The Ultimate Guide to Backing Up Your WordPress Website for Free (2024 Edition)

If you‘re one of the millions of people running a website on WordPress, you know how powerful and flexible the platform is. But that flexibility comes with a certain amount of responsibility, including keeping your site backed up and protected against data loss.

Consider these statistics:

  • WordPress now powers over 43% of all websites on the Internet (source)
  • 70% of WordPress installations are vulnerable to hacking due to lack of maintenance and updates (source)
  • Hardware or system malfunctions cause 29% of data loss incidents (source)

With WordPress sites being so prevalent and prone to various risks, having reliable backups in place is absolutely essential. A backup is like an insurance policy for your website; it gives you a way to restore your site to a previous working state in case something goes wrong.

Without backups, you could lose everything if your site gets hacked, corrupted by a bad update, or erased due to a server failure or accident. Imagine having to recreate all your content, design customizations, and settings from scratch!

The good news is that backing up a WordPress site doesn‘t have to be difficult or expensive. While there are many premium backup plugins and services out there, it‘s entirely possible to implement a robust backup system for your WordPress site without spending a dime.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll walk you through three methods for backing up your WordPress site for free:

  1. Using WordPress‘ built-in Export tool
  2. Installing the free version of the UpdraftPlus plugin
  3. Using the free BackWPup plugin

For each method, I‘ll provide step-by-step instructions as well as discuss the pros and cons to help you decide which approach is right for your needs. I‘ll also share some important best practices for getting the most out of your WordPress backup system.

But first, let‘s take a closer look at why backups are so critical for WordPress sites.

Why You Absolutely Need to Back Up Your WordPress Site

As a blogger and web developer with over a decade of experience with WordPress, I‘ve seen firsthand how lack of backups can lead to catastrophe. Here are a few real-world scenarios that illustrate the importance of having current backups:

Scenario 1: Plugin Conflict Takes Site Offline

Imagine you install a new plugin on your WordPress site, but unbeknownst to you, it has a conflict with your theme or another plugin. When you activate it, the incompatibility breaks your site. Instead of your homepage, visitors now see the dreaded "White Screen of Death."

Without a recent backup, you‘d need to troubleshoot and identify the problem plugin by trial and error, all while your site stays down. With a backup, you could simply restore your site to its previous state before you installed the faulty plugin.

Scenario 2: Hacker Injects Malware

Suppose a hacker exploits a vulnerability in an outdated WordPress plugin to gain unauthorized access to your site. Once in, they inject malicious code that infects your files and database. Your site now redirects to spammy pages and Google flags it as dangerous.

If you have no uninfected backup, cleaning the hack could take days and require painstakingly picking through every file for the malicious code. You might even need to pay a professional to clean it for you. But if you have a pre-hack backup handy, removing the malware is as simple as overwriting your compromised files with the clean backup versions.

Scenario 3: Accidentally Deleting Key Pages

Picture this: you‘re in a rush to publish your latest blog post, but you accidentally delete your entire "Posts" page template instead of the new post. Poof – your blog index and all links to your individual posts disappear in an instant.

Without an up-to-date backup, you‘d need to recreate the Posts template from scratch. If your theme was heavily customized, this could take hours. Not to mention all the lost SEO from the broken links and missing page. Restoring the deleted Posts template from a backup would take mere minutes.

I could go on and on with more examples, but you get the idea. Having timely backups of your WordPress site is like having a "get out of jail free" card when something inevitably goes sideways. It‘s not a matter of if, but when you‘ll need them.

So now that you understand the criticality of WordPress backups, let‘s dive into how to actually create them for free.

Method 1: WordPress‘ Built-In Export Tool

Did you know that WordPress has a built-in tool for exporting your content? If you just need a quick, easy way to back up your posts, pages, and other content, this method may suffice.

Step 1: Access the Export Tool

In your WordPress dashboard, go to Tools > Export. You‘ll see a screen with options to export your content.

Step 2: Choose What to Export

WordPress Export Screen

By default, the "All content" option will be selected, which will export your entire site. If you only want to back up certain types of content, you can choose from the other options like Posts, Pages, or Media.

You can also opt to include attachments (like images) in the export by checking the "Include attachments" box at the bottom.

