Do you want to wipe the slate clean and start your WordPress website from scratch?
Maybe your site has seriously lost its way, and you’d prefer to delete all of your content rather than manually unpicking every single one of your mistakes. Perhaps you want to cut ties with your old site and relaunch it as something entirely new. Or maybe you were using your account to experiment with various WordPress themes and plugins, and now you’re finally ready to get serious about building your website.
Why go to the effort of deleting WordPress and then reinstalling it from scratch, when you can just hit the reset button?
In this article, I’ll share two ways that you can roll back time and restore WordPress to its fresh-out-of-the-box state, without having to go to the trouble of deleting and reinstalling WordPress.
If you do want to install WordPress from scratch, you can learn how in our complete guide.
Why Might I Need to Reset My WordPress Website?
When you reset your WordPress website, you restore all of its files and databases to their original state.
There are countless reasons why you might want to reset WordPress, but some common ones include:
- You’re repurposing your website. Are you craving a fresh start? Maybe you want to take your website in a radical new direction, or perhaps you have an old, abandoned website that you want to repurpose for an exciting new project. Whatever your reasons, restoring WordPress to its default settings is often easier than deleting all of your old content and settings manually.
- You need to debug your themes and plugins. WordPress is generally a reliable, stable, and secure platform, but no software is perfect. There's a chance you may encounter issues, particularly when using third-party themes and plugins. If you’ve installed a large number of themes and plugins, then you may struggle to identify which piece of software is causing you so many problems. To help you pinpoint the culprit, you may want to restore WordPress to its default settings and then reapply each of your themes and plugins individually, making sure to test your website after each change.
- You’re cleaning up a test installation. Perhaps you’ve been experimenting with various themes, plugins, and settings before starting work on your “real” website. If you’ve been treating WordPress as a testing ground, then your website may not currently be in a usable state! Rather than manually removing all of your experimental edits, simply hit the reset button and your account will be as good as new.
Do You Really Need to Reset WordPress?
Restoring WordPress to its default settings is a big step that should never be taken lightly.
Before factory resetting your site, you should consider whether there’s a less drastic solution that can deliver the results you want, without requiring you to delete all of your website’s content.
1. You Want to Move Your Website to a New Domain
When you created your WordPress account, you were asked to choose a domain name.
If you’re still using your original domain, then there’s a chance it may no longer accurately reflect your website. It’s also possible that your site has grown into something much bigger than originally anticipated, and you’re starting to worry that your light-hearted, jokey domain name is preventing people from taking you seriously.
While you could migrate all of your content to a new website and then reset your original site, this is a complex, multi-step process that will damage your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and performance.
Instead of migrating your content, you should register a new domain, then replace all instances of your old domain with the new domain name. Then, you just need to set up a few 301 redirects, and visitors will be automatically redirected to your shiny new domain.
Not only is this process far easier than a full-blown migration and WordPress reset, it also helps preserve your website’s SEO, ensuring that your site continues to rank high in Google’s all-important search results.
2. You Want to Delete All of Your Website’s Content
Sometimes, you may want to delete all of your website’s pages and posts—for example, if you’re relaunching your blog. While resetting your WordPress will get rid of this content, it’ll also delete any other customizations you’ve made to your website, including any changes you’ve made to your WordPress settings.
Instead of resetting WordPress, you can delete all of your pages and/or posts, with just a few clicks:
- In WordPress’s left-hand menu, select Posts > All Posts or Pages > All Pages, depending on the content you want to remove.
- Select the checkbox next to the Title list (circled in the following screenshot). All of your pages or posts should now be selected.
- Open the Bulk Actions dropdown, and select Move to Trash.
- Click Apply.
All of the selected content will now be deleted.
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3. You Want to Redesign Your WordPress Site
Even if you want to completely overhaul every part of your website, you don’t necessarily have to delete everything and start from scratch! Often, you can completely change your website's look and feel by simply switching to a new theme.
If you want to test out various themes without giving your visitors whiplash, then the free Theme Switcha plugin lets you experiment with themes while displaying your current theme to anyone who's viewing your website.
Don’t Lose Your Content Forever!
So you’ve considered the alternatives and decided to go ahead and reset your WordPress website. But before hitting that reset button, it’s recommended that you create a backup.
Resetting your website may seem like the perfect solution now, but there’s always a chance you may need some of your old content further down the line. If you reset your website without creating a backup, then all of this content will be lost forever.
You can quickly and easily download a copy of all your posts, pages, comments, categories, and tags, using WordPress’s built-in Export tool. The Export tool generates an XML file that contains all of this content, plus references to your website’s image files. These references will only be functional if they link to an image that’s publicly available online, for example an image that’s hosted on another website. As a general rule, you should expect to lose all of your images when you reset your website, so now’s the time to download any images that you want to hang onto.
Before exporting your content, it’s a good idea to spring-clean your website as this will help ensure a smooth, error-free import if you ever need to restore your previous content. In particular, it’s recommended that you delete any comments that are marked as spam and approve any pending comments, in order to ensure the exported XML file is as clean as possible.
