How do I Migrate to a New Site Location?

This question is about cloning or migrating your site to a different URL. Migrating is especially useful if you want to clone a site for testing, or move to new hosting and test before you make the new version live, and many other similar scenarios.

In the example below, we are migrating into a completely empty WordPress site (i.e. a new install which we made). However, you can migrate into an existing site – for example, if you are updating a development/test version of your website with a new upload. If you’re doing that, then you’ll be able to skip a few of the steps below.

By the way – before you begin, try to turn off any proxies that are between you and your site, such as Cloudflare, GoDaddy’s “Preview DNS” proxy, or Opera Turbo/Road mode. These can get in the way. Also, caching and minifying plugins are a possible cause of migration problems (whatever method you use). If possible, disable all of those before you create your backup – or alternatively, just be ready to turn them off if the migration stumbles.

1. Starting with an empty WordPress install which we’ve just made:

Starting with an empty WordPress install

Starting with an empty WordPress install

Here’s the front end of the site – just what you always see on a fresh WordPress install (the screenshot is from WordPress 4.2 – newer or older WordPress versions since then will have a different look/theme):

Empty WordPress site

Note: If you are using a WordPress Network/Multisite install (you’ll know if you do – you would have taken special steps in setting it up), you’ll need to first set up the second site as a network. UpdraftPlus is designed to migrate between equivalent sites (i.e. normal install to normal install, or network to network), but not from one type to another. For multi-site you will also need the Premium version of UpdraftPlus.

2. Install and Activate UpdraftPlus

The next step is to:

Activate UpdraftPlus

3. Import your backup files into UpdraftPlus

Next you’ll need to upload your backup files into UpdraftPlus. There is more than one way to do this – you can use any way you like.

Here are the four different ways which you can choose from (instructions for the first two are then provided):

  1. Install the UpdraftPlus Migrator component on your source website, and send the backup over directly. (Press the “Clone/Migrate” button on the source website, and follow the instructions shown there).
  2. OR, download the backup set from your source site (or from your Dropbox, or wherever you stored it), and upload into the ‘Existing Backups’ tab on your destination site.
  3. OR, set up the destination site to use the same remote storage (e.g. same Dropbox) as the source site, save your settings, and then press the “Rescan remote storage” link in the ‘Existing Backups’ tab on your destination site.
  4. OR, download the backup set from your source site (or from your Dropbox, or wherever you stored it), and use FTP to upload into the UpdraftPlus folder on your destination site (wp-content/updraft), and press the “Rescan local folder for new backup sets” link in the ‘Existing Backups’ tab on your destination site.

To use method 1. (sending data directly), you can switch over to these instructions, which cover this method.

To import your backup files using method 2 (manually), go to the settings page on your destination site, click on “Restore” and then click on “upload backups files”. A drag-drop widget will appear:

Widget to upload a backup set

Then, you can drag-and-drop your backup files in:

Drag and drop your backup files in

Drag and drop your backup files in

You should then see them each upload (how long this step takes does not depend upon the Migrator itself, but upon how large your backups are, and the speed of your Internet connection):

Uploading your backup set

Uploading your backup set


4. Press “Restore”

When the upload has finished, you will be able to press the “Restore” button for the backup set which you just uploaded:

A new backup set is available

5. Select all the components to restore, and press “Restore”

If you are restoring from nothing, then you will want to check all the boxes, to restore every part of your site. Then press “Restore”.

Restore Modal 1

Important: Since this is a migration, after clicking ‘Restore’, you will also need to check the “Search and replace site location in the database” option. This option is what will instruct UpdraftPlus to fix everything in your database for your new location (URL). (If you forget to do so, then it is not fatal – here are the instructions to recover).

Restore Modal 2

Are you curious as to why UpdraftPlus does not ask you to type in any old or new site URLs for the search & replace? That’s easy – it already knows the new site URL (because it knows what site you’re visiting the dashboard for), and it can get the old site URL out of your database backup.

6. Watch the restoration succeed!

UpdraftPlus will then run the restoration and migration. You can watch the progress:

Restoration in progress

Restoration in progress

After restoring the database, it will then go through it to perform the search-and-replace of your old and new site URLs:

Database migration progress

Database migration progress

At the bottom of the screen, hopefully you’ll get the “Restore successful!” message, and the option to return to the main UpdraftPlus page:

All successful!

All successful!

If you do return to the WordPress dashboard, then don’t be surprised if you have to log in again – having replaced your site database (including the users), WordPress will need you to re-identify yourself, using valid login details from the imported database (i.e. the site that the backups are from):

Logging in again

Logging in again


Now, we visit the front end of the site, and it’s all migrated – what a beautiful website!

Everything is migrated!

Everything is migrated!

Didn’t work?

If something went wrong, then don’t panic – it may be easy to fix. Even if it’s not, then there’s still nothing to worry about – the UpdraftPlus backup files are just standard zip and SQL files which can be used to restore your site another way. However, before you give up, do try looking in your web server’s error logs, and turn on WP_DEBUG in wp-config.php. Also, cacheing and minifying plugins are a common cause of migration failures – so disable any of those and see if that helps (either through the dashboard, or via renaming their directories inside wp-content/plugins).

Migrations not working first time is not a sign of something hugely wrong. WordPress is a big, complex beast. Nothing can be perfect. If you find out a way that we can make a failed migration work for you, then please just let us know.

See also:

Posted in: Migration, Restoration