How to Properly Migrate Your Website to Another Host

  • By Darrel Wilson
  • Last Updated: November 21, 2019

When it comes to your website, a starter hosting package on a shared host is enough when you’re just getting started. However, as your website grows, you will soon notice that the initial package is no longer enough.

Whether you need more disk space or more bandwidth or simply looking for a host with better security features, there will inevitably come a time to migrate your website to another host.

If you’re like most people, you’re probably worried about switching hosts not only because this task sound intimidating but also because of potential downtime. The good news is that when you take a little time to prepare for the move, switching hosts is not as difficult as it seems.

How to Move Your Website to Another Hosting Provider Without Any Downtime

In this post, I’ll show you how to properly migrate your site to another host without damaging your site and without any downtime.

1. Backup Your Website’s Files First

Before you begin the transfer process, the first step is to back up your website’s files. This process is slightly different than the usual WordPress backups because you will need to download your website’s files manually.

To do this, use a program like Transmit or FileZilla to log into your current host’s FTP server and then download all of the files that are in your website’s directory.

Don’t forget to download the .htaccess file which is usually hidden so be sure to set your FTP program to display hidden files.

Save the files to a folder on your desktop or somewhere else where you can easily access them later.

2. Export Your WordPress Database

While your site’s files are downloading (which could take some time, depending on how big your website is) log into your host’s cPanel and navigate to phpMyAdmin application. Here, you’ll need to export a copy of your WordPress database.

Using the phpMyAdmin interface, select your website’s database on the left-hand side. Click on the Export tab. Set the Export method to Quick and the Format to SQL. Then, click Go. Save the downloaded .sql file in the same location as the rest of your website’s files.

3. Sign Up With a New Hosting Provider and Create WordPress Database

The next step is to sign up with a new hosting provider. However, don’t cancel your old hosting account just yet as this will cause your website to have downtime.

Once you have your new hosting account, there are a few steps to follow:

  • Log in to the cPanel and locate MySQL databases section.
  • Create a new website database and give it a name that will make it easily recognizable.
  • Create a new MySQL user
  • Add this user to the newly created database and make sure to grant it All Privileges
  • Lastly, write down the database name as well as the new username and password of the user you’ve just created.

4. Edit wp-config.php file

Now it’s time to edit the wp-config.php file in your website’s files. This file holds all the information about your website so it’s a good idea to make a copy of the original file before editing it first.

Then, open the original file and make the following changes:

  • Change the line that reads define(‘DB_NAME', ‘db_name'); to reflect the new database name.
  • Change the line that reads define(‘DB_USER', ‘db_user'); to match the new username of the user you’ve created in step 3.
  • Finally, change the line that reads define(‘DB_PASSWORD', ‘db_pass'); to the new password created earlier.

When you’re done making those changes, save the wp-config.php file.

5. Import Your Database

Now it’s time to start transferring your website to the new host. To begin, log in to your cPanel and open phpMyAdmin application again. Locate your new database and once it loads, click the Import tab.

Here, you’ll want to select your exported database and uncheck the box that says Partial Import. Double-check that the format is set to SQL and then click the Go button. Wait for the import process to finish and then move on to the next step.

6. Transfer Website Files to the New Server

Now that your database is ready, let’s transfer the files to the new hosting server. Launch your FTP program and this time connect to the new hosting server. Locate the /public_html folder and double-click it. Drag all of your website’s files to the public_html folder and sit back while the upload process is complete.

Bear in mind that this process can take some time, depending on the size of your website.

7. Update DNS Settings

Once all of your website files have been transferred, you will need to update your DNS settings or your domain name servers to point to the new hosting server. For this, you will need to log in to your domain registrar’s account.

This process varies from one domain registrar to another so here are some general steps that will help you complete this step.

Look for a section named DNS settings, Nameserver Settings, or DNS Zone editor. Once you locate it, click on it and locate the correct domain name. Enter the new name servers and save the changes.

If you need extra help completing this step, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your domain name registrar as they will be able to point you in the right direction.

After you have updated the nameservers, keep in mind that the DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to fully propagate. You can check the status using a tool like What’s My DNS?.

8. Cancel Old Hosting Account

Once the 48 hours are up, your website should be loading from the new hosting provider. At this point, you can visit your website to make sure it looks as it did and that everything transferred over correctly.

Then, log in to your old hosting account, delete all the files and cancel your hosting account. If you’ve purchased your domain name with your hosting provider, make sure to cancel only the hosting portion and not your domain registration, otherwise, you’ll lose your website once the domain expires.

What to Do If You're Changing Your Domain Name As Well

If you’re moving your site to a new or a different domain as well as switching hosts, there is one extra step you need to take after transferring your files to the new server and before updating your DNS settings.

You will need to replace all the links on your website that link to your old domain name to ensure the links keep working after the transfer. Doing this manually would be a time-consuming process so the best way to do it is to use a tool like Search Replace DB script. Using this script, you can quickly replace all the old links with the new domain name. Be sure to delete it when you’re done.

Recommended Hosts

If you want a hosting company recommendation, be sure to check out this page and watch my web hosting test video where I’ve tested and compared the best hosting companies to bring you the best web hosting for your WordPress website.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, migrating to another host is not as complicated as it seems. With a little planning and preparation, you can move your website to a better hosting company without experiencing any downtime or damaging your site. Use this tutorial to help you prepare and walk you through the entire process.

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4 thoughts on “How to Properly Migrate Your Website to Another Host

  1. Awesome article, Thank You!
    But I am just curious… What is the difference between manual migration and using tool like All-in-One WP Migration? That plugin is copying whole website and database and fixes the part with updating links (changes permalinks). Of course there is a limit to 512 MB with free version of that plugin, but I think its better to pay and make life much easier for yourself :).
    Is there something I am missing?
    Best regards, thank you for amazing content and please do not slow down 🙂

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