How to Backup WordPress Website Manually using cPanel

I’m sure you love your website and can’t afford to lose it. Every website can get hacked or attacked by malicious software. Especially, WordPress websites are a lucrative target for attackers. There are more than 200 million WordPress sites reachable, and more than 14.7% of the world’s Top 100 Websites are based on WordPress. (At date July 2020)

WordPress itself is a very robust and safe system, but there are situations where your WordPress site can be compromised just because of the use of deprecated plugins that are not so well or even poorly coded.

As a result, a security issue in only one of these plugins can affect thousands or even millions of WordPress sites.

Why do I need a WordPress Backup?

Maybe you installed a malicious theme, plugin, or an addon that led to locking yourself out from the website. The hosting server crashed, and you can’t do anything to back up or restore the site. When this happens, you can lose your entire business from one moment to another.

Having a plan to back up the WordPress website is always great. Trust me! You can save yourself from a heart attack by just backing up the WordPress website manually using cPanel with this guide.

Heads Up!

The process of manually backing up the WordPress Website is very critical and technical! Perform these steps with intensive care and concentration, so you don’t delete or move any file unintentionally that can spoil the show.

Recommendation

Create a staging site (i.e., a test environment) or create a demo website on a subdomain to perform a manual WordPress backup process. That will ensure the production website works correctly, and you learned to back up the site manually.

Plan for the Manual WordPress Backup

You might have some questions:

  1. What do I need to take a manual backup?
  2. What should I include in the manual backup? 
  3. Does the website go down while taking the backup? 
  4. What’s the best time and date to take a backup?

WordPress uses a robust programming language called PHP. It serves as a communicator between the files, database, and the front end. A WordPress website consists of two major components:
Files and Database. 

So, you need either Cpanel or your websites FTP account to create a backup. Both the files and databases are included in the manual backup process to save the site from disasters. Because you’re working through Cpanel (or FTP), the website won’t go down or offline even for a second.

But, you still need to be very conscious and don’t move or delete any file unintentionally that can break the whole website. Please see the visitors’ peak time on your website and try to create a backup when you have fewer visitors on the site.

Prerequisites of Manual WordPress Backup

Before running the manual backup of the WordPress website, make sure that you have the things below at hand:

  • cPanel or Hosting credentials to access files and databases.
  • Know which directory points to the WordPress website.
  • Access to phpMyAdmin through cPanel
  • Know what folder contains the WordPress website

Even if you don’t know a few things, don’t worry, I’m going to explain everything in the next step. Let’s just start the backup process to take the first backup of your WordPress website.

Steps to do Manual Backup Of WordPress Website

Now, as you have everything ready to start the backup, we divide the process into two parts.

Part one explains how to take a manual backup of WordPress core files and media files using cPanel.

Part two will help you understand how to do the same backup through FTP.

Part three lets you back up the WordPress database using phpMyAdmin.

Let’s get started with Part One. I’m excited! Are you, either?

Manual Backup of WordPress Files using File Manager from cPanel

cPanel is accessible from your WebHost account, and it provides additional software to take the manual backup of the WordPress website. The steps may vary slightly at the start, but all hosting companies are using somewhat similar navigation through cPanel.

Step 1. Log in to the cPanel or your web hosting account.

I’m using the direct cPanel account login. Suppose you have the hosting from Godaddy, Hostgator, BlueHost, or any other hosting company. You can log in to your hosting and access the cPanel from there. If you can’t find the cPanel or file manager, please check your hosting provider’s help documentation. 

Warning: If your site is hosted on WordPress.com or you use a managed WordPress hosting, you probably can’t access cPanel as the hosting company doesn’t offer it. You can still use the Part two method to manually backup the WordPress files.

For direct access, type the website address followed by the keyword Cpanel (i,e.,example.com/cpanel). 

Backup WordPress website manually login cPanel

Enter the username and password provided by your hosting provider

Step 2. Use the File Manager to Manually Backup WordPress Core Files and Media Files.

Once logged in to cPanel or hosting account, navigate to the File Manager. If you’re using direct cPanel login, you’ll see a screen like below. Click on the File Manager icon to access the files.

Step 3. Compress the Files and Download them to the Local Storage.

As you click on the File Manager, you’re redirected “public_html.” On the left side, you can see a list of folders and subfolders. Click on the folder that says, “public_html.” Click on the + icon to expand the folder. In case you have multiple websites. You’ll need to select a particular folder associated with your website name or domain name.

I’m using wp-staging as an example website. So, I’ve clicked onpublic_html”> “wp-staging.fayyazfayzi.com”. As you can see, this folder consists of three main folders and some other files. 

On the top navigation menu, you see the different operations that can be performed on a directory or files. You can use the compress option from the top to compress the entire “public_html” directory. But we don’t recommend this as it increases the server load and consumes more space.

