How To Migrate WordPress Site Free Using Duplicator Plugin?

Process to migrate WordPress site to another domain, hosting, subdomain or directory presents daunting task to many users. The advice on the Codex, while comprehensive, gives you a bunch of options and doesn’t describe the process simply and in a way common user could understand.

Making a copy of a WordPress website, and then installing it at another location might sound like a complicated task. However, it is not all that scary. There are some great tools (plugins) available which make the job a lot easier than you might imagine.

Whether you want to move WordPress website to a new web host, transfer site to new domain, deploy a template with all your plugins, settings, and themes, or create a local instance of your website to work on without disrupting the live site, Duplicator WordPress plugin is your best free choice.


Why Migrate WordPress Site With Duplicator Plugin?

The most usual problems you may encounter when migrating a WordPress site are database import and export errors, file path errors, permission errors and other potential road blocks.

It also takes a lot of time to set up a new site, including plugins and making sure everything is working correctly.

It does get easier to clone WordPress sites once you’ve done a few. It’s a task that requires full concentration and a good few hours of your time.

This is where the Duplicator plugin comes in handy. Rather than having to run down a checklist of everything you need to do in order to move your WordPress website/blog manually, Duplicator plugin will do everything for you.

That will result in few quick and easy steps reducing the amount of time for process to be completed.

The Duplicator gives WordPress administrators ability to migrate, move, copy or clone site from one location to another. The plugin also serves as a simple backup utility.

The Duplicator plugin supports both serialized and base64 serialized string replacement. If you need to move or backup WordPress, this plugin can help simplify the process and make it a lot easier.

You won’t have to worry about backing up your database, images, plugins and moving them all separately. Duplicator takes care of all this for you. Best of all, the plugin is free! If you need more options you can check paid version. Another great option for migrating database is WP Migrate DB Pro plugin.

What does Duplicator plugin do:

  • Moves entire WordPress installation – Great way how to move WordPress without installing, configuring and customizing everything all over again.
  • Move the WordPress users – You can include the entire user base like profiles, passwords and all without having to re-create them.
  • Move the WordPress plugins – All plugins will go with it. No need to install again plugin by plugin.
  • Move the WordPress theme – Since the themes are part of the installation, they all go too.
  • Move the WordPress database – You don’t have to do any extensive phpMyAdmin troubles to make it happen.


How Duplicator Plugin Process Looks Like?

Duplicator creates a package of your site with your MySQL database and a Zip file containing all your uploads, including images.

It gives you two files to download. Installer.php file and a zip file. You then upload these files anywhere via FTP (or on your localhost), run the installer script, and the plugin will automatically install WordPress, duplicate your database, and upload all of the files.

What you’ll be left with is an exact duplicate of your old site, working perfectly on a new server. Duplicator does not keep two databases in sync. In order to keep two locations in sync you will have to repeat the process manually.

Not exactly a limitation depending on what you’re looking for, but something to keep in mind.

To summary process:

  • Install Duplicator plugin – First you need to install and activate the plugin.
  • Create and download archive package – Create a package of your entire site and an installer.php file that will execute the unpacking.
  • FTP package files to new location – Using FTP or any other file transfer method, upload the zip archive package of your WordPress and the installer.php file into the directory where you want WordPress installed.
  • Run installer.php. Open a browser and browse to the full URL of installer.php where you uploaded it to. Then just follow the on-screen steps.


How To Migrate WordPress Site Free Using Duplicator?

Duplicator can be installed directly from the WordPress site dashboard. Under the Plugins option of your dashboard, click the “Add New” button and then search for “duplicator”.

It should be the first result but double-check that it’s authored by LifeInTheGrid. Click “Install Now”: After activating the plugin, you’ll get a new navigation option in your WordPress dashboard menu named “Duplicator”.

Select this and you’ll enter the main setup screen with a message that you haven’t created any packages yet.

Click the “Create New” tab. This will take you to the package creation wizard. The name will be pre-filled (you can change this if you wish). You have the option to create some notes about the package and there are further options under Archive and Installer.

Under the Archive section, there is a drop down box to enable file filters. You don’t need to enable the file or database filters unless you wish to exclude something from your site backup.

The installer section is for entering details about the server you will be moving your WordPress site to. You can fill these out now or you can leave it until the installation step.

I prefer to leave these fields blank to have a clean backup package that can be installed anywhere (although it is possible to change the details later so this is no real problem if you fill them out).




After that click “Next” button and scan process will start. The plugin will perform a scan of the server, files and database to detect any possible issues.

It’s not mandatory for all the checks to pass to build the package, but it’s good to be aware of them as they can cause problems in some cases. It can take up few seconds or few minutes. Depending on how large is your site.

Before the package can be created, there are several requirements that need to be fulfilled. Hopefully you’ll have a “pass” in this.

If not, you can expand the box to find out where the problem is. If any of the requirements fail, you can click the link for further information about how to solve the issue.

Some common problems you may be able to fix by yourself but in other cases, you may have to contact your hosting provider to make changes for you.




Having a very large site or large files such as video files might show up a warning as they can cause time-outs. If this is the case, you might want to go back and use the filter option to exclude such files from the package.

It’s also a good idea to clean up the database before you export the package. Don’t be too worried about getting warnings as they often won’t cause any problems. But the information may help you sort out issues if you get an error during package creation.

After clicking build, the Duplicator plugin will start to back up your whole site including all plugins themes, pages, posts and media to a single file.




