If you’re new to WordPress you REALLY want to learn without the pressure of tinkering with a live website. I strongly recommend you download InstantWP and migrate the website you want to build to a live server afterwards.
It is an exact copy of WordPress and gets all the WP core updates. It is an Apache server in an offline sandbox ideal for testing.
When I got started with WordPress I had always wanted a way to build a WP site on my Windows computer without a web host.
I heard about InstantWP and set about investigating it.
Edit: I now use WAMP exclusively with no trouble whatsoever on my Windows 7 PC.
Whatever you use, having a hypothetical local testing server allows you to experiment with plugins, themes, tools and code.
WordPress Website Migration/Back Up
Downloading and uploading file directories is something you can take for granted with your average static website.
However, WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) built with PHP includes and a .SQL database. It’s a different kind of beast.
I do all the WordPress development offline and then migrate it to the server. In a few minutes I’ll talk about how to do this, because this part stumps a lot of people.
With InstantWP you can also import a website that already exists online.
For instance, I frequently make backup copies of my live site and set it up in InstantWP. This way, I know I have a backed up version suitable for running tests and backing up to disk.
Portable Software – Great for Clients
The IWP software is also portable, meaning it doesn’t have installation files like typical computer programs.
It is self contained inside one folder and runs off the InstantWP.exe file.
This means you can install the software on a USB drive and run it from that drive. Very handy when working with clients.
When you install the software, you’ll see a folder called “wordpress”.
That folder acts as the server root for the offline version.
When you migrate online the “wordpress” folder will disappear and become your top level domain.
So, to clarify, if the URL for your local site is http://127.0.0:4001/wordpress/…
… when you migrate your local site to a live server, the URL will change from http://127.0.0:4001/wordpress/ to http://www.yourwebsite.com/.
WordPress Admin Dashboard
The default user login is “admin” and “password“.
You are strongly advised to change these details to something hard to guess before migrating online. You’d be surprised how many people neglect this.
With InstantWP you also get phpMyAdmin with a pre-configured MySQL database.
By default the username is “root” and the password is left blank.
During the process of migrating the site to a real server you will be asked to provide the username, password and hostname of your webhost’s database.
You would have set up on your web host database ahead of the migration and written down the details.
Basically, you pour the contents of your local database into your live database. The only thing that will be different is the name of the database and the logging in details.
Change Default Browser
The early versions of IWP used Internet Explorer as the default browser, but was later changed to use FireFox by default.
The problem is, you might be using Chrome!
You may set a different browser by adjusting the setting in the InstantWP server configuration file pms_config.ini.
You can find this file within the iwpserver folder. Locate and open the file in WordPad or Dreamweaver.
We need to change the line for setting the BrowserPath variable in pms_config.ini.
Using CTRL & F locate the following line:
Change this line to something like below, to the path of your favourite browser.
To get the browser path, find the folder on your computer where your browser is installed. It’s usually Program Files.
Locate and right click the .exe icon of FireFox, Chrome (or whatever you prefer) go to Properties and get the local path from there.
Database Username Security Warning
Before you migrate your site online, please take the time to configure your username settings in phpMyAdmin.
This is important because you’ll be fixing a weak link found in all WordPress installations by default.
It’s incredibly important to take this step. Few WordPress tutors ever mention this.
I.P. Address Warning
By the way, you can only run one instance of InstantWP at a time.
The reason for this is because of the local I.P. address used.
As mentioned earlier, the local I.P. address is http://127.0.0:4001/wordpress/.
If you have multiple installations running on the same computer you must be careful.
I work as a web designer so throughout the day I’m switching between different local servers.
You’re going to face some nasty problems if you don’t restart Apache by completely exiting InstantWP before you open a different installation.
- Press CTRL & ALT & DEL to end the iwpserver.exe process before rebooting your machine.
I often find Apache isn’t fully closed until I restart the computer. Then you may open up any other site you wish to work on without any conflicts between iwpserver.exe processes.
