How do I transfer my live site to DreamHost?

Overview

This article describes how to manually transfer your website and email from your old hosting company to DreamHost. This process involves the following steps:

Migration service

If you are having trouble migrating your website from another host, or just don't have the time, DreamHost currently offers a service that takes care of that for you. You can find more information in the DreamHost Website migration services article.

WordPress migration options

View the following article for a list of alternative options available to migrate WordPress.

Registration transfer

This article explains how to transfer your website's data to DreamHost. This is separate from your domain registration.

You do NOT need to transfer your registration to DreamHost during this process. You can always transfer it at any time in the future. View the following article when you are ready to also transfer your registration:

Create a DreamHost account

Before proceeding, make sure you have created a DreamHost account by signing up for a hosting plan. View the following article for details:

During the signup process, select the option I already have a domain. This allows you to add your current domain name to your new DreamHost account.

Adding your domain to DreamHost at this point does NOT affect your current live website in any way. It will remain functioning normally at your current host until you point your DNS records in Step #4.

 

Step 1 — Back up your data from your old hosting company

This step backs up the data from your old hosting company to your home computer.

You'll need to back up the following:

  • Website files
  • Database file (only if your site uses a database)
  • Email

Make sure your database is exported to a file with the extension .sql.

Contact your old hosting company for their instructions on how to back up this content. They may have a simple way to export the data. If not, you'll need to back everything up manually.

Step 2 — Upload the data to DreamHost

This step uploads the data from your home computer to your new DreamHost account.

Website files

You can use an FTP client to log into your new DreamHost server and upload your website files. View the following article for instructions on where to upload the files on the server.

Database file

This step is only necessary if your website uses a database.

Your database should have been backed up into a single file ending with the extension .sql. View the following article for instructions on how to import this database file into your DreamHost account.

Email

View the following article for instructions on how to import the emails you downloaded from your old hosting company into your new DreamHost mail server.

Step 3 — View your site at DreamHost (before pointing DNS)

This step allows you to view how your site will appear at DreamHost before you point your DNS. This does not affect your live site at all. It just offers you the ability to confirm your site is configured properly at DreamHost before pointing its DNS.

Even though you have uploaded your website content to DreamHost, it's still hosted at your old hosting company. This means that when you view it in a browser, it appears as it does at your old host, not DreamHost. It will only load from your DreamHost server after you point its DNS records to DreamHost.

Before you point the DNS records, you should test the site to confirm it looks and functions as intended on your new DreamHost server.

Update your computer's host file

The best way to view your site as it appears on your DreamHost server is to update the hosts file on your home computer. This is a file that already exists on your computer. Its job is to map a domain name to an IP address. In this way, you can force your home computer to load the website from your DreamHost server, even though it's still hosted at your old hosting company.

View the following article for instructions on how to update the hosts file on your computer to point to DreamHost.

After you have confirmed your site is functioning correctly, make sure to remove the lines you just added when testing.

Step 4 — Point your DNS to DreamHost

This step points your website's DNS records to DreamHost. This is the final step to host your website on your new DreamHost server.

At this point, your website is correctly configured on your DreamHost server, but it is loading from the server at your old hosting company.

To load your site from your DreamHost server, you must now point its DNS records to DreamHost. You have two options when pointing your DNS.

  • Point the nameservers (recommended)
  • Point the A records

What records should I point?

It does not matter which option you choose. A records and nameservers will function the same way to load your website. The only difference is that pointing your nameservers is much more simple. 

Nameservers (recommended)

Pointing your nameservers is easier because it automatically points all of your other records to DreamHost. 

The following articles explain more about nameservers, how to view where they are pointed, and how to point them to DreamHost.

A Records

Pointing A Records is only recommended if you need to keep specific services active at your old hosting company. If you want to point all of your DNS records for this domain, it's recommended to point your nameservers instead.

Pointing your A Records is more difficult because there are multiple A Records for each type of service you use. For example, you'll need to update records for your:

  • website
  • database
  • email
  • custom records you require

View the following article for instructions on how to view the IP addresses at DreamHost you'll need to point your A Records to.

You'll then need to check with your old hosting company for instructions on how to update these records.

Wait for the DNS records to update

After pointing your DNS records to DreamHost, they will need time to propagate online.

A Records could take 6 hours to update, but nameservers could take up to 72 hours to fully update. Until all records are pointed to DreamHost, your site will still load from your old hosting company.

It is not possible to speed up this process since servers throughout the world update records on their own schedule.

Once the DNS records have updated online, your website will load as it is configured on your DreamHost server.

Transferring your registration to DreamHost

View the following article for instructions on how to transfer your domain registration to DreamHost:

See also

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