Instead of selecting the entire public_html folder, we’ll recommend compressing only the wp-staging folder. Right-click on the folder and select the shortened link, as shown in the screenshot. 

A popup appears to let you select the compression type. The best compression types you can choose are zip Archive and Gzipped Tar Archive. 

(Here we use zip, but usually, GZipped archives are processed faster and are more efficient. They use less space. If you are on a Windows system, you might prefer the zip archive for it’s more significant popularity.)

Make sure you’ve selected the right folder and click on the Compress File(s) button.

Once the folder is compressed, and the .zip file is ready. Select the .zip file and download the manual files backup fo your WordPress Website. We recommend creating a folder WordPress Backups and save the backup file in that folder.

That’s great! You have taken the manual backup of your WordPress website’s core files and media files on your local storage.

Manual Backup of WordPress Files using FTP

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a natural alternative to those who don’t have access to cPanel. Probably using WordPress Managed hosted service or hosting your WordPress site on WordPress.com.

Below are the reasons why we considered it our secondary option

  • You must have valid FTP credentials.
  • Third-party software to install is required. 
  • The manual process depends on the connection between FTP and the webserver. It can increase the time taken to process a manual WordPress Website Backup.
  • There are many FTP software clients, and you might not be aware of which one is the best.

Still, it’s one of the most natural processes to take the manual backup of the website. We’ve placed a few best free open source FTP clients you can use depending on the operating system you use.

List of best FTP Software for Manual WordPress Website Backup

  1. FileZilla (for Windows and Mac)
  2. Cyberduck (for Windows and Mac)
  3. FireFTP (for Windows and Mac)
  4. Free FTP (for Windows)
  5. WinSCP (for Windows)

FileZilla is one of the most user-friendly and accessible software. It works on both Windows and Mac. It’s been our first choice to use when it comes to manual backup of websites.

Step 1. How to Download FileZilla FTP client

Open your favorite web browser and download the FileZilla client from https://filezilla-project.org and install it on your PC or Mac.

Step 2. Open Filezilla Client to See Local and Remote Sites

As you open Filezilla, you can see ‘local sites’ on the middle left panel with the folders available on your computer. Whereas, the remote site pane is disabled because you’re not connected to any remote server.

Step 3. Connect to the Remote Site using FTP Credentials

Now, you need the following FTP credentials to connect with the webserver. 

  1. FTP Server: ftp.example.com or IP Address
  2. FTP Username: user@example.com
  3. FTP Password: your password
  4. FTP &explicit FTPS port: 21 normally

Once you have entered the valid FTP credentials, you are connected to the remote location and your web server.

You can see all folders, subfolders, and files:

Step 4. Download the Manual Backup of WordPress Website using FTP

  • Select all folders and files associated with your specific website.
  • Right-click to get a download popup menu.
  • Click the download button to download the backup on your local system. 

Alternatively, you can create a new WordPress Website Backup folder in your local file system. Then drag all files and folders from the right remote site panel to your left local site panel into the new WordPress Website Backup folder or select all and then download from the right-click context menu:

Make sure to see the transfer queue status bar. There you can see the status of queued files, successfully transferred files, and failed data. That’s a good practice as you should not have any failed files. If files were unable to process, you have to download them manually again and place them in the right folder.

Recommendation

Once you’ve downloaded all files of your WordPress website, we recommend encrypting the data using compression software like 7zip or similar.

How to Manually Download the Backup of WordPress Database

The WordPress website manual backup process is incomplete until you download the backup of the database. There are many ways to download the backup of the database. We’re going to share two very important and most natural.

Backup the WordPress Database using phpMyAdmin or download the backup of WordPress database using Adminer if you don’t have access to cPanel. 

Lets’ start with phpMyAdmin using cPanel.

Steps to do manual Backup of WordPress Database using phpMyAdmin

Step 1. Access phpMyAdmin using cPanel

Login to your cPanel (or a hosting account) and Navigate to the Database section. There you can see the phpMyAdmin option.

Start it with a click:

Step 2. Select the Database to Export or Download

Once phpMyAdmin is opened, you can see all the databases and schema available in the left bar. Select the database you want to export or download.

Note: If you don’t know the name of the database connected to your database. Open the file wp-config.php file of your WordPress site to get the database name. You’ll find that file in the root folder path of your website:

Now select the valid database from the left panel. Once you’ve chosen the correct database, click on the Export link from the top menu. On the next page, select the option “Quick – display only the minimal options.” The format should be SQL.

Click on the Go button to download the backup of the WordPress database.

Since you have downloaded the “.sql” file, we recommend moving the file into the same WordPress Website Backup folder on your local computer. A good practice is to create another subfolder for the database backup and paste the file there.

Pro Tip: If your database size is massive. Click on the option “Custom – display all possible options” and select all the tables:

We recommend compressing the database in gzip format:

Then click on the Go button to start the database export.