When you’re ready to export your content:
- Log in to your WordPress account, if you haven’t already.
- Navigate to Tools > Export.
- To export all of your posts, pages, comments, categories, tags and references, select All content. Alternatively, you can specify which content you want to export.
Select Download Export File.
All of your content will now be downloaded as an XML file.
If you want to restore this content at any point, then you just need to import the XML file into your WordPress website:
- In WordPress’s left-hand menu, select Tools > Import.
- Scroll to the WordPress section and click Run Importer.
- Select Choose file followed by the XML file that you want to import.
- Click Upload file and import.
- When prompted, assign this content to an author. You can either create a new author, or assign the content to an existing author, but it’s recommended that you choose an active author, just in case you ever need to edit this content.
- Click Submit.
WordPress will now reinstate all of your old content.
Reset Your Website Using This Free WordPress Plugin
The easiest way to reset your WordPress website is to use a plugin.
There are plenty of free plugins that provide reset functionality, but in this tutorial I’ll be using the Advanced WordPress Reset plugin, which restores your WordPress database to its original state, deleting all of your content and customizations in the process.
Advanced WordPress Reset will not delete any of your themes or plugins, but it will deactivate them, so you’ll still get that fresh-out-of-the-box experience. At the time of writing, Advanced WordPress Reset does not support Multisite.
Although installing a plugin simply to reset your WordPress website may seem like overkill, resetting WordPress manually is a multi-step process, so this plugin can save you a ton of time—and potentially spare you a few headaches!
To reset your website using the Advanced WordPress Reset plugin:
- Log in to your WordPress website.
- Navigate to Plugins > Add New.
- Search for Advanced WordPress Reset and, when the plugin appears, select Install Now > Activate.
- In WordPress’s left-hand menu, select Tools > Advanced WP Reset.
Read the onscreen warning. This plugin will reset your entire website—if you haven’t exported your website, then this is your last chance to back out before losing this content forever. If you still want to proceed, then type reset into the text field.
To delete all of your website’s content and customizations, click Reset database.
Once the reset is complete, you’ll be prompted to log in to your admin account, and your WordPress website will be ready to go!
How to Reset WordPress Without a Plugin
Most of the time, it makes sense to reset your website using a plugin—it’s quicker and easier, and there’s less chance of things going horribly wrong! However, even if you do use a plugin, it can still be helpful to understand what that plugin is doing behind the scenes, just in case you encounter any issues when resetting your website.
The process of resetting WordPress manually will vary depending on your hosting provider, how your website is configured, and the tools you use to manage your site, but as a general rule you’ll need a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client and a hosting admin tool such as phpMyAdmin or cPanel.
In this final section, I’ll outline the steps you’ll typically take to reset your website manually.
Delete Your MySQL Database
First, you’ll need to delete your website’s MySQL database, which will permanently remove all of your site’s settings and content.
You can delete this database using your hosting admin tool. For example, if you’re using cPanel, then you’ll find all of your databases by navigating to Databases > MySQL Databases. Once you’ve identified your WordPress database, make a note of its name and then go ahead and hit Delete.
Create a New Database
Your WordPress website cannot load without a database, so once you’ve deleted your old database, you’ll need to create a new one.
If you’re using cPanel, then:
- Select the MySQL Database Wizard icon, followed by Create a New Database.
- Give this database the same name as the database you just deleted.
- Select Create Database. This page should now refresh automatically.
- In Add a User to a Database, open the User dropdown and select your username.
- Open Database and select the database you just created.
If your username doesn’t appear in the User dropdown, then you can recreate your account in the Add a New User section. Wherever possible, you should reuse your previous database username and password.
If you cannot remember your login details, then you can retrieve your username and password using your favourite FTP client:
- In the FTP application, navigate to your website’s public_html folder, which contains all of your website’s root files.
- Control-click the wp-config.php file and then select View.
- In the file’s MySQL Settings section, locate your username and password.
You can now use this information to create a new database user.
Spring Clean Your Site: Deleting Themes and Plugins
While we have our FTP client open, this is the perfect opportunity to delete any plugins or themes that you no longer use:
- Switch over to your FTP client.
- Navigate to public_httml > wp-content.
The wp-content folder should contain plugins and themes folders. You can open each of these folders and delete the items that you want to remove, or you can remove all plugins by deleting the plugins folder itself.
Run the WordPress Installation Script
At this point, your WordPress website is completely clean, but it isn’t quite ready to use.
To turn this blank slate into a functional website, you’ll need to run the WordPress installation script:
- Type your website’s URL into the address bar, but don’t press the Enter key just yet.
- Add the following to your URL: /wp-admin/install.php
- Now you can press the Enter key.
- On the subsequent screen, give your website a title and create a username.
- When you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, click Install WordPress.
The installation script will now run, and your WordPress website will be ready for you to use!
In this article, I showed you how to turn back the clock and restore your WordPress website to its original state, using either a plugin or by deleting your WordPress database manually.
Now you’ve got a fresh copy of WordPress, you’re ready to start building your website! For advice on how to create an attention-grabbing, high-performing website that visitors will love, check out some of our other WordPress tutorials.
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