Moving WordPress using Import and Export

wordpress logoOver the years I have moved many WordPress websites from one server to another, from a local desktop install and from within a server’s folder to another folder. Each time I tried various approaches to make the move and I have to confess that I have used many different methods to make this happen. The WordPress Codex provides some good instructions on how to do this, but there are many different ways to achieve your desired result. In this article I am going to cover my favorite method for moving WordPress and in my opinion one of the easiest ways to move WordPress without errors occurring.

Tutorial Details
Description: Moving WordPress using Import and Export
Difficutly: Easy
Estimated Time: depending on site size and number of plugins 5 mins to 30 mins

Warning: I would like to point out that versions of WordPress below 3.0 may have difficulty with this process.

Moving WordPress using Import and Export

Whether you are moving WordPress from one server to another, from a local desktop installation to the web or from one folder to another, the process is the same. Before you begin, always back up your files and your database. The benefit of using this method is that you don’t have to worry much about messing with your database. So let us begin.

Exporting Your WordPress Content

What we are going to export from your existing site is an XML file which will tell us where all your content is located on your server and it will also contain all your pages and blog posts. This is not a backup of your website. You are essentially creating a file which will help you transfer your content from one server to another.

  1. In your dashboard, look for “Tools” in your sidebar. Under “Tools” you will see “Import” and “Export”.
  2. Click on “Export”.
  3. You will have the option to export “All Content” or you can export certain pages or posts.
  4. Once you have made your selection click the “Download Export file” button.
Tools import and export
Tools displaying Import and Export options
Post Types will also be listed if you have them.

The great thing about the export feature is that it gives you the flexibility to export everything or articles and pages from a specific date range. This feature can come in handy under certain circumstances so feel free to explore it some more.

Importing Your WordPress Content

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Once you have downloaded your XML file the next step is to setup your files on your new server. If you want to replicate your existing website onto a new server, then you need a default installation of WordPress followed by the setup of your WordPress Theme and any plugins you are using. If however, you are setting up a new Theme, then configure it accordingly. When your new site is ready we will then navigate to the dashboard and follow the steps below:

  1. In your dashboard, look for “Tools” in your sidebar. Under “Tools” you will see “Import” and “Export”.
  2. Click on “Import”.
  3. You will see a list of services available that you can import to, we will choose WordPress.
  4. If you have not used the import feature before, a popup window will appear asking you to install the Import Plugin.
  5. Install the plugin, activate it and run it.
  6. The Import WordPress screen will have an upload button, here you select the XML file you exported in the previous steps. (Your server will have an upload limit. If your XML file is bigger than your upload limit, you will need to increase that limit. You will need to refer to your server details on how to increase your upload limit.)
  7. Once the XML file is uploaded, the next screen will ask you to assign your content to existing users or import the old users with the content previously created. I normally import the old users with their content, but this depends on what your situation is and you may choose not to import old users. If you do import old users, their passwords will be reset and they will need to use the “forgot password” to regain access to their profiles.
  8. The most important part of the “Import” process is to click “Download and import file attachments” under the Import Attachments section. (This will transfer your files and images over with your posts and pages. If you do not click this, the files and images will remain hosted remotely and if your remote server is taken down, you will have broken images on your new site.)
  9. When you click “submit” you will see a list of files being imported. This may take some time to complete depending on how large a site you are importing. Additionally, your server may have limits set on mass imports. If this is the case, your page may give you an error after several minutes. Do no panic, if this happens simply hit refresh on your browser and click the resend button that pops up. Keep repeating this process until you get your successful upload message at the bottom of the screen. You will see “All done. Have fun!” If you don’t see this, keep refreshing your browser and simply wait.
import services
Import WordPress listed at the bottom.
Import upload
Import upload page
Assign content to authors and download and import file attachments
Assign content to authors and download and import file attachments
Successful transfer
Successful transfer

I have not see a lot of documentation or tutorials on this process and I believe it is a great and easy way to transfer a WordPress website. This process makes sure that all your articles and images are properly imported and matched up. Additionally, you do not have worry about doing messy database imports. Best of all, the more you practice this process the easier and quicker it becomes to export and import a WordPress website.

Some Alternatives to Moving WordPress

Using Import and Export is my favorite method for moving WordPress, but there are other ways to accomplish the same results. Many web developers will argue in favor of some of these methods and I suggest that you research and find the method that works best for you.

  1. Follow the instructions in the WordPress Codex (You can’t go wrong if you follow the original source)
  2. If your servers use cPanel, then you can do a cPanel to cPanel transfer of your website. (You will need to read up or contact your administrator for more details)
  3. Manually upload and download your files using FTP and manually import your sql database into Mysql. (Will probably take a long time to do this depending on your website size)
  4. Use plugins designed specifically for transferring WordPress (There are many plugins to choose from, research and choose wisely)

I am sure there are many more ways to move a WordPress website, but these alternatives will keep you busy researching. Lastly, if you don’t want to do this work yourself, you can always outsource the work to a developer or a freelancer.


I have seen may ways to transfer a WordPress website. A quick Google search will result in many different methods. Search through help forums and you will see people asking this question and having 10 different developers respond with 10 different answers. Perhaps, the best way to learn to transfer a WordPress site is to choose one method, practice it over time and stick with the method that you feel comfortable with. This is one method I have used for years with great success and the best part is that I don’t have to spend a long time downloading and uploading files via ftp. So what is your favorite method and why? Feel free to share in the comments below. And if you like this article, be kind and share it with others.

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