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5 Simple Steps To Safely Change Your WordPress Theme

On the surface, altering a WordPress theme may appear to be innocuous. It’s so simple that it’s difficult to believe it might be harmful. You can even do it from within the dashboard these days, eliminating the need for a manual FTP upload. Isn’t it quick, painless, and completely safe? It all depends on how you’ve configured your site.

On the other hand, WordPress sites frequently become more of a puzzle, or Jenga tower, over time. You’ve got your theme, any plugins you’ve installed, and any little (or significant) changes you’ve made. All of these elements work together to produce an attractive, functioning website that meets your requirements.

That is why it is critical to use caution while changing your WordPress theme (or even update WordPress on your site, for that matter). If you remove the incorrect component, the entire building may collapse. Then you’ll have to go through a lengthy (and, in some cases, expensive) retrieval procedure. Alternatively, you may find yourself needing to replace many of the plugins you’ve grown to know and love.

But there is a technique to make changing the WordPress theme a risk-free endeavour, and it’s discussed in full below. Let’s get started!

Step 1. Select A New WordPress Theme

WordPress Theme

Find a new WordPress theme you like if you haven’t already. Suppose you are not a developer, attempt to locate a theme that looks similar to what you desire. Themeforest is a fantastic site to browse for premium themes. Here you’ll discover a variety of WordPress themes with a variety of colour schemes, extra functionality, and even drag-and-drop page builders that allow even non-coders to modify their WordPress theme.

Of course, if your budget does not allow for a premium theme, check out our WPExplorer Free WordPress Themes or‘s enormous library, where new free themes are uploaded on a regular basis.

When choosing a new WordPress theme, make sure that it supports the plugins that you require. If you’ve created a whole shop using WooCommerce, you’ll most likely want to keep using it with your new theme. So, before you commit, double-check plugin compatibility and the primary theme feature.

Of all, as a developer, you don’t have to worry about choosing the “ideal” theme. You most likely have the expertise to design or alter a theme on your own. Step two is to pick a WordPress theme that matches your requirements.

Step 2. Create A Backup Of Your WordPress Site

It’s a good idea to backup your WordPress website before changing themes, and there are several methods for doing so. In this piece, we’ll look at two approaches: utilising backup plugins and manually backing up your WordPress site. Both are rather simple procedures (even for new users).

Method 1: Using A Plugin To Backup WordPress

WordPress Theme

VaultPress WordPress Backup Plugin

VaultPress is the finest backup plugin (in our view). It’s simple to use and creates a full backup of your website. Furthermore, it starts at only $39 per year (for a JetPack Personal plan)—a cheap fee for automatic backups, a 30-day backup archive, and a 1-click restoration. But hold on… there’s more! Because VaultPress is included in JetPack plans, you’ll also be able to enable Akismet and JetPack premium features on your site.

The main advantage of using a plugin to do backups is that you don’t have to worry about it. WPvivid and BackupBuddy are two additional excellent premium alternatives. If you want to learn more about either, see our comprehensive WPvivid review and BuddyPress review.

And, if you’re on a tight budget, Updraft Plus is a remarkable free option. Updraft not only backs up your site but also uploads it to various “cloud” destinations with a single click. It also allows you to perform a quick one-click restoration if things go tragically wrong.

However, if your website is a major source of revenue for you or is really essential to you in other ways, you should make a manual backup every now and again. Just to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases.

Method 2: Manually Backup WordPress

While backing up your WordPress site manually may appear to be a large, difficult, even daunting process to a newbie user, it is actually fairly simple.

#1 Login to your site’s web host’s control panel (whether it’s cPanel or something else).

Most web hosts allow you to enter into your account or control panel via their website, so go to your web host’s website and log in.

#2 Locate FTP login credentials or set up a new account.

WordPress Theme

To do so, navigate to the control panel menu and select one of the choices labelled “FTP users/accounts,” “FTP access,” or “FTP settings.” If you don’t see any users or don’t remember their passwords, you may easily create one by selecting “Add new user” and then entering one.

#3 Log in and copy all necessary files from the appropriate location.

WordPress Theme

Many people would suggest you buy an FTP programme such as FileZilla at this point. However, you can actually visit your site through FTP using your web browser or even plain old Windows Explorer (or finder/nautilus if you don’t use Windows).

Simply put “ftp:/” into explorer or the other one, and log in with the information you discovered or the user you just created. I enjoy using my file browser since it makes backing up as simple as copying and pasting into the appropriate spot, then converting the folder to a zip archive.

#4 Return to the control panel and launch phpMyAdmin.

This necessitates a significant amount of scrolling downwards for numerous control panels.


