How to manually back up parts of your WordPress website (without a plugin)

An essential part of being a responsible website owner is staying on top of your WordPress backups. However, there are many methods you can use to back up your website. Figuring out which route to take can be a bit tricky.

Contrary to popular belief, using a backup plugin isn’t always your best option. While it may take a bit more time, manually backing up your WordPress website can actually be a safer, more effective solution. Plus, doing so is a relatively simple process. 

In this post, we’ll discuss why creating WordPress backups is so important and some reasons why you may want to do them without a plugin. Then we’ll walk you through how to back up parts of your WordPress site, including your database. Let’s get started!

Why creating WordPress backups is so important

There are multiple security threats to site owners today, from malware phishing scams to Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks. To protect both your website and customer data, it’s essential to stay on top of your WordPress website security.

Being proactive and taking preventative measures to safeguard your site should be top priorities. However, using backups is your second line of defense against attacks. 

If something happens and a hacker manages to infiltrate your site, they can do a lot of damage.

In addition to stealing personal information, hackers can also take your site offline and destroy essential files. Off-site backups, in particular, are helpful because they are out of reach from cybercriminals.

It’s not just hackers you have to worry about, either. For example, you may encounter a server outage with significant downtime. This event can also lead to a loss of important data (in addition to a damaged reputation). 

If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you’ll want an updated version of your site to restore. Otherwise, all of your hard work might be gone, and you risk having to start over from scratch.

Regularly updating your WordPress site, plugins, and themes is an essential aspect of website maintenance. However, there’s also always a risk that an update may introduce conflict or compatibility issues. WordPress website backups can also help you roll back your site to a pre-update version if needed. 

How often you should back up your WordPress website

The required frequency of WordPress backups depends mainly on the type of website you have and how often you update it. For example, if you add new content to your site every week, you likely want daily or weekly backups rather than monthly.

If you add new content to your site daily, you may wish to do hourly backups. If this is the case, it’s wise to use both an automated backup solution and a manual one. 

On the other hand, if you rarely update your site, you might not want to waste unnecessary storage space with backup files. As such, you can set up your backups more infrequently. 

That said, it’s also important to consider the method you use to back up your website. You can use multiple solutions. For example, some of the most popular options are going through your web hosting provider, using a plugin, or manually handling it yourself.

Why you should consider backing up your WordPress website without using a plugin

There are many benefits to backing up your website via a third-party plugin. For example, using this method can help you save a lot of time. It can also be a beginner-friendly option for those who aren’t comfortable handling their sites files themselves.

However, some disadvantages are important to consider. Plugins can also take up a lot of unnecessary server space. Using too many third-party tools on your WordPress site can hamper not only its performance but its security as well.

Moreover, there are many unsafe themes and plugins out there. For example, you should consider using only credible ones that are regularly updated and maintained. Unfortunately, when you’re using dozens of add-ons, maintenance becomes an increasingly difficult task.

Additionally, backup plugins work in different ways. Some perform full-site backups, while others only offer incremental options. 

Backup plugins can also be costly, at least in the premium versions. There are some popular and widely used options, such as UpdraftPlus:

UpdraftPlus backup plugin

However, keep in mind that the free version of many WordPress backup plugins can be limiting. The add-ons can also introduce security vulnerabilities.

Plus, many free backup plugins don’t have their own servers. Therefore, if your server goes down, the plugin likely will go with it. 

On the other hand, there are many benefits to creating manual backups of your WordPress site. First, this method offers you a greater level of control. For example, you can specify exactly what you’re backing up, how often the backups happen, and where you save the files. 

As long as you have some basic experience with WordPress, backing up your site is a relatively simple process. With the proper guidance, you should be able to handle it without issues.

How to back up your WordPress site manually

There are two main parts of your WordPress website to back up: your files and your database. Your website files include your themes, plugins, and media. Your database consists of your posts and comments. 

In the following sections, we’ll take a look at both. We’ll start by walking you through how to back up your WordPress website files. Then we’ll show you how to do the same process for your WordPress database. 

How to manually back up your website files

To access your WordPress website files, you can either go through cPanel (if your hosting provider uses it) or a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client such as FileZilla:

FileZilla website

The first step is to log in to your hosting control panel or FTP client. Note that if you’re using an FTP client, you’ll need your FTP credentials, which you can obtain from your hosting provider. 

These credentials include the host, username, password, and port number:

WinSCP FTP client login

Once you’re connected to your server, you’ll want to access the root directory of your website. This is a folder (typically) called “public”:

Public HTML folder

Next, you can download the folder by right-clicking on it and selecting Download:

FTP file download

When the file has finished downloading, you can rename it to include today’s date and time. That way, you will know which is the most updated version of your site if you need to restore it from backup.

Remember that it’s wise to save the backup to an off-site or cloud storage area of your choice. You might also want to zip it to save space.

Also, perhaps you only want to download and back up specific folders rather than all website files. If so, you can double-click on the public folder, then right-click on whichever folders and files you want to save. For example, you could choose only to keep your plugins or themes folder. 

How to manually back up your WordPress database

Once you have your website files secured, you can move on to backing up your WordPress database. 

To get started, you can log into your cPanel (or hosting provider’s equivalent control panel) and navigate to phpMyAdmin:

phpMyAdmin dashboard

Note that most hosting control panels come with this program pre-installed. However, you can always download it yourself if not. 

Once you’re logged into your phpMyAdmin account, you will find a list of databases within the left-hand panel. Make sure your WordPress database is selected.

Next, you can navigate to the Export tab:

WordPress database backup

On this screen, you can click on Quick for the export method, then make sure that SQL is selected for the Format option. Both of these settings should be chosen by default. Next, click on the Go button located in the bottom right of the screen.

Your WordPress database will then begin downloading. Note that it may take a minute or two, depending on how extensive your database is. Avoid clicking away from the screen until the process is complete to prevent any interruptions. 

Once it’s downloaded, that’s it! Now you can save the backed-up version of your WordPress database whenever you wish.

To restore either your WordPress website files or your database, you can use the same methods. For example, to restore your site files, you can upload the backed-up versions via FTP.


An essential part of maintaining your website is making sure you regularly back it up. Doing so will ensure that you have an updated version of it to restore. This backup could be crucial if you get hacked, or a malicious actor attempts to steal or destroy your critical data and files.

As we discussed in this post, using a plugin, while sometimes quicker, isn’t necessarily the best way to back up WordPress. Alternatively, you can use a manual approach to back up parts of your site, including your database and website files. 
If you need help with your WordPress services, including security and backups, contact us at FreshySites today. We offer a plethora of services and solutions that can help keep your website protected 24/7!

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