How to transfer your WordPress website

This guide applies specifically to WordPress and web hosting companies using Installatron, like us. That said, most of the steps can be used to import websites using other content management systems like Drupal, Modx, and Joomla.

If you’re migrating a non-app based website or can’t get these instructions to work (possibly due to remote host issues like low disk space), here’s how to do a manual website transfer. You can also use that article to learn how to migrate your email.

Our 1-click web apps utility is really smart! It will automatically package up the database and files, copy them to your account with us, create the new database and even make changes to the database configuration if you’re changing domains in the process. It’s pretty great!

Preparation

  • The domain must already exists in Plesk. If it’s not your primary domain, simply choose “Add Domain” in Plesk to set it up.
  • You will require FTP credentials (or SSH) to access your former hosting company, including:
    • The hostname (often ftp.yourdomain.com) or IP address of the source web server
    • The username and password,
    • The ‘path’ or web root to your WordPress files at the old host. Here are some tips on finding the path:
      • When finding the web root, you’ll be looking for a WordPress installation so the files and folders within should begin with “wp-“. For example, you should see a wp-config.php file.
      • If you’re using the FTP user account that your hosting company created for you (and not one you manually added), then the web root will likely be the path that your former hosting company’s control panel indicates is the ‘path’ or ‘web root’.
      • If you’re creating a new FTP user to handle this transfer, you can specify that the user’s home path be the path to your WordPress installation. cPanel usually defaults the FTP user’s home path to public_html, so if the web root is in a different folder, then you will need to manually adjust this when you create the FTP account. If you set the FTP home path correctly, then you don’t need to enter a path when importing in Installatron because the FTP user will default to the correct path immediately upon login.
      • If you have an FTP application on your computer, it’s recommended to try logging in with that prior to starting the Installatron Import. If, immediately after logging in, you’re greeted with the files to the WordPress install you wish to migrate, then you do not need to enter a path in Installatron.
        If you have to open up a folder (or two) to find your WordPress files, make note of the folders you have to navigate to get there, and that will be your path. For example if you have to open public_html followed by mydomain.com, then your path is: public_html/mydomain.com whereas if you only have to open up the folder mydomain.com, then your path is simply: mydomain.com.
  • A clean web root folder at the destination (your Websavers server). If you chose to preinstall WordPress during your order (or had already installed WordPress or another app) be sure to remove it now, otherwise Installatron will tell you that it can’t migrate the site because there’s one already there. Also be sure to remove the index.html file.
  • You should disable any security plugins or admin folder changing plugins in WordPress. These kinds of plugins can detrimentally interfere with the process of the migration. Feel free to re-enable them after the migration is completed, but note that our shared servers all come with lower-level bruteforce login blocking for WordPress, so you  may not require that level of security. See our guide on securing WordPress for the things you *should* do.
If you are familiar with FTP, it’s recommended to log in to your source host with your favourite FTP application to test that the connection works (ie: that the username and password are accurate) and to make it easier to figure out what your ‘path’ value should be. See the “If you have an FTP application on your computer” bullet point above for more details.

Let’s get started!

  1. Log in to Plesk 
  2. Choose 1-click web apps. If you are not hosting with us, you must find your own way to the Installatron (1-click web apps) utility.
  3. If you already have at least one application installed, you’ll need to choose the “Application Browser” tab in the upper right corner. If not, then you should already be there!
  4. Scroll down until you see WordPress (or use the search box in the upper right corner) and click on it.
  5. You’ll see a button in the upper right that says “Install this application”. Click the downward pointing arrow that’s on the far right side of the button to get additional options. Choose “Import Existing Install”
  6. Under the “From different account” part of the page, click the Continue button
  7. Provide the necessary details to begin the transfer.
    1. The Source URL is simply the URL to the website you’ll be transferring. Visit the site in your browser, then copy/paste the URL from the address bar into this box.
    2. Protocol: we recommend choosing the “FTP with TLS/SSL” option. If you choose to use SFTP or SSH, be sure to check out the troubleshooting section below on this topic
    3. Be sure to supply the correct FTP connectivity details from your former host. Information on how to find the path can be found above under the “You will need” section.
    4. Choose the domain to which you’ll be importing WordPress.
    5. You’ll likely want to keep the “Directory” field empty unless you are planning on having your website visible at yoururl.com/directory and not just yoururl.com
  8. Click Import

Installatron will now complete the import of your external WordPress installation into your account on your new web hosting provider.

Troubleshooting

I get a Compression Failed error

This occurs when there are very large files on the source server. So far, in our tests, every occasion for this error arises because of a backup utility being used within WordPress (a plugin like Backup Buddy). To resolve this, it is recommended to download a copy of those backups to your computer, then remove them from the server either by manually removing them via FTP or by using the WordPress admin panel.

Once the large files have been removed, you can complete the steps above once again to successfully complete your transfer.

An advanced alternative to removing the larger files is to increase the PHP max execution time on the old host. This is often not possible without admin intervention, so it’s considered an advanced solution. We cannot support this, only your old host can, so if you’re unable to easily make such a change, it’s strongly recommended to simply remove the larger files rather than attempting to change this value.

I get errors when using SSH or SFTP mode

SSH and SFTP transfer methods can be a bit tricky to get right. There’s commonly two reasons why you might have trouble with SSH transfer mode:

  1. The firewall may be blocking port 22 outbound, in which case you’ll need to get this port opened to proceed. This is why we recommend using FTP with TLS mode.
  2. Installatron requires an absolute path to the web root for the transfer to be successful. As an example, if your remote path currently seems to be public_html and it’s not working, try using an FTP app to find the absolute path from root, which should look something like this: /home/{your_ftp_username}/public_html. If your former web host is using Plesk, and the web root is httpdocs. the absolute path is probably /var/www/vhosts/{your_domain}/httpdocs

I get authentication or connection errors after confirming the user/pass works using an FTP app on my computer

This likely means that the source server only supports PASV/Passive mode connections and our firewall is blocking the necessary outbound ports to allow that to happen. To fix this, we’ll need to temporarily whitelist the IP address of the source server:

  • If you’re using Plesk Firewall (like on a VPS), you can do this from within Plesk under Tools & Settings > Firewall.
  • If you’re hosted on a shared server, open a ticket and provide us with the IP or hostname you’re connecting to so that we can whitelist it in csf (our firewall).

Jordan is a computer, security, and network systems expert and a lover of all things web and tech. Jordan consults with project management for software companies. Jordan is a founder and managing partner at Websavers Inc.

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