Change a WordPress site URL (when copying or migrating a WordPress site)

This is a post for quick reference. But given 25% (or more) of the Interwebs run on WordPress I want to give it some love too.

Background

Moving (migrating) or copying a WordPress site has some hidden complexity.

While it is easy, there are 3 things you need to do:

  1. Copy the whole website structure, starting with the folder than contains the wp-config.php and other files (it also contains the  “wp-admin”, “wp-content” and “wp-includes” folders).
  2. Change the URL of the site as defined in WordPress (ordinarily set during setup, or within the Settings area).
  3. Update all the saved URLs within the database.

Step 3 is the real gotacha. When you add a link to another page within your site, or insert media, or set a navigation item, it saves the full URL of that item in the database.

For example, if you have a site “https://MySite.com” but want to change it to “https://MySite.com” (or as a software developer, you may want to create a copy of the production site at “https://test.MySite.com”) then after you change the actual URL of the site, all the internal links and images will still be pointing to the original MySite.com.

 

Solution

Many sites have covered how to change a WordPress site URL before, including the official Codex at https://codex.wordpress.org/Changing_The_Site_URL.

I like to keep things simple, so this post is my process:

  1. Backup your site database if you can (I connect directly to the database and run backup scripts, or use phpmyadmin and export).
  2. Update your site URLs by adding the following lines to the top of your active theme’s functions.php file:
    update_option( 'siteurl', 'https://MyNewSite.com' );
    update_option( 'home', 'https://MyNewSite.com' );
    
    1. Browser to your new site (via the IP or URL).
    2. Browse to it again and make sure it’s OK.
    3. Remove the lines from functions.php
    4. Browser to the site again one more time to make sure you can access it now you’ve removed the lines from functions.php.
  3. Upload the interconnect/it “Database Search and Replace Script” script to our site, found at https://interconnectit.com/products/search-and-replace-for-wordpress-databases/.
    1. Install it in a “not easily guessed” sub-directory of the site. This is for security reasons (so other people can’t scan and execute the scripts).
    2. Most fields are filled in. In the “search for…” enter your old URL or IP address, including “http” or “https” (e.g. “https://MySite.com” – you should be using https by now). I don’t end with a trailing forward slash.
      In the “replace with…” field enter the new URL or IP Address (e.g. “https://MyNewSite.com”). Again, not trailing forward slash.
    3. Make sure you do “dry run” to start. This should tell you if you have any problems.
    4. If all is good, do a “live run” and update your database.
    5. At the end, delete the “Database Search and Replace Script” from your site. This is important. If you leave it there bad people may find it and execute it and break your site.