After the build has finished, you’ll be presented with download buttons for an installer (a PHP file) and the archive you just created as a zip file. The package will now be listed back on the packages tab with date and size information, which is useful for backup purposes.

If you just want to back up your site, your job is done! If you’d like to move your site to another server, read on.

The next step is to connect to the new server you want to move your site to and upload the installer.php and your archive zip file to the directory you want to install the site in. You don’t need to install WordPress on the new server.

Plugin doesn’t handle for you setting up a new database. You’ll need to do this manually. The process for doing this will depend on your web host, so refer to their documentation for a guide.

If your hosting provider uses cPanel (every good hosting company uses cPanel – check cPanel pros and cons), click this link and see instructions for setting up your database.

Make sure to write down database information’s like username, password and database name as you’ll need them. Now is time to run the site installer.

Access the installer script in your web browser from wherever you copied it to. For example You should see a screen like the one below. Fill out the fields with the information for the database you just set up.




It is recommended to press “Test Connection” button to check that the script can connect to the database. If necessary information entered correctly you’ll get a pop up box telling you that the server is found and the script managed to connect to the database.

If you get a fail for either of these, follow the advice under “common connection issues” or contact your hosting provider for help. Before proceeding you then need to tick the box to say you’ve read all the warnings and notices, and then click“Run Deployment”.

You’ll get a warning reminding you that any data existing in the database will be overwritten (so double-check you’ve entered the name of your new database and not an existing one!).

If you get an error, try re-uploading your archive file in case it became corrupt during the file transfer.

After installation, you’ll be presented with a page showing you the old and new Path and URL settings for your site. You have the opportunity to change your page title here and create a new admin user if you wish.

If you have problems with certain plugins when you’re copying your WordPress site across, you can disable them from the advanced options section. You can then hit the “Run Update” button to update the database and finish off the site install.

The final screen displays a report of the installation with any errors and warnings and some steps you should complete before using your new site.

Clicking on the Save Permalinks will take you straight to the WordPress dashboard of your new site. You may have to login (using your original admin username and password or the new one your set up in the previous screen).

Select the permalinks structure that you wish to use and save the setting. You’ll also get a warning at the top of the screen that the install files are still located within the WordPress directory and this could pose a security risk.

If you get an error message that a file wasn’t removed successfully, you can just delete it manually using your FTP program.

You can then go ahead and check your site from the front end to see if everything works as intended. Sometimes a plugin or two may need reinstalling but otherwise, you should have an exact copy of your original site.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully migrate WordPress site for free. Threat yourself with something nice, you’ve earned it!


Other Options for Cloning a WordPress Website

While free and popular Duplicator plugin gets the job done with little effort on your part, some users might prefer different approach in copying a WordPress website. If you fall into that category, here are some other options that you might be interested in.





ManageWP is a service that allows you to manage multiple WordPress websites from one central location. Through the features of this service you can install themes, activate plugins, and even publish content remotely on the sites you control, all from one dashboard.

Another feature of ManageWP is that it lets you quickly clone a WordPress website and then rapidly deploy it elsewhere.

This could be used to move your website to a new server, deploy a website template that contains all your favourite settings and plugins, or simply make a copy for testing and development work.

You will still need to create a database for this new instance of WordPress if one doesn’t exist already. However, the ManageWP documentation goes over how get this task done in their guide to WordPress site migration.

This is a premium feature of ManageWP so you will need to upgrade from the free version to use the clone and migration tool.





Cloner is another option to migrate WordPress site. It’s been built for duplicating sites on a multisite network. This premium plugin from WPMUDev allows you to copy all, or part of a website, and deploy it to another site on your network.

The plugin can even copy just the users on one site and then add them to another site elsewhere on the network. If you are working with multisite and want a duplication tool that can really cut down on your workload, Cloner is well worth checking out.




BackupBuddy is a premium WordPress backup service from iThemes. Main purpose is backing up your website, so you don’t have to worry about doing so.

However, the service has another use, which is moving a WordPress site to another location. This could include moving to a new domain and web host, or creating a local version to work on separately from the live, visitor-facing version of your website.

Purchasing BackupBuddy just to use the site migration tool is not worthy. Buy it to get access to a wealth of useful features that make the whole package well worth investing in.

If you haven’t yet implemented a WordPress backup solution for your site, and you are also looking for a tool to clone your website, then BackupBuddy is a great choice that will kill two birds with one stone. For more info about it, you can check my BackupBuddy review.


Migrate WordPress Website Conclusion

As you can see there are some great free and premium options that make it a lot easier to migrate WordPress (duplicate) website. Once you’ve made the copy you can then deploy it elsewhere. Migrate the site to a different server, domain or install it locally.

If you have any questions about migrating WordPress website using Duplicator plugin, or suggestions and other ways to complete this task, let me know in comments below.

DISCLOSURE: Posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, I might get a small commission, without any extra cost to you. Read more about it here.

4 thoughts on “How To Migrate WordPress Site Free Using Duplicator Plugin?”

  1. I am searching on google how to migrate WordPress website and I find your post. Hopefully, now we can migrate WordPress website easily. Thank you!

  2. Excellent resources to follow on WordPress migration. As a professional developer WordPress migration is always a matter of concern because a single wrong move can cause you a lot of trouble. However duplicator plugin is one of the best way to migrate your website from one host to another.

    But unfortunately you miss out few other useful resources like: All in one WP Migration and Cloudways WordPress Migrator which works perfectly in my case. Anyways thanks for sharing. Worth reading it.

    1. This post was intended to show how to migrate site free using Duplicator plugin. I am aware there are other great plugins/tools also available.

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