How to Backup your WordPress Files and Database manually

Backing up your website or blog, especially your database, is an extremely important process and should be done regularly. It can save you a lot of hassle in case something were to happen, such as your site get hacked, accidentally lost your files due to human error, or other unpredictable causes. In such cases a recent backup of your WordPress site can be a life saver.

Safeguard Your Site against unexpected data losses – you’ll be glad you did

If you don’t have a habit of backing up your site, you run the risk of losing all the time and money you’ve invested in your website. This can be a major disaster for you. After all, there is no excuse for your site to not be backed up. So it’s the sole responsibility of website owners to take a backup of their website files and database on a regular basis.

In this tutorial, i’ll walk you through the steps on how to create manual backups of your WordPress site via cPanel.

What Needs To Be Backed Up?

Before you begin, you need to know a few terms and have a basic understanding of what exactly is being backed up, and what sorts of tools are being used to backup.

WordPress site is made up of two elements – the Database and the Files.

  • Database: This contains all your posts/pages, comments, categories, tags, theme settings, plugin settings, WordPress settings, user accounts and every URLs/links you have on your site.
  • Files: The WordPress files will need to be in the root of your domain, typically the public_html folder. It consist of three folders called wp-adminwp-content and wp-includes plus a few other configuration files and a .htaccess file. The wp-content is a very important folder for your site which contains all your images/uploads, plugin files, theme files, and additional files created by plugins.

Generally speaking, the “Database” and the “wp-content” folder are the two most important part to be backed up on a regular basis. With your wp-content and database file, you can restore or migrate your site to any hosting account.

Back up Tools

  • phpMyAdmin
  • File manager or FTP Client (FileZilla)

First, let’s cover how to backup your WordPress Database manually.

Backup WordPress Database using phpMyAdmin

The database is the most valuable part of your website. This contains all information that will change most often. Luckily, backing up your WordPress database is pretty straight forward and can be done using a handy tool called phpMyAdmin, which is usually available through your cPanel.

Let’s dive into the steps:

1.   Log in to your cPanel and click the phpMyAdmin icon in the Databases section.

2.   In phpMyAdmin you will see a list of database names in the left column of the home page. Simply click on the database that you wish to back up and select the Export tab at the top of the screen.

4.   Make sure the export method is “Quick” and the format is “SQL”.

5.   Click Go button. This will download a .sql file to your computer.

The download process can usually take from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on how large your database is. The downloaded SQL file can be used to import at anytime when you need to restore or migrate your site.

Alternatively, if you’re not comfortable with the steps, or familiar with phpMyadmin, you could also backup your database within your WordPress admin panel. To do this,

  • Head to WordPress dashboard » Tools » Export » All content and click download export file. This will download a XML file to your computer. This file contains your posts, pages, comments, custom post types, categories, tags, and users.

However, you can’t deny the fact that phpMyAdmin is the best and efficient tool to backup your WordPress database.

Backup WordPress Files (wp-content)

To access wp-content you’ll need either an FTP client or cPanel file manager. Let’s start with File manager tool:

Option 1: Backup your wp-content folder using File manager

1.   Login to your cPanel account.

2.   Navigate to File Manager icon under the “File Management” section.

3.   Click on it and a pop-up will appear. In the pop-up, select Web Root (public_html/www) and click Go.

4.   The File Manager will now load in a new window and show your files. Ensure you are in the public_html folder.

5.   Once there, navigate to the “wp-content” folder, right-click on it and select “Compress”.

6.   Select Zip Archive as compression type and then click compress File(s). This will create a file called and place it within your root folder.

7.   Wait for the archiving to finish. When it’s ready, refresh the file manager and look for file. (By downloading the file that you need the time taken to complete the backup will be significantly reduced.)

8.   Simply double click on it to begin download.

This might take a long time, maybe an hour or more depending on your connection speed and the size of your website. Once done, don’t forget to delete the zip file in your root folder to save disk space.

Option 2: Backup your wp-content folder using FTP (FileZilla)

This part of the article assumes you already have an FTP account and Filezilla software installed on your computer. If you don’t have CPanel access on your host, you will have to get yourself an FTP client such as Filezilla. FTP clients let you move your website’s files from your hosting account to your computer, and vice versa.

  1. Open Filezilla and connect to your host with your FTP information.
  2. After you have connected, select the public_html directory from the right pane.
  3. Create a folder on your desktop and download the wp-content folder to it by simply dragging the folder over from the right pane to the left pane.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully backed up your WordPress site. For additional peace of mind, it’s probably best to keep at least 2 to 3 copies of your backup on different storage types, such as an external hard drive or cloud storage, for safe keeping.

How often is the backup recommended?

It depends on how often you make changes to your site. A good rule of thumb for the casual webmaster is to do a complete backup every week or so.

Backing up on your own

Do not rely solely on automatic backups provided by your hosting company. It’s much better if you create your own backups just before and after making major changes or once in a while to ensure your site stays safe.

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