Guide to Migrating Your WordPress Website To A New Web Host

Last Updated on April 14, 2020 by Next Century

Possible due to issues with your current host like reliability, speed or support you are faced with the challenge of needing to migrate your WordPress website to a new host?

Some people will pay a professional to move their WordPress website or find a new host that offers the migration service as part of the new hosting package.

But migrating your WordPress website to a new host can be a very straightforward task if approached correctly and can be easily reversed should a problem occur.

Here is a step by step guide to migrating your WordPress website to a new host:

  • Back Up Your WordPress Website Files

    First, back up your WordPress website files using a FTP program such as FileZilla which should look like the example below.

    You need to connect to your host with FTP details supplied by your host and copy all the WordPress files under your public_html folder to a folder on your computer.

    Do make sure you can see the .htaccess file as it can sometimes be hidden.  Refer to your FTP program help file to have it display hidden files if you are unable to see this file.

    If you have a lot of Media content, this could take some time but while you are waiting, process with the next step to export your WordPress database.

  • Export the WordPress Database

    Exporting your database is a simple process that only requires a few steps to complete.

    Firstly, Login to the cPanel account of your web server and open the phpMyAdmin application.

    Select the database that contains your WordPress website from the list on the left hand sidebar and then click on the Export tab on the navigation menu.

    Note:  Your Database name will be different to this example

    The default settings of a Quick export and the SQL format for the export are sufficient for what we need. Click the Go button and the database export process will begin and a file will be downloaded to your local computer.

    Once the database export and the FTP transfer of your files have both completed, you are ready to move onto the next step.

  • Create a WordPress Database On Your New Host

    Before you can begin the migration to the new web host, you must create a database on the new host, so that you can import your SQL data into.

    Login to your new web host with the user credentials they have supplied you and connect to the cPanel software.

    With this guide, we will be using the MySQL Databases application. If your web host doesn’t have that application running then you will should contact their support team to discover their method of creating new databases.

    The steps to create a database are quite simple:

    • Open MySQL Database and create a new database with an appropriate name for your website.
    • Create a new MySQL user (with a secure password).
    • Add this user account to the new database and grant it All Privileges.

    Write down the database name, the new MySQL username and its password as you will need them.

  • Edit the wp-config.php File

    Browse to the folder on your local computer where you downloaded your WordPress website files to.

    In that folder there is a file called wp-config.php that controls the access between WordPress and your database.

    Make a copy of this file and store it in another folder on your local computer. This is necessary for restoring the changes we are about to make should something go wrong later.

    Open the original version of the file with your favorite text editor and make the following three changes:

    1. Change The Database Name
    Locate the following line:

    define('DB_NAME', 'db_name');

    The db_name portion of this line will currently be set to the MySQL database name of your old web host. This must be changed to the name of the new database you have just created.

    2. Change the Database Username
    Below this you will find the line:

    define('DB_USER', 'db_user');

    In this line you need to change the db_user portion from the username of your old host to match the new username you have just created.

    3. Change The Database User Password
    Finally, edit the third line:

    define('DB_PASSWORD', 'db_pass');

    As with the others the db_pass section of this line must be changed to the new secure password you created for your MySQL user.

    Save wp-config.php and close the file.

  • Import Your Database

    Now that you have a new database to work with we can begin the import process.

    Launch phpMyAdmin from the cPanel software on your new server and select your new database from the list on the left hands sidebar. Once it opens select the Import tab from the navigation menu.

    Note:  wordpres_db is only an example and your database name will most likely be different

    In the File to Import section click the Choose File button and select the SQL file you exported previously.

    Un-tick the Partial Import check box, make sure the format is set to SQL and then click the Go button. The database import will now begin.

    The time this import takes varies depending on the size of your database. You should receive a message informing you of the success of the import when it has finished.

  • Upload Your WordPress Files To The New Host

    Now that you have the new database prepared and you have reconfigured the wp-config.php file, it is time to begin uploading your website’s files.

    Connect to your new web host using your FTP program and browse to the folder that your website is going to be held. If this is the primary, or only site being installed on this web server then uploading the files to the public_html folder is the usual directory.

    With the remote directory selected you can upload your website files that should now include the updated version of wp-config.php. As with the earlier download, this process can take some time.

    Do not delete these files from your local computer once the upload finishes.  They are still needed until the final steps have been completed and also, it’s always a good procedure to have a backup of your WordPress website.

  • Linking to a New URL & Defining The New Domain

    If you are moving to a new or different domain then you should read over this step, if not, then you can skip this because you don’t have to update your site to point to a different domain.

    One issue people always seem to have when moving their site is that they have added links to other posts on their site or inserted images directly by pointing to a URL on the server, causing these to break when moved over to a new domain.

    If you want to quickly and easily search for any instances of your old domain name and replace with the new name we suggest you take a look at the Search Replace DB script on github. This will allow you to do this with great ease. Just make sure you DELETE it when your are done (for security reasons) and don’t place it in your root domain, create a temp folder with a random name to host the script.

    Changing Site URL:

    By doing a search and replace for the old domain and replacing with the new domain you’ll also be altering the site_url and home url values in the database (Changing the Site URL) which will ensure that when you try to log into your site on the new domain it does not try and redirect you over to the old domain.

  • Change Domain DNS Settings

    Before you can use the site on your new host, you will need to change your domain’s DNS settings. They will be set to point to your old host and you will need to point the correct records to the new server IP address/name servers.

    This process will depend on where you have your domain registered and the details of completing this process are too varied to discuss in this article, but your domain registrar should have all of the details you need to make this change.

    DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to fully propagate.

    It’s best to do this at a period when you expect lower levels of traffic. During this 48 hour window you should avoid making any changes to your website as you may be changing the old version of the site.

    After the 48-hour period has expired you should now be accessing the new web host when you go to your website.

  • Delete Old WordPress Website

    I would advise to wait at least 7 days before you do this as there is no point in rushing this process and it is best to make sure everything is 100% working on the new host with your WordPress website.

    It’s at this point you can connect to your old web host to delete the files and database via the cPanel.

    You should still have a local backup copy of these files and the database export, along with the original wp-config.php file in case you need to roll back the migration. It can be a good idea to hold onto these files for an extended period just to be on the safe side.

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