Step 3: Download the Export File

When you click the blue "Download Export File" button, WordPress will generate an XML file containing all your selected content. This may take a few moments depending on the size of your site.

WordPress Exporting Content

Once the export file is ready, your browser will prompt you to save it to your computer. Choose a memorable location like your Desktop or Documents folder.

And that‘s it – you now have a backup of your WordPress content in XML format. Keep in mind, however, that this built-in tool only backs up your actual content, not your theme files, plugins, or site settings. So it‘s not a complete backup solution.

Restoring your content from this XML file is pretty straightforward. You‘d go to Tools > Import in your WordPress dashboard, choose "WordPress" from the list of options, and upload the XML file you exported earlier. WordPress will then import all the content from the backup file.

Pros and Cons of WordPress‘ Built-in Export Tool


  • Built into WordPress core, so no need to install an extra plugin
  • Intuitive and easy to use, even for beginners
  • Provides a quick way to back up your content
  • Since backups are in generic XML format, they‘re more universally compatible


  • Does not back up themes, plugins, or site settings
  • Can‘t automate backups or schedule them to run regularly
  • No option to store backup files remotely, only on your local computer
  • Not suitable as a complete backup solution

Given these limitations, the built-in WordPress Export tool is best used for quick, partial content backups rather than full site backups. It‘s handy for grabbing a copy of your posts before making major edits, but it shouldn‘t be your only backup method.

For more comprehensive backups, you‘ll want to use a dedicated WordPress backup plugin like UpdraftPlus or BackWPup. Speaking of which…

Method 2: Backing Up WordPress for Free With UpdraftPlus

For a more complete and automated backup solution, you can‘t go wrong with the free version of UpdraftPlus. It‘s one of the most popular and well-rated backup plugins for WordPress, with over 3 million active installations and an impressive 4.9 out of 5 star rating on

Here‘s how to back up your WordPress site for free using UpdraftPlus:

Step 1: Install and Activate UpdraftPlus

In your WordPress dashboard, click on Plugins > Add New in the left sidebar. Search for "UpdraftPlus" in the plugin directory.

Installing UpdraftPlus

Click the "Install Now" button next to the UpdraftPlus entry, then hit "Activate" on the next screen. The plugin is now ready to use.

Step 2: Configure Backup Settings

After activating UpdraftPlus, you‘ll see a new "UpdraftPlus Backups" option under the Settings menu in your WordPress dashboard. Click on that to access the plugin‘s settings page.

UpdraftPlus Settings

Choosing What to Back Up

Under the "Backup Contents" section, you can choose which components of your WordPress site to include in your backups:

  • Database (recommended)
  • Files (recommended)
    • Plugins
    • Themes
    • Uploads
    • Other directories
    • WordPress core

I recommend keeping the default settings to back up everything, but you can deselect items if you want to exclude them from backups.

Setting Backup Schedule

Scroll down a bit to the "File Backup Schedule" and "Database Backup Schedule" options. This is where you‘ll specify how often UpdraftPlus should automatically back up your site.

UpdraftPlus Backup Schedule Settings

The exact frequency you choose depends on how often you update your site, but here are some general recommendations:

  • For low traffic blogs that post new content less than weekly, monthly backups may be sufficient
  • For average sites with regular content updates, weekly backups offer a good balance
  • For high traffic or critical sites like ecommerce stores, daily backups provide optimal protection

You can also configure retention settings to specify how many backup archives UpdraftPlus should keep before deleting the oldest ones.

Setting Up Remote Storage (Optional)

While UpdraftPlus stores your backup files on your web server by default, it‘s a good idea to also save copies to a remote location. That way, you‘ll still have access to your backups even if your hosting account gets suspended or your server crashes.

UpdraftPlus supports several remote storage options out of the box, including:

  • Amazon S3
  • Backblaze
  • Dropbox
  • Google Cloud Storage
  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • OpenStack (Swift)
  • Rackspace Cloud Files
  • WebDAV

To set up remote storage, scroll down to the "Backup Storage Options" section and select your preferred destination. Follow the on-screen instructions to authenticate the connection.

UpdraftPlus Remote Storage Settings

Going forward, UpdraftPlus will automatically copy your backup files to the remote location in addition to your server.

