How to Transfer from One Domain to Another on WordPress (the quick and free way)


Page for Redirection plugin, where you can plug in a new domain name.

Figuring out the right name for your business can take time – and that applies to your domain name too. Thankfully it’s not the end of the world if you find yourself second-guessing your original pick.

As someone learning the ins and outs of the WordPress world, transferring domains was intimidating. Only half a year ago did I commit to memory what a domain even was.

Searching online, there were blogs and forum posters who made it sound like switching was a cinch: just install a plugin and away you go. Other blogs laid out elaborate processes (often involving paying money) that made me question my decision to take up website management in the first place.

Luckily I pulled through and figured out how to do it. More than that, I figured out the easiest way.

So this article is to help WordPress DIYers avoid hours of research. Because I have done the hours of research and I have the answer.

And the answer is: get WPvivid (a plugin), let it do its thing, make sure your .htaccess file is happy, and then get Redirection (another plugin).

DISCLAIMER: I am not a born and bred WordPress technician, nor am I a developer. I am simply a do-it-yourselfer with a largely uncomplicated, small-business website that I needed to transfer from one domain to another. If you are in a similar boat as me, then maybe my method can help you. If it’s anything beyond that, then make sure you do your research, and proceed at your own risk.

Step 1: get WPvivid Backup & Migration Plugin and install it on your OLD domain

In my research, WPvivid was the easiest plugin to work with. Install it on your website (the one with the old domain that you want to change).

In order for the transfer to work, you’ll need to make sure you get rid of any 301 redirect plugins, firewall and security plugins, and caching plugins. So double check if you have any of those, and go ahead and deactivate them.

Step 2: get WPvivid Backup & Migration Plugin and install it on your NEW domain

To proceed, you’ll need to have your new website ready to go – this means you’ve purchased the new domain, and you’ve gone through the usual rigors of getting it started with your hosting provider (logging in to cPanel, adding your new domain, and installing WordPress).

If you’ve done all that, then you’re going to install WPvivid on the new domain website. Once you’ve installed it, head to the WPvivid menu in your WordPress Admin, and go to the key tab. Generate a key.

key tab from the WPvivid page.

Step 3: go back to your old domain and start the “Clone then Transfer” process

Go back to the WPvivid menu on your old WordPress website, head to the Auto-Migration tab, and copy paste that key you generated earlier in Step 2.

NOTE: Once you begin the transfer, all existing data on your new site will be wiped and replaced with the data from your old site. So if there is anything you need to save or export or backup somewhere, do that first. For me personally, this wasn’t a big deal, because my new website was a blank slate with only the WPvivid plugin installed.

automigration tab in the WPvivid menu.

Under “Choose the content you want to transfer,” click “Database + Files (WordPress Files)”.

Press the big blue “Close then Transfer” button. Let the plugin take its time to complete the process.

Once its done, head to WordPress Admin on your new site, go to the WPvivid page, go to the Backup & Restore Tab, scroll down to another tab called Backups, and click “Scan uploaded backup or received backup”. The backup you downloaded off your old site should appear in the box. Hit the “Restore” button to finish your website migration. Agree to the prompts and let it take its time.

scan uploaded backup or received backup option in the WPvivid menu.

Step 4: Check if everything’s good with your .htaccess file

One bump in the road that can happen during the transfer process lies in the .htaccess file: it could be messed up or missing on your new site. The .htaccess file handles permalinks on your WordPress site. Permalinks are the names of webpages (the permalink of this webpage is “how-to-transfer-from-one-domain-to-another-on-WordPress-the-quick-and-free-way” – you’ll see it in the URL)

So how do you know if your .htacccess file is messed up or missing?

When the transfer’s done, go to your new website. You should be able to visit your newly-copied home page, and everything should look just as it was on your old site. But try clicking some links on your home page. You may find it gives you 404 errors. Uh-oh.

Try manually typing out the URL for a specific webpage in your website (with the new domain). You may find that doesn’t work either.

So how do we fix it?

We’ll try the simplest solution first. Go to your WordPress Admin on your new site, head to Settings, and click Permalinks on the dropdown.

You’ll see the different permalink structure options there. Check which one your new site is currently set to. Is it the same as your old site?

If it’s the same, simply click “Save Changes”. Once you’ve done that, your 404 errors should be gone.

If they’re not gone, or if your permalink structure is different from your old site, we’ll try one more thing:

A: If the permalink structure was the same, you hit save, and you still have 404 errors, then:

Pick a different structure, hit save. Then go back and pick the original structure from your old site, and click save. What we’re doing is trying to get WordPress to modify or create an .htaccess file on its own.

B: If the permalink structure was different from your old site, then pick the structure it’s supposed to be, and hit save.

If, after A or B, it’s still not working, then you’ll have to do what I did: go into your WordPress files and investigate.

Yes, that’s right, you will have to foray beyond the eye-friendly landscape of the WordPress dashboard, and into your host’s client interface area.

Your .htaccess file is located in the main folder associated with your domain, in your website’s backend. You can access it in the File Manager in cPanel.

location of the .htaccess file in cPanel.
This is what your files and folders look like in cPanel.

When you’re there, find your .htaccess file, and download a copy of it. This copy will be your backup in case anything goes wrong.

Once you’ve saved a backup, delete the .htaccess file.

NOTE: You may go into the cPanel File Manager and find that the .htaccess file is missing! If this is the case, it’s likely just hidden. Go to the settings menu in the cPanel File manager and you should see a toggle for “Show Hidden Files (dotfiles)”. Checkmark it, press save, and your .htaccess file should appear.

how to access setting in cPanel.
The toggle for showing hidden files in the cPanel settings.

In my case, there were two .htaccess files, one old and one new. I made backups of each, and then I went ahead and deleted them out of my file manager.

Once you’ve deleted your .htaccess file, head back to your WordPress Admin on your new site, back to Settings, Permalinks, click the structure you had in place on your old site, and press save.

If you never had a .htaccess file to begin with (even after toggling “Show Hidden Files” in the cPanel settings), then you’ll have to create your own .htaccess file from scratch. It’s not that hard. You can find instructions on how to do that here.

Step 5: Get the Redirection plugin

When you’ve sorted out your .htaccess issues, your links will work again. But what about all the SEO-ranking you’ve acquired from your old site? What about users who end up at your old site rather than your new site? This is where Redirection comes in.

I don’t think I’ve used a simpler plugin. It was truly one-click.

NOTE: Neither Redirection nor WPvivid are paying me to write this article. Through my own research, I personally decided they were the best plugins of the bunch. However, if anyone from Redirection or WPvivid are reading this + have some extra money lying around, I do accept major forms of payment including PayPal and Interac e-Transfer (Canada-only).

Install it on your new site and head to Tools in the WordPress Admin sidebar : you’ll find Redirection there. Click on it then hit the “Site” tab. You will find a textbox to enter your new domain (“Relocate to domain:”). Enter your new domain, hit update, and then you’re done.

Redirection page in WordPress admin.

Test it out by trying to visit a URL in your old site. It should automatically redirect you to the equivalent URL in your new site.

You’ll want to keep your old website alive with the Redirection plugin for as long as it takes for your new site to build up its SEO ranking on Google.

One other thing you can do, Google-wise, is to head to Google Search Console and update your domain name there. You’ll find it in the Settings, under the “Change of Address” field.

You’re done! But it’s good to be diligent so make sure to test everything. Visit all your webpages and tinker around with your plugins. Make sure everything works right. And know that it’s not the worst thing in the world to go through the process of changing your domain name.



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