How to migrate and backup large WordPress sites with Duplicator

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Backing up and migrating WordPress sites can sometimes be a pain, especially with sites that are on budget hosts or those that have large amounts of media. During my time as a designer I’ve had to migrate a LOT of sites, I started off doing this manually and then decided to look into some of the various solutions offered in the form of WordPress plugins to help me speed up and streamline this process. The plugin that stuck with me after trying many was always, Duplicator but as good as it was it still had it’s problems, especially when it came to larger sites.

In this tutorial I’m going to show you a simple method for migrating or backing up large WordPress sites (even on slow/budget hosts) that has worked for me time and time again.

Step 1

Install the Duplicator plugin for WordPress by either searching for it from within your Wordpress install by going to Plugins > Add New or by downloading the zip file from here. Don’t forget to activate the plugin after installing it.

Step 2

Click on the Duplicator menu item from your admin panel side bar and then select “Create New”.

Step 3

You’ll now be at the Package Setup options, here is where we have to enter some important information to help with moving our large WordPress site. First enter in a name for your backup. Then expand the “Archive” options and select the checkbox, “Enable File Filters”. We are now going to add your “wp-content” directory in the directories box below. This way Duplicator will ignore your wp-content folder when backing up, but don’t worry we’ll manually back that up a little later in the process.

The easiest way to select your wp-content folder if you don’t already know the location of it is by “[wp-uploads]” link above the box and then removing “/uploads;” text from the inserted URL. Make sure the path in the text box finishes with a “;” like the example below.

Step 4

Click the “Next” button, duplicator will now scan your site and move on to a page that shows you infromation about your build. The “Archive” section should show a relatively small file size as we are not backing up the main content of your site (images/media/themes/plugins etc.) directly using duplicator. As long as you have no errors messages here you can proceed with the build by pressing the “Build” button.

Duplicator will now build your package that we need for backing up or migrating your site. This process could take a few minutes.

Step 5

When the build is complete you will be shown your package (if you navigate away from these screen you can access all your packages from the “Duplicator > Packages” menu. Here you can download your website archive as a zip file and the Duplicator installer as a .php file. I recommend storing these in a safe place such as Google Drive or Dropbox, especially if you are using this technique to backup sites. We’ll now move on to manually downloading your wp-content folder.

Step 6

Using a FTP client such a FileZilla connect to your website and find your “wp-content” folder. Now drag and drop this folder from your FTP client into the same folder that you downloaded your Duplicator files too. Your FTP client will now download all the files in your wp-content folder and store them on your computer. This may take a long time especially if you have a large site with lots of media.

Step 7

We now have a solid backup of your entire WordPress site with the files that we have downloaded. If you were using this tutorial just as a way to backup your site, you’re all done! But I recommend you continue to read the rest of the post as I will now explain how to restore your site (the following methods also apply for migrating your site).

Using FTP we can now begin to upload the files to your new site (or overwrite existing files if you are restoring a backup). First upload the installer.php to the root directory of where you want WordPress to be installed (usually just”). Extract the files from your Duplicator archive using a program such as 7zip and then upload the extracted files to your server along with the wp-content folder we downloaded before. These should be uploaded to the same path as your installer.php file and follow the default WordPress file structure once uploaded.

Alternatively you can upload the archive zip file using your hosts file manager (usually Paralells or cPanel) and then extract the files once uploaded. I find this can often be quicker. The same goes for you wp-content folder, you can zip it up using 7zip, upload and then extract. 

Step 8

We’re nearly done! Now we will bring your site back to life. To do so, first navigate your browser to your installer.php file. You should be able to get to it using something like

Verify that your site passes the requirements and then under “Advanced Options” select “Manual Package Extraction”. This is because we have already extracted the files from our Duplicator archive and uploaded our WP-Content folder manually.

From here proceed with the normal Duplicator options, filling in your database details and any site name changes etc.

Step 9

Once the Duplicator installer has finished working, test your site and everything should be there and working as normal. Hooray!

One of the advantages of using Duplicator is that you don’t have to mess around with the database when moving your site across domains/servers as the plugin takes care of it all automatically for you.

I hope this guide has worked well for you and solves the problem of migrating and backing up large sites WordPress sites. Although Duplicator is not foremost a backing up plugin I find it to be a good tool to use as you can keep the package zip and installer.php files along with your wp-content folder in a secure place and then if you ever need to restore your site you can simply upload them and run the installer.

If you have any questions about this guide feel free to post a comment below and I’ll be happy to help you out.

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