#5 Choose the right database

WordPress Theme

If you have a lot of WordPress sites operating on the same server, you’ll have a lot of databases in phpMyAdmin. As a result, you should double-check that you’re backing up to the correct table. One method is to just go into the databases and look at what’s written in the posts under the “wp posts” section.


Another method is to look at your wp-config.php file on the appropriate site. This may be done via the WordPress Dashboard or by accessing the backup copy of the file in a text editor. (Be cautious not to change anything.) Simply search for ‘db name’, and you’ll be able to discover it right away.

#6 Export the database

WordPress Theme

Simply choose custom, choose the appropriate database to export, browse past the other custom choices, and click proceed. It’s just as straightforward as it sounds. Another piece of good news is that importing a table is just as simple. If something goes wrong… and you know what to do!

Step 3. Clone Your Website For Testing

There are two simple ways to clone your website for testing: use a staging site included with your hosting package, or set up a local server.

Cloning Your WordPress Website To A Staging Site

WordPress Theme

Many WordPress hosting services, including GoDaddy and WPEngine, provide one-click staging. These are excellent alternatives since they are online, allowing you to log in and test the WordPress theme on a variety of devices (something you cannot do with your local host because it is restricted to your computer).

If you’re using WPEngine, this is a really easy process (as it is with most hosts). Simply go into the WordPress website you wish to replicate, click on the WPEngine menu item at the top of your dashboard, select the staging tab, and then click the large blue button labelled “Copy site from LIVE to STAGING.” That concludes our discussion (another reason why we love WPEngine so much).


Cloning Your WordPress Website To A LocalHost

Setting up localhost is also a good idea because a local version is available even when there is no internet connection (making it extra useful). And, as with backing up your website, you may either utilise a plugin or manually clone it.

Method 1: Using A Plugin To Clone Your WordPress Site

There are a few ways to set up a local host server depending on your desktop operating system.

#1 Install local server software & WordPress.

You can select among XAMPP, WAMP, MAMP, and more options. This programme simulates the environment of a webserver on your own computer. This allows you to not only test new WordPress themes, plugins, and WordPress updates on your WordPress site. When you don’t have an online connection, you can create entirely ready-to-post draughts in WordPress.

Remember to restart Apache and MySQL when the installation is finished. Once your localhost is up and running, you’ll need to install WordPress locally.

#2 Install plugin on original site and export.
WordPress Theme

As an example, we’ll use All-in-one-migrate in this case. However, you are free to use any plugin of your choice. Among the other free plugins, Duplicator appears to be the most popular. Simply install and activate your preferred plugin before exporting your website.

#3 Install plugin on local hosted WordPress and import.
WordPress Theme

This is a very simple task. Log in to your locally hosted WordPress site, then install and activate the plugin before importing.

#4 Wait and enjoy your new clone.

Wait as the plugin imports a copy of your website (this can take quite a while, depending on the size of your site). Then, when it’s completed, open it up and enjoy it. It’s really that simple.

Method 2: Manually Cloning Your WordPress Site

Manually copying your live site just includes a few extra steps.

#1 Prepare your local server or staging site.

This step is the same whether you use a plugin or not. You must still configure your localhost and install WordPress locally.

#2 Copy and paste backup copy of WordPress

If you intend to manually create the local clone (and you’re already halfway there), you only need to replicate the backup copy of the data you grabbed previously. Simply copy and paste these into the proper folder (ampps/www/ if using AMPPS, or mamp/htdocs if using MAMP). Take care to keep the files in their own folder. This is to prevent issues with the server simulator’ software (which should be installed in a directory such as ampps/www/wpclone/ if using AMPPS). If you haven’t previously made a manual backup copy, perform the steps outlined above.

#3 Open up phpMyAdmin and import the database.
WordPress Theme

To begin, launch the local server dashboard. Open phpMyAdmin from here (if you’re using AMPPS, you can also put ‘localhost/phpmyadmin’ into your web browser instead). Import should be selected. Then, pick the SQL backup file that you saved previously during the manual backup (again, if you didn’t conduct the manual backup, repeat the steps above).

#4 Find correct database user/password info and create a user in phpMyAdmin.
WordPress Theme

To begin, open your backed-up wp-config.php file in a text editor, such as notepad, and look for DB USER and DB PASSWORD. Then, using those values (located where I blacked out), create a new user with that username and password by heading to databases in phpMyAdmin, selecting check rights next to the appropriate database, and then clicking add a user.

#5 Replace Some URLs

To prevent your new local site from thinking it’s somewhere else, you’ll need to change two database fields. Under wp options, enter the site URL and home (home will be displayed on the second page if only 25 rows are displayed per page). After changing them to https://localhost/wp or whatever you named your folder, your cloned site will be ready to use.


