How to Migrate a WordPress Site with the Duplicator Plugin

WordPress has a lot of migration systems. We’ve had lots of good experiences with All-in-One WP Migration, some people swear by WP Migrate DB Pro, and others are partial to WP-CLI’s terminal-based systems. On top of these options, I’ve recently found a plugin I really like called Duplicator that approaches WordPress migrations in a unique way. Here’s a guide on how to use Duplicator, and what sets it apart.

What Makes the Duplicator Plugin a Great WordPress Migration Tool

With the Duplicator plugin, you don’t need WordPress to be already running on the destination server.

One of the few tools I’d never tried until recently was Duplicator. When I did, I loved it, mainly because of one pleasant surprise about how to use the Duplicator plugin: you don’t need WordPress to be already running on the destination server. Instead, you just copy over two files, put them in the destination folder, and the Duplicator installer takes care of installing both WordPress itself and all your site’s contents.

This is a really great advantage over other WordPress migration tools. Rather than Duplicator’s very quick process, you first have to install WordPress, then install a migration plugin to accept my migration as an “Import.” Duplicator skips that, with an installer.php file that will get WordPress itself installed, and your WordPress site migrated, in a few click of a wizard.

Here’s a video demonstrating how to use Duplicator to migrate a WordPress site:

And here’s the text version of the video, broken down into a step-by-step WordPress Duplicator plugin tutorial:

How to Migrate a Site Using the WordPress Duplicator Plugin

  1. Install and activate the Duplicator plugin, on the WordPress site you’re copying from.
  2. Click on “Duplicator > Packages” in the left-side menu (it’s toward the bottom).
  3. In the top right on that screen, click the “Create New” button.
  4. Click through the wizard. That’ll be a blue “Next” button on the “1-Setup” screen, and a “Build” on the “3-Build” screen.
  5. When you see “Package Completed” click the “One-Click Download” link. You should be prompted (by your web browser) to download two files. Save both.
  6. After they’ve completed the download, move the two files (installer.php and something ending with .zip) into the folder you’ll want the WordPress site in.
  7. In a web browser (with your server running) visit the installer.php file.
  8. If everything works, you should see a wizard screen similar to the style you saw in your WordPress dashboard. You’ll need to click “I have read and accept all terms & notices.”
  9. Click “Next.”
  10. Here you’ll need to have a database ready. Then tell Duplicator your database name, user, and password. For me, that meant creating a new one with MAMP, but this step will vary depending on your environment. For many shared hosts, you’ll have a cPanel based “Database Wizard” to do this.
  11. If it all works, you’ll see “Step 4 of 4: Test Site”. There you’ll want to click the “Site Login” button, and log in to your WordPress site using the same username and password as you have on the remote site.
  12. You should now be in a full-fledged copy of your WordPress site.
  13. Make sure to clean up after Duplicator. It’ll give a helpful admin notice (a banner at the top) showing you things. If you click “Take me there now!” you’ll then be on the screen to click “2. Remove Installation Files Now!” After you do that, you’re done.

It’s pretty amazing how polished and slick the Duplicator plugin is. I know 13 steps looks like a lot, but migrating sites is hard, and the above outline is made of very small explicit steps—I assure you this is easier than most other WordPress migrations I’ve done in my career. You can hear my surprise and excitement in the video. ;p

Studying Migrations Because You’re Not on the Best WordPress Hosting?

We hope this Quick Guide helps you know how to use the Duplicator plugin to migrate WordPress sites. We also know that lots of people do WordPress site migrations because they’re dissatisfied with their current hosting plan. If that’s you, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to where to find the best WordPress hosting:

The Best WordPress Hosting: An Honest Guide (2023)

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