins that you may not need. Just take the tick out of the box for a cleaner install.
The WP Website Builder is mainly for newbies. It could complicate the migration process so you can leave it out too.
Click the Install button and DreamHost will automatically install WordPress for you. You'll get an email in about 10 minutes with instructions on how to set your password and log into your site.
6. Restore Your Website
In your new empty WordPress dashboard delete any extra plugins you don't want then go to Plugins > Add New and install All-in-One WP Migration.
This time you'll want to use "Import" to upload your saved backup.
Select your backup file from your computer and you'll probably see this message:
Click on the first link if your website's backup file is under 512MB or click "Get unlimited" if the file size is over that limit.
For Small Websites
Seriously, just ignore the other options and download the free Basic extension from WP-Migration and save it on your computer.
For Larger (Most) Websites
You're gonna need the premium extension or the hack mentioned above.
In your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins > Add New and upload the extension. Install and activate the new plugin.
Now you can go back to All-in-One WP Migration > Import and import your backup file.
Read and understand the warning message then click on "Proceed". Follow the on-screen instructions making sure to save the Permalinks structure to whatever you had before the migration process. This step is critical!
Click Finish when you're done.
7. Check Everything and Final Steps
Now your website has been restored to exactly what it was when you created the backup using All-in-One WP Migration.
To log in you'll need your old username/email address and password. If you'd like to change your password to something easier to remember then you can do that from your User Profile Page. But make sure it's a strong password that a would-be hacker is unlikely to guess.
Check out your site from the front end, and within your WordPress dashboard, to make sure everything is just the same as it was before.
Install Some Free Plugins
You'll need a security plugin now. I use and recommend Wordfence - it's a free plugin so add it in the usual way and go through the setup wizard.
To minimize spam comments you'll want Antispam Bee.
And I recommend Updraft Plus for regular automatic backups. Yes, now you've got a new hosting provider Updraft Plus will be able to work automatically. All you need to do is set it up and periodically download the backup files and save them on your computer. Isn't it nice to be in charge?
Another plugin you'll want to add is File Manager. I'll tell you why in a minute.
You've likely heard of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) as a techie way of accessing your website's files and folders. Well, File Manager is an easy-to-use alternative to FTP. If you can use Windows File Explorer you'll be able to use File Manager. But do be careful and always save a backup before you mess with your website.
Deactivate and Delete All-in-One WP Migration
All-in-One WP Migration is a great plugin for migrating your websites from one hosting provider to another but once you've done that you have no further need of it. It's not a good option for regular backups. Deactivate and delete the plugin and then delete the file it created so you don't clog up the server. Deactivate and delete All-in-One WP Migration File Extension as well.
Use WP File Manager to locate All-in-One WP Migration backups folder and delete it.
And, like they say in the cartoons, "That's All Folks!"
If this has helped you or if you have any questions please leave a comment below. I read all comments personally.