How to Migrate WordPress Site to New Server with WP-CLI

WP-CLI is a powerful tool for managing WordPress. I use it to automate backups and migrations for the WordPress sites I manage.

This does not work for multisite! I will make a new guide for migrating multisites.

How to Migrate WordPress Site to New Server with WP-CLI

Note that this tutorial does not walk you through installing a web server stack like LEMP or LAMP. I of course recommend nginx and MariaDB.

This is the todo list for the tutorial

Old WordPress Server

  • Install WP-CLI on the old server
  • Backup the WordPress installation and database
  • Transfer the backups to the new server

New WordPress Server

  • Create a new database on the new server
  • Restore the old database onto the new server’s database
  • Install WordPress on the new server

Preparing the Old WordPress Server

Note throughout this section the old site is called wp-bullet

Install WP-CLI

sudo wget -q -O /usr/bin/wp
sudo chmod 755 /usr/bin/wp

Enter your WordPress folder

cd /var/www/wp-bullet

Export your database

mkdir -p ~/backups
wp db export ~/backups/wp-bullet.sql --allow-root --skip-themes --skip-plugins

Now tar your WordPress site folder, the period . takes all files and folders of the current directory you are in.

The -z adds gzip compression

tar -czf ~/backups/wp-bullet.tar.gz .

To tar without compression you can use this command instead

tar -cf ~/backups/wp-bullet.tar .

Make sure to note the database prefix in wp-config.php as you will need to specify it for the restore to work on the new server

Now in your backups folder you have a database backup and the entire site backed up.

You should transfer these two files to your desktop or laptop computer via SFTP or FTP

Preparing the New WordPress Server

You should already have prepared your web stack on the new server.

Transfer your sql backup and the sitebackup tar file from your old server to your new server. I usually put them in ~/restore.

Install WP-CLI, you will need PHP installed in order to run WP-CLI

sudo wget -q -O /usr/bin/wp
sudo chmod 755 /usr/bin/wp

Create an empty WordPress database

mysql -u root -p

These credentials will be used for the wp-config.php file.

CREATE USER wordpressuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'passw0rd';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON wordpress.* TO wordpressuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'passw0rd';

Create your new WordPress directory

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/wp-bullet-dev

Enter the WordPress directory

cd /var/www/wp-bullet-dev

Download the WordPress core files

wp core download --allow-root

Create the wp-config.php file and specify the database credentials created in the previous MySQL step

For --prefix specify the custom database prefix if you aren’t using the standard wp_

wp core config --dbname=wordpress --dbuser=wordpressuser --dbpass=passw0rd --allow-root --dbprefix=wp_

Now install WordPress

wp core install --title="WP Bullet Dev" --admin_user=wpbullet --admin_password=passw0rd --skip-email --allow-root

If you know you use the normal permalink structure WP-CLI will do that too, Apache users will have to log in and save these settings to generate the .htaccess file

wp option update permalink_structure '/%postname%' --allow-root

It is now time to actually perform the restore of the old database and WordPress folder to your new site location

If you are running as the root user then transfer it to /root/restore/wp-bullet.sql

wp db import ~/restore/wp-bullet.sql --allow-root

Time to do a search and replace of your old sitename with your new site name, WP-CLI handles this for us

Do a test run first to make sure everything looks alright

wp search-replace --dry-run --allow-root

If it all looks good then run the command again without --dry-run to actually update the database

wp search-replace --allow-root

Now unpack the tar backup to your new site WordPress folder while excluding the original wp-config.php since we already did that with wp-cli sorcery.

tar -xf ~/restore/wp-bullet.tar -C /var/www/wp-bullet-dev --exclude=wp-config.php

Change ownership of your WordPress installation to the recommended secure permissions.

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/
sudo find /var/www/ -type f -exec chmod 644 {} +
sudo find /var/www/ -type d -exec chmod 755 {} +


Half elf Migrating
GNU tar manual
WP-CLI Commands

3 thoughts on “How to Migrate WordPress Site to New Server with WP-CLI”

  1. So the steps are:
    1. install WordPress
    2. create database
    3. Import database
    4. Unpack backup file

    Can we unpack backup file first then import database?

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