Moving a WordPress site

If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to work with wordpress, you may have run into problems when deploying to live. Imagine you’ve got a wordpress site all set up locally and you’re ready to deploy to an expectant client. You might have used a custom theme, entered the content for the client and maybe diddled with the source files a bit, but it’s all working locally so what could possibly go wrong? Surely this is just a case of changing the config file, ftp’ing up the scripts and restoring the database right?

Erm… no.

Lots can go wrong.

  • You might find that once the site is live it still tries to direct you to localhost.
  • You might find you lose all your theme options if you’ve used a paid theme.
  • You might find that some of the content is gone, or hyperlinks within the content are still linking to localhost.


A lot of these issues are caused by hard-coded urls going into the database, and these don’t automatically update when you switch to live.  A simple find-replace on the SQL file won’t do it either because some plugins and themes work out their caching by counting the number of characters in a database field, and if you change it without going through the various script hooks you’re going to mess it up. Deploying a WordPress site to live *should* be a doddle, but things can go wrong. Below is the recipe we found works best when doing the first push to live.


Make sure the site is working as you want it locally. Once you’re sure it’s working and connected to a database and so on, back up both the site and the DB and keep them safe as the next steps will alter both.

Preparing the database

Save yourself many headaches and get hold of a copy of the wordpress command line tool ( – installation instructions are on the site.

Once that’s installed, navigate your terminal into the root folder of the site you want to put live and enter the following commands (remembering to add a port to “localhost” if you’re using a different port, and replacing “” with your live domain name):

wp search-replace 'localhost' ''

You will then see all the tables that got updated (make sure there’s some numbers in there so you can be sure that it did find/replace the domains!). Next there are two settings in the wp-options table. You can update these on the menu in the wordpress console, but you can’t get to the menu when it’s live because the site uses these settings to direct you to the homepage etc. so you need to change them before going live. If you try and update them in the dashboard of your local version, it’ll break your local version too because THAT will try to get to the live url. It’s a catch-22! wp cli helps again, these two commands will update those settings;

wp option update home ''
wp option update siteurl ''

Then back it up. That’s the database you’ll restore to live.

Edit the config

Just one last script to go. In the site’s root folder you’ll find a file called “wp-config.php”. There are four database related fields in there that you need to update to the live equivalents, which are “DB_NAME”, “DB_USER”, “DB_PASSWORD” and “DB_HOST”. If you don’t already know these, your hosting provider should be able to tell you (or, it’ll tell you while you’re setting it all up).

Good to go!

With all that done, just ftp the files up to where you want them and import your local database to live. Update DNS and you should be cooking!

I hate wordpress. The irony that this is a WordPress blog is not lost on me 🙂


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