Are you thinking of changing your WordPress site to reflect your brand’s new direction? Or maybe you want to test the functionality of some new features without pulling the whole site down? Anyone in your position would wonder about how to preserve basic data, such as customized themes, fonts and layouts, as well as more important data, such as web content and customer tracking data.
Cloning provides the perfect solution to these worries. This process lets you implement and test changes to your site without compromising its functionality or losing any data. Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to clone a WordPress site to get a functional duplicate you can modify to your satisfaction.
Why Clone a WordPress Website?
Cloning a WordPress site means creating a duplicate and storing it in a separate location. Many think creating a site backup is similar to creating a clone. However, when you back up a website, you create a copy of its files that you can use or restore in case you lose details on the website.
In contrast, cloning creates an active, dynamic website that’s identical to the live website. It contains all the designs, layout, plug-ins, extensions and files from the original site. It’s fully functional and can be modified without affecting the original. A cloned site remains operational even when migrated to a different domain name or web host.
There are several reasons you might need to clone a WordPress site, such as:
- Creating a staging site. Cloning a site is necessary when you want to modify different functionalities without putting the original site out of commission. The cloned site can be a staging environment for any changes and updates. It lets you see how modifications can affect the functionality of your site and gives you time to fine-tune the user experience before launching the new version.
- Changing the domain name. Most websites need to change their domain names at some point. For example, a new domain name may better reflect your brand, products and services. A simpler, more specific domain name can also make it easier for your target audience to find your site online. You can also choose to merge domain names to help a less optimized site benefit from the traffic and SEO features of a more popular site. The cloning process lets you easily move all content from the old domain onto the new one.
- Changing web hosts. Sometimes, a web host may not meet all your needs. For example, the host may not have the right size servers to handle increased traffic to your WordPress site. Or the hosting provider may have poor customer service, costing you important traffic as you struggle to troubleshoot problems. Other web hosts may offer you more features for a lower cost, including enhanced security and speed. When you clone a WordPress site, you can easily migrate it from one web server to another and have it live in no time.
How to Clone a WordPress Site Manually
You can clone a WordPress site manually if you don’t want to install plug-ins. The manual cloning process is longer, especially if you run into errors that copy incomplete information or terminate the entire process without warning.
However, manual cloning is mostly free and helps you better understand the process.
To clone your WordPress website manually, you’ll need:
- A separate domain name
- A server for the clone site
1. Create a Backup for the Source Site
To make a copy of your source or original site, use the FileZilla FTP client to find and access the directory with your WordPress website. Compress the details of the source site in the directory. Download site files, themes, plug-ins, pictures and videos as a ZIP file to your computer.
2. Export Source Site Database
The database has all the details about your site, including the number of pages, content, tags, clicks and comments. To export it:
- Open the dashboard of a database manager such as phpMyAdmin and locate the SQL database for your WordPress website.
- Select all files and tables and click Export.
- Depending on your database manager, you might need to select the format for the download. Always choose to store your database as an SQL file.
- Give the database an appropriate name and save it as a ZIP file on your computer.
3. Set Up the Destination Site
To create a destination site for the clone website:
- Log in to your web host server and create a new primary domain or subdomain for the clone site.
- Give the new domain a different name from the source site.
- Use the server’s tool to install WordPress.
4. Import Database to the Destination Site
You must upload the source database to the new destination site to create a clone.
- Navigate to the database manager for the new WordPress website.
- Click Import and select the ZIP folder with the source database from your computer.
- Create a new database user through the database manager and add them to the imported database.
- Allow all permissions and privileges for the new user to fully access the imported database.
5. Upload Backup to Destination Site
Finally, you’ll need to upload the content you downloaded in the first step to the new database.
- Go back to FileZilla and locate the wp-content folder for the new site.
- Find the backup folder with the source site’s content on your computer.
- Upload the folder to populate the new site’s wp-content folder with content from the source site.
6. Edit the Destination Site’s Configuration Details
Editing the destination’s configuration details allows WordPress to communicate with the cloned database.
- Locate and download the clone site’s wp-config.php file from the web host server’s root directory.
- Change the database name and user details to reflect the details created in Step 4.
- Save the edited wp-config php file and re-upload it to the cloned site’s server.
4 Plug-Ins for Cloning a WordPress Site
Cloning plug-ins simplifies the cloning process, making it faster and more comprehensive. You can download any of these four cloning plug-ins from the WordPress directory to swiftly clone your website files.
Duplicator is a popular WordPress cloning plug-in. The free version of the plug-in lets you preconfigure one cloning site and duplicate it whenever you want to upload a source site’s database and site files.
Duplicator Pro has features that allow fast cloning for large websites. It also has an archive where you can store source site files to quickly locate them when creating a clone website.
WP Staging handles source site copying and backup within seconds. You’ll find the fast backup feature ideal for creating a staging site whenever you need to implement changes to your source site.
WP Staging Pro quickly creates subdomains for the source site’s clone. The plug-in operates fast even if you’re working with a weak web host server.
XCloner is a free WordPress plug-in that provides quick backup for WordPress files. You can download the backup files to your computer or upload them to the cloud.
XCloner makes migrating cloned WordPress sites to another server an easy process. You can also modify the cloned WordPress site and restore it in record time.
Migrate Guru handles the full cloning process for sites up to 200GB. The plug-in stores WordPress backup files on its own servers and deletes them after completing the cloning process. You can use Migrate Guru to create a staging site or migrate web hosts.
How to Clone a WordPress Website Using Plug-Ins
1. Install the Plug-In
Select the cloning plug-in of your choice from the WordPress plug-in directory. This guide will provide instructions based on the cloning process used by the free version of the Duplicator plug-in. Install the plug-in to the domain of the live website you want to clone. Activate the plug-in to start the process.
2. Backup Live Website Data
Follow the directions provided by the plug-in to create and name a new cloning package. Allow the plug-in to scan your live website to identify web host and site issues. Solve any pertinent issues before letting the plug-in back up all elements of the source site, including the database. Download the backup ZIP file and installer file to your computer.
3. Transfer Source Site Data
If using the same server, create a new folder in the root directory you’ll use to store data from the source site. If using a new server, go to FileZilla and log into the web server. Upload the backup ZIP file and installation tool from your computer to the server’s root directory.
4. Create a New Database
Log in to your account on the web host server, find the option to add a new MySQL database and give it a name. Add a user to the account, creating a unique username and password. Add the new user to the new database and allow all permissions and privileges.
5. Run Import Script
Go to your web browser and type in a domain name for the clone site with “installer.php” at the end to access the duplicator installer you uploaded in Step 3. Allow the plug-in to run the Duplicator installer script to extract the backup database and files.
Test the database copied from the live site before importing it to the new site. Confirm other site details, including the URL. Log in to the admin side of the cloned WordPress site and test its functionality. Delete and remove installation files, and modify the cloned site to your liking.
Cloning a WordPress site doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right tools, you can follow the steps outlined above and successfully create a duplicate of your original site. However, the process can be slow, especially if you’re working with a lot of data.
WP Site Plan can handle all your cloning needs, whether you have a small website or run multiple large sites. We offer a range of WordPress maintenance services, including site backups and enhanced security features, at an affordable rate. Contact us today to see which services our experienced in-house team can offer your business.