Yes, it’s a bit of a nuisance waiting for the machine to reboot but it’s a good time to go and make a cup of tea.
Here’s another heads up – the first time I installed InstantWP I ran into some OTHER errors – plugins kept timing out for no apparent reason.
Let me explain.
Let’s say you’re wanting to move your site to your webhost. If you do this using a backup/migration plugin you’ll most likely want to build a .zip package with a php installer file.
For one of my sites, building the .zip package took around 70 seconds BUT the 30 second default time set in InstantWP was throttling the processing time.
Turns out I had a massive uploads folder. The WordPress uploads folder is where all your image are stored when you use the built in media uploader.
After some digging I discovered the default maximum execution time for processes within the local server was set too low.
The massive size of the uploads folder along with all the text on the webpages caused the timeout errors.
In layman’s terms, WordPress ran out of time, got bored and threw me a hot potato!
Thankfully I was able to email the creator of the InstantWP (Seamus Brady) for assistance.
We figured out it would be necessary to extend the execution time settings in php.ini file.
Then, the next time I created a backup of the website for migrating it to the live server, none of the backing up plugins would experience issues.
How did I get on? I’ll share that with you now…
Change Max Execution Time
The Instant WordPress php.ini is located at iwpserver\server\config_tpl\php.ini
I need you to open this because that’s where the processing time settings are located.
Open php.ini either in Notepad, WordPad or some other text/code editor.
Use CTRL & F to find the following line:
Change to the value to either “0” for no time restriction whatsoever or “3600” for the theoretical maximum.
Note: Once you migrate your site to your live host, you *might* need to go into your host settings and set the values again for php.ini. Some hosts (like DreamHost) use phprc. It seems the values can get reset to their defaults. I spoke to my hosting support for help with this and they helped me reset the value.
Migrating Sites Between Your PC and Web Host
Here’s the big question I raised at the beginning: How on earth does one transfer their WordPress website onto a live server? Hmm?
One way is to manually access phpMyAdmin through InstantWP, download the .SQL file and then upload that file to the live version of phpMyAdmin on the your web hosting server space.
This is Ok, but you need to make sure you change all your permalinks. It requires that you manually change the local permalink to the remote permalinks.
Not only that, you still need to manually copy your server directories with all the images/files to your host.
So what’s a quick way to migrate?
The way I migrate a WordPress website to my host is with a free plugin called Duplicator. You can read a quick tutorial on how I do it, plus some other tips.
Step by Step eBook Guide
This detailed guide is over 50 pages explaining the entire process of setting up InstantWP including how to use Duplicator for site migration.
Instant WordPress Unleashed is written by Seamus, the author of the InstantWP software. The PDF guide was instrumental in helping me learn to understand the site migration process back in November 2013.
Unfortunately I’m not an affiliate but if the option to do so was available I’d definitely become one. If there’s one criticism of the book it is that the page numbers are wrong in places, creating slight confusion.
Paying for the guide is something I was happy to do, considering the software itself is free. I’ve asked A LOT of questions over email and Seamus always responded. (He knew I’d paid for the book so he knew I was a legitimate customer).
- Do you want to test your WordPress sites in a safe, secure offline sandbox?
- Do you need to test plugins without compromising your live site?
- Have you had problems with a manual install of WAMP?
Get the latest version of InstantWP and try it out. Once you’re inside the software, you may be prompted to run a WordPress update. If you cannot update automatically while offline, you’ll be able to do it once your site is live.
Problems are few and far between, and more often than not it is a plugin issue. Follow the due diligence security tips I’ve showed you and you shoul be fine.
You will end up loving it like I do, and if you have questions, you can always get in touch with the author of the software Seamus Brady.
It’s easily one of the best tools I have and it’s free. That’s it. Brilliant software. No contest.
Please leave comments, questions, tips and advice below.