How To: Safely Backup and Retire a WordPress Powered Site

How To: Safely Backup and Retire a WordPress Powered Site

By Noumaan Yaqoob June 6, 2012
inWordPress Guides

I recently decided to retire my two WordPress powered blogs. The reason was that the source of income for these blogs died and keeping them up required regular maintenance and paying hosting fees. For the first time I went through taking down my sites and retiring them.

Making a Complete Backup using Backup Buddy

In the past we have covered plugins to backup your website. These plugins make it a lot simpler for you to create on demand backups of your database. Backup Buddy is a premium WordPress plugin which I would highly recommend to create a complete back up of your website. Backup buddy not only creates back up of your database it can also back up your files, themes, plugins and settings. It comes with a restore feature which means that if you ever want to restore your website you can easily do so with a few clicks. Oli has written a tutorial on how to backup your site with Backup Buddy.

Other Automated Back Up Plugins:

WP Cloud Safe 360 WP Backup to Drop Box

Manually Creating a Complete Backup

It is difficult to write something on the topic when there is already an excellent article about it on WordPress Codex. If you are not using Backup Buddy, and decide to backup your site manually there are somethings you need to know. The purpose of any backup is to make sure that you can restore data anytime you want. Keeping this in mind you need to backup your website thinking about the future where you might decide to put your site back online. A perfect backup would make it a lot easier for you to restore your complete website in matter of minutes.

Database backup

You can create a complete backup of your database using phpMyAdmin and download it to your computer in zip format. Detailed instructions to do that are available here. You can also use plugins to backup your database.


WP-DB-Manager is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to create on demand database backups of your website. It also allows you to repair, backup and restore your WordPress database. Using WP-DB-Manager you can create a complete backup of your database or drop the tables that you wouldn’t need restoring your website. Once done save the backup on your hard-disk.

Download WP-DBManager »

Downloading Files and Themes

All your images, themes and plugins reside in wp-content folder. By default, WordPress saves files in a date and month based folder structure. This is very troublesome if you want to manually backup your website. So the best strategy which I used is to download the entire wp-content folder. That way I can restore my settings, plugins, themes just the way I had them.

Another problem I faced that I had themes and plugins that I didn’t use. So I deleted those first before downloading files. You should also keep it in mind that if you restore your website after an year or so most of your plugins and themes would become out-dated and may not work with the latest WordPress.

Important Notes about Backing up Your WordPress Website

Backup your site’s wp-config.php file

WordPress uses the wp-config file to save your database information. You may not need this information if you are moving your database server, or intent to restore your website on another host with different settings, or if you are deleting the database completely from your server. However, it is still a good idea to backup wp-config.php.

Backup .htaccess and robots.txt

Save your website’s .htaccess and robots.txt for painless restoration of your website. These files contain information such as how to handle redirects, how to handle crawlers, etc. Some plugins on your website might have made changes to these files and if you intend to restore your website with exact same settings then you might need those settings. However, restoring them is optional you can restore your website without these files and if something is broken then you can try uploading these files from your backup.

Backup any core WordPress files that you have modified.

If you have made any changes to core WordPress files then you would want to save those files as well. However, it is not recommended that you make changes to core WordPress files directly. If you do not intend to restore your website in near future then you can ignore these files. Because there would be newer versions of WordPress and those files will be significantly changed or dropped altogether.

Make an Static HTML backup of your WordPress Website

When I was taking down my sites, I wanted to do so because I didn’t want to maintain them, and wanted to save money by canceling my vps hosting. Another option that came to my mind was to convert WordPress site into static HTML. This way there will be no PHP processes to run and I could have easily hosted those sites on a shared hosting package.

Download a Website with HTTrack

HTTrack is free software that allows you to download an entire website to your hard disk. It keeps all links and directory structure so the website works exactly as it worked online. Since PHP pages are rendered into HTML so HTTrack saves only the static HTML versions of your pages. It also downloads your images and other media files. In short it can create a static mirror of any website.

Prepare your site for Download

The problem in converting your WordPress site into Static is that you will have to lose all the dynamic features of your website. These are the things that need PHP to work. So before starting the download of your website you need to disable all these features.

  • Check your widgets and turn off Search.
  • If possible turn off all plugins or at least turn off plugins such as newsletter plugins, plugins that take user input such as contact plugins.
  • Disable comments on all your posts and pages. Remember that since it will be a static website there will be no PHP scripts to handle those comments. So you want to make sure that your site is saved in a format that is totally workable as a static website.
  • Check your theme’s header and remove Meta tags such as generator, wlwmanifest, pingback, etc.
  • Optionally you can minify your HTML and CSS using WordPress Minify or W3 Total Cache plugins.

Once you are certain that there is nothing left that needs PHP scripting to work. You can start downloading your website using HTTrack.

HTTrack is simple to use, just provide a name for your project, and the url of your website and start downloading. You might see a few errors but most of them easy to resolve. Once you have successfully downloaded a complete mirror of your website you can save it on your hard disk or the cloud storage, or you can upload it back to your server as a static website.

Before and After the Retirement of the Site

If you have decided to take down your website, it is highly recommended that you let your website’s visitors know about this decision. If you were running a WordPress website where other users contributed and uploaded their files and data then you might want to give them some time to download their stuff.

It is recommended that you make an announcement regarding your decision on your website, twitter, or Facebook page to let your readers know what you are going to do and why.

May be some of your loyal visitors would come up with a solution for you to continue or at least they will have a chance to let you know how they felt about it. You can also recommend other similar websites to the visitors. In this announcement you can also let users know what other projects you will be working on and how they can get in touch with you.

Let the search engines and visitors know that your website is no more available. Using .htaccess you can provide a 410 page to any visitors on your website.

CAUTION: This will get your site de-Indexed from search engines quickly.

1 RewriteEngine on
2 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
3 RewriteRule !^index\.html$ index.html [L,R=410]


Setting up a website is easier than taking down a website that you have worked on. Obviously any web publisher wouldn’t want to take down their websites even if they lose interest. But if you must take down a website then make sure you have it all backed up so that not only you can restore it but you can look at it whenever you want. After a few years you will feel great looking back at all the work you have done over the years. I particularly enjoy the views of my very first Geocities websites. Some of them are still available on, I wouldn’t like showing them off but they make me really very proud of how far I have come.

Noumaan is a blogger and social media expert. He loves Quora, Facebook, WordPress, OpenSource Software and The Sims.

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