How To Perform A WordPress Database Backup – In 5 Steps


Bart Keating


2019 February 4th


Because every WordPress site is vulnerable, knowing how to backup a WordPress database is a very important skill.

You could lose access to your account for a number of reasons– it could be a hardware failure in your host's data center, a malicious hacking attack, or a plug-in malfunction.

So, in this post, we will learn how to make a WordPress database backup using phpMyAdmin.

There are many different ways to create a database copy (see the bottom of this article for some alternative methods). But now - let's have a look at how to do a WordPress database backup manually:

  1. Open phpMyadmin from your control panel
  2. Select your WordPress database
  3. Open the Export menu
  4. Save your WordPress database backup
  5. Customize your backup (additional step)

1. Open phpMyAdmin from Your Control Panel

To get started, head over to your hosting server's control panel and log in. You'll probably be presented with something that looks a lot like this:

WordPress Database Backup cPanel

However, if your control panel doesn't match the screenshot above, don't panic. 

cPanel (shown above) is the most common type of server control panel but it's not used by every website host. No matter what software your host uses, look for a 'Databases' section and select 'phpMyAdmin'.

phpMyAdmin is an open source visual database manager that comes pre-installed on most WordPress hosting servers. It allows you to control your server's MySQL database, which is typically where WordPress data is stored.

At this stage, you might be asked to log in to your phpMyAdmin panel. You probably already set a password (and perhaps a username too) for it.

If you forgot what they are, you should be able to create a new set of credentials from your control panel.

2. Select Your WordPress Database

Note: Don't be intimidated by phpMyAdmin's complicated looking layout, it's designed for function rather than beauty!

Once you've logged in, you need to make sure the correct WordPress database is selected. Normally this is fairly straightforward, but if you have other databases or multiple WordPress sites installed on your server, it can get a little complicated.

All the databases will be listed in the sidebar. It shouldn't be hard to pick out your WordPress database: there'll be a '_wp_' for WordPress somewhere in its name.

When you click a database, its internal folder architecture will appear in the sidebar and the main window. That's how you'll know it's selected.

WordPress Database Backup phpMyAdmin

You can ensure that you've got the correct database by checking that the internal folder architecture matches that shown in the screenshot above, it should contain folder names like 'wp_links'.

If you have multiple WordPress databases installed, you'll need to make sure you've picked the right one. I recommend you do that by opening 'wp_posts' and verifying that the post names are those of the WordPress site that you want to back up.

3. Open the Export Menu

When you're sure you have the correct database selected, hit the 'Export' button. It's located on the top row above the main Window that should now be displaying your various WordPress folders.

WordPress Database Backup Export Location

4. Save your WordPress Database Backup

In the Export tab, you'll need to make two choices. First, you must decide whether to go for a 'Quick' or a 'Custom' export, then you need to pick a file format to use to save your database.

For most people, 'Quick' will be the correct export type and 'SQL' will be the best file format. That combination will save your entire WordPress site in a form that makes it easy to restore to another server in the future.

Then just hit 'Go' and save your file!

WordPress Database Backup Save Simple

5. Customize Your Backup (Additional Step)

However, if you don't want to save your entire WordPress site, you can click the 'Custom' option instead. This will bring up a list of the different sections of your WordPress site, and you can untick any you don't want to be included in the backup.

There are several good reasons you might not want to back up your entire site.

You may not want to save all your plug-ins as they can easily be reinstalled in the future, for example. Or perhaps you might not want to back up your site's comments if you've been the target bot activity.

Whatever the reason, to ensure a section is fully removed, use the tick boxes on the left-hand side of the list.

WordPress Database Backup Save Custom

If you do customize your selection, you will also need to ensure that the 'Save output to a file' option is selected before you press 'Go' to download your database. If that option isn't selected, phpMyAdmin will download your WordPress database in a format that won't allow you to easily restore it to your server.

WordPress Database Backup Custom Save

Alternative Method: Backup using a Plug-in

For this guide, I've assumed you are running WordPress on a Linux hosted server. It's very uncommon for hosts to install WordPress on anything except a Linux OS machine, but it can be done.

If you aren't able to access phpMyAdmin because your WordPress site isn't installed on a Linux server (or for some other reason), don't worry!

You can use a WordPress plug-in to create your WordPress export database instead. 

WordPress backup plug-ins are actually worth considering as an alternative method in any case because of the simplicity and extra features they offer. Most back up plug-ins let you download your database in a single click which is obviously far faster than the 5 steps listed above. Plus, some plug-ins allow you to schedule backups or even save your database to cloud storage sites!

But which WordPress backup plug-in should you use?

To answer this question I carried out an extensive review to help you choose. Here are the three best WordPress backup plugin options I found:

  • WP Database backup - This is one of the simplest WordPress backup plug-ins. It's entirely free and allows you to automate your backup schedule.
  • UpDraftPlus - UpDraftPlus is the most popular WordPress backup plug-in, it allows you to save your database to numerous cloud storage services such as Amazon and Google Drive.
  • WP Time Capsule - This is a great little plug-in if you want to back up recent media files added to your site rather than your entire database.

WordPress Backups - One Final Tip

Remember, even though some web hosts (such as SiteGround) do offer free server backups with their hosting plans, you should never rely only on automated host backups as they are often erased on a rolling basis and your host might not back up your entire directory.

Make sure to manually backup and save your database, so you can keep the information that you need. With that, you and your WordPress website will be fine.

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