Move it to the database backup folder on your local system where you already stored your initial file backup.

How to Download WordPress Database Backup without phpMyAdmin?

If you don’t have access to phpMyAdmin (as your hosting company doesn’t offer you access to cPanel.) means you can’t download the backup of your WordPress Website manually. But, we still have a way to download it—all you need is to have FTP access.

Step 1. Access the WordPress Database using Adminer

Adminer is a software script just like phpMyAdmin to access, manage, and manipulate the database on your MySQL server. It is not the replacement of phpMyAdmin but an alternative.

Warning: We only recommend using it when you don’t have access to phpMyAdmin and delete it as you completed the backup process. Download the latest version of Adminer from the official website Adminer; we’re using Adminer 4.7.7 with English only.

Step 2. Upload Adminer into the WordPress Website Main Directory 

Once you downloaded the latest version of the Adminer4.7.7.php. It’s good to rename the file to adminer.php to access it easier. But more recommended it is to give it a complete another name to make it hard guessable for attackers who try to find that tool on your website.

Use your FTP client and upload the file adminer.php to the WordPress website root folder.

Step 3. Access the database using Adminer

Once you upload the Adminer to your website, open the admin login panel by entering the website address example.com followed by adminer.php (i.e., example.com/adminer.php)

Step 4. Enter valid database credentials

Suppose you don’t know the valid credentials for a connected database. Open the wp-config.php file to get the credentials and access the database.

Step 5. Export the database using Adminer

Once you enter the valid database credentials, you’ll see the tables on the left sidebar on the next page. On top of the database tables, see the operations need to be performed. Click on the Export link. 

In Output, select gzip. Select all database tables and click on the Export button below.

Once the download file is downloaded, copy the file to your WordPress Backup Folder on your local computer.

WOW! That was amazing!
Congratulations, you have created a complete backup of your WordPress website manually without using any plugin by yourself. That’s highly commendable!

But, we are not done yet. We have created the backup, but that does not mean it’s secured as well. We need to ensure its security because the backup files can be deleted accidentally. We must follow the following steps after taking the backup of the WordPress website.

Post Backup Tasks and Precautions

The manual backup can be done at any time and on your own. The best part is it’s free and does not even require any plugin. However, there are many problems you can face. You can follow the post backup tasks and precautions to avoid these problems.

  1. Encryption: The backup contains all the website data. Suppose an attacker or hacker gets that. He probably has all the information and can do anything with it. It’s a good practice to encrypt the file and use a strong password on the encrypted data. So, even if the hacker gets the record, he won’t be able to decrypt the backup file quickly.
  2. Manage Permission: Manage the permissions on drives and files—a better way to do it using BitLocker and restricting file permission.
  3. Test Restore: A backup is useful only if you can restore it and if it is not corrupted. So it’s a good practice to test the backup on a subdomain or staging site.
  4. Multiple Copies: Create multiple copies of the same backup file. As the backup is stored on your local system, it can be deleted unintentionally. We recommend creating multiple backups in different locations.
  5. Upload on Cloud: Upload the backup files on cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Mega. Anything can happen to your local device; it can be stolen, corrupted by malicious software, and there can be damage to the files. Having a backup on cloud storage can restore the website in a few clicks.
  6. Use Antivirus: Use antivirus software and keep it updated. This can keep your backup files safe from malicious software.

Pros and Cons of manual WordPress website backup

 

Pros Cons
Free of cost Time Consuming
No need for external plugins Increase of disk space if backup files are not deleted after downloading
Allows local downloading User can leave vulnerabilities on the server after downloading the backup and not deleting it from the server
FTP allows both Cpanel and non-cPanel website backups Creating a database export can lead to loading issues of the production website if the database is huge.
Standard file types allow restoring the site without using extra software.

Conclusion: What’s the Best Practice to Backup the WordPress Website Finally?

If you have a website, taking regular backups should be the top priority. Most hosting companies offer backup features in their hosting packages.

Some hosting companies charge an additional amount for the backups and have a lot of space and memory limitations.

We don’t recommend you rely on the hosting backups only.
You would give your backup into the hands of your hosting provider. You have to trust them not only when it comes to data privacy; you also have to trust them in terms of data reliability. Even the biggest hosting companies will not guarantee that your backup data is never lost or gets corrupted. Google and you will find several cases where user have lost their entire website, including all backups due to hosting companies’ faults.

Manual backups are a viable alternative. Although taking manual backups saves a lot of money, it’s a time taking process that also increases the disk space.

Alternative automatic backup solution

An excellent alternative solution to creating manual backups is to use a plugin like WP Staging. It establishes a WordPress staging and development website with one click. The next version of WP Staging will also include a complete backup solution that allows you to export your entire website as a compressed file with another click. 

You can use that file to restore your entire site or even restore your site to another server or domain.

More about this is coming soon.