Step 3: Run Your First Backup

Now that UpdraftPlus is fully configured, it‘s time to create your first backup. If you chose a schedule in the previous step, the plugin will automatically run backups on that cadence going forward.

But you can also initiate a manual backup anytime by clicking the big blue "Backup Now" button at the top of the UpdraftPlus settings page.

UpdraftPlus Manual Backup

Depending on the size of your site, the backup process may take a few minutes to complete. You can monitor the progress under the "Existing Backups" section.

UpdraftPlus Backup Progress

When the backup finishes, you‘ll see it listed in the Existing Backups table, along with options to restore, download, or delete the backup set.

UpdraftPlus Existing Backups

And that‘s all there is to it! UpdraftPlus will now continuously back up your WordPress site according to the schedule you configured. If you ever need to restore your site from a backup, just click the "Restore" button next to the desired backup set.

Pros and Cons of UpdraftPlus


  • Provides full backups of your entire WordPress site, including database and files
  • Supports automated scheduled backups
  • Offers one-click site restoration from backups
  • Includes multiple remote storage options for redundancy
  • Actively maintained with a track record of reliability
  • Premium version available for additional features like incremental backups


  • Initial setup requires a few more steps than simpler backup methods
  • Free version lacks some advanced features like site migration or cloning
  • Backup process can be resource-intensive on very large sites

All in all, UpdraftPlus is one of the most capable and trusted free backup plugins for WordPress. It‘s an excellent choice for users who want to "set it and forget it" with automated scheduled backups while still having flexibility in terms of remote storage and customization.

Method 3: Backing Up WordPress With BackWPup

Another highly rated free WordPress backup plugin is BackWPup. Like UpdraftPlus, it supports full site backups, automated scheduling, and multiple remote storage destinations.

Here‘s a quick overview of how to use BackWPup to back up your WordPress site for free:

  1. Install the free BackWPup plugin from the directory
  2. Go to BackWPup > Add New Job to create a backup job
  3. Choose a name for your backup job and select which database tables and files to include
  4. Configure a backup schedule (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly)
  5. Select a remote storage destination from the available options:
    • Amazon S3
    • Azure
    • Dropbox
    • Google Drive
    • RackSpace Cloud
    • S3 Compatible (custom S3 endpoints)
    • SugarSync
  6. Save your backup job settings
  7. Either wait for the backup to run on the next scheduled interval or click "Run now" to start it immediately

BackWPup also includes some unique extra features like database optimization and an integrated job scheduler. The main downside compared to UpdraftPlus is that the free version has fewer remote storage options included.

BackWPup Job Settings

Still, BackWPup is a solid, reputable backup plugin and a worthy alternative for users who prefer its interface or feature set.

Best Practices for WordPress Backups

No matter which backup method or plugin you choose, follow these tips to keep your backups in top shape:

  • Follow the 3-2-1 backup rule: keep at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are on different storage media, with 1 of them located offsite.
  • Schedule automated backups to run during low traffic periods to minimize server load.
  • Regularly test restoring your site from a backup to ensure the backup files are valid and the process works smoothly.
  • Keep your WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date to reduce the risk of data loss in the first place.
  • Store backup archives in a secure location and enable encryption for sensitive data.
  • Periodically check your backup logs for any errors or warnings.
  • Adjust your backup retention and frequency settings as your site grows and changes.


I know I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I can‘t stress enough how essential it is to back up your WordPress site consistently. With all the threats of hacking, data corruption, user error, and hardware failure out there, backups are your ultimate insurance policy against catastrophic losses.

The good news is that with free tools like UpdraftPlus and BackWPup, implementing a comprehensive backup system won‘t cost you a penny. You just need to invest a small amount of time up front to configure the plugins to your needs and then let them run on autopilot.

WordPress Backup Best Practices

Even if you opt for a more basic route like manual exports, that‘s still far better than having no backups at all. The key is to build the habit of backing up your site regularly so you‘re never caught off guard when disaster strikes.

So if you‘ve been putting off setting up WordPress backups, I urge you to take action today. Your future self will thank you the next time your site goes down and you have a recent backup on hand to save the day.

Stay safe and happy backing up!

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.