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.

Preparation

  • 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 host
    • The username and password,
    • The ‘path’ or web root to your WordPress files. 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 log in to your web hosting control panel and look up each domain you have hosted there, it should indicate to you the web root path for each domain.
      • If you’re using a built in FTP user account that was created for you by cPanel, then the path you want to enter in Installatron is probably the path to the web root that the hosting control panel shows you for the domain.
      • 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. If you do this, 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. (Note: cPanel usually defaults the FTP user’s home path to public_html — you will need to adjust this during account creation if the web root is in another folder within public_html).
      • If you have an FTP application on your computer, it’s recommended to try logging in and  see where your web root folder is relative to the FTP user’s home folder. Examples:
        • 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. 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.
  • To disable any security plugins or admin folder changing plugins. These 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.

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. We recommend choosing the “FTP with TLS/SSL” option under the Protocol section as outgoing SSH connections are commonly blocked by our firewall for security reasons. 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. Choose the domain to which you’ll be importing WordPress. You’ll likely want to keep the “Directory” field empty unless you know you want the transfer to be installed to a subdirectory of the web root.
  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 mode

SSH Mode 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. There’s this bug in Installatron that mandates that you use an absolute path to the remote files for the transfer to be successful (even though it doesn’t really specify this anywhere). 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_username}/public_html

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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