Step 4. Testing & Troubleshooting Your WordPress Theme On Your Clone Site

It’s as simple as login onto your local clone or staging site’s admin area. To observe what occurs, install and activate the theme. All of these steps are optional. These are just a few of the numerous WordPress theme features you might try if you switched themes.

Enable wp_debug

This is an excellent method to see whether your WordPress theme has any problems. To activate wp debug, edit your wp-config.php file and change wp debug to true, as seen below:

define('WP_DEBUG', true);

This will display all PHP problems and notifications on the front end of your WordPress site. Keep in mind that not every notification presented will cause your site to malfunction, but it is still a good idea to correct them.

WordPress Theme

Custom Post Types

If your previous WordPress theme included one or more built-in custom post types and your new theme does not, it may appear that you have lost all of your material. But don’t worry, the information is still in your database.

You may register your previous custom post types in your new WordPress theme using a third-party plugin, such as Post Types Unlimited. If you don’t know what the names of your custom post types are, you may contact the old theme developer or search the old theme for the register post type function to find out.


In addition to any additional widget suitable locations, it’s a good idea to go through the widget options, ad spots, footer columns, and sidebar width. This way, there will be no shocks later on.

Is there a widget that you just must have? You can always install a plugin. For example, the Social Candy plugin for social connections or the More Widgets plugin for advertisements, about section, newsletter, maps, and other features.


Check the menu placements and formats in your new WordPress theme again. Perhaps more menu options or vertical navigation are available. Simply go through the theme to make sure you know where all of your menus will go when you activate it on your live site.

Post Formats

Many WordPress themes make use of custom fields. If you use one to specify a certain video/audio/gallery/etc., you may need to change the output of your post formats in your new theme. This may be done using a child theme so that you can continue to utilise the old meta on old posts, or you may be able to use the add post metafunction ( )


We previously said that if you are not a developer, you should look for a new theme that is compatible with all of your WordPress plugins. It’s a good idea to test your plugins to ensure they really operate with your WordPress theme.

If you are a developer who has built or altered a WordPress theme, now is a good opportunity to double-check that your changes haven’t impacted plugin compatibility.

Check Browser Console

WordPress Theme

Check for javascript problems in your browser. If certain things aren’t working properly (javascript-related), such as sliders, drop-down menus, carousels, and so on, you may look for problems in the browser console. Simply open your console to see your javascript problems, then hover over them to discover the specific location of the mistake.

Here are links to where you may locate your console in different browsers:

Check Featured Image Sizes

When you move to your new WordPress theme, you may need to add or modify your featured photos. After you’ve cleaned the house, you should re-crop all of your photos to their proper dimensions.

Some themes, like Total, automatically crop photos, so you don’t have to do anything. However, if your WordPress theme does not do this automatically, you may use the Regenerate Thumbnails WordPress Plugin to regenerate all of your pictures in the correct sizes.

SEO Check

Unfortunately, there are themes that include built-in SEO settings, and if you are already utilising them, you will most likely be unable to transfer them to your new theme. Instead, install an SEO plugin on your live site and configure it before upgrading.

Mobile/Browser Testing

If you want to establish an online staging site through your WordPress server, you will be able to conduct your own real-world mobile testing. Take out your iPad and phone to check out your new WordPress theme. Alternatively, if you prefer to install your new theme on your localhost, you may use an online responsive emulator such as Responsinator or Cross Browser Testing.

Take care to verify your posts and pages to ensure that everything is in working order. Once you’ve checked that there are no difficulties, go to the last stage.

Step 5. Install & Activate Your New WordPress Theme On Your Live Site

WordPress Theme

After properly testing your new WordPress theme, go to your WordPress dashboard and install it on your live site. Just use the Live Preview option to double-check the WordPress theme before activating it. You may use this to check over a couple of your pages to ensure that everything is in order.


Installing a coming soon plugin on your site before activating your new theme is an optional step. If you need to make any changes to your live site after activating your new WordPress theme, your visitors will see a nice under construction or coming soon page. WP Maintenance Mode and SeedProd’s Coming Soon Plugin are two of our favourite plugins.

When you’re done, go to Appearance > Themes and click the “Activate” button to activate your new WordPress theme.

Wrapping It Up

This may appear excessive to someone who hasn’t lived through the trauma of a website train disaster. A total over-complication of something that should be simple. It isn’t. Consider it similar to having excellent health insurance on top of eating well and exercising, but for your WordPress site. Working hard to troubleshoot your WordPress theme locally reduces the likelihood of something going wrong on your live site.

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