How to Create a WordPress Staging Site Using hPanel, a Plugin, and a Subdomain

How to Create a WordPress Staging Site Using hPanel, a Plugin, and a Subdomain

WordPress websites have a significant advantage – the possibility of creating a staging site for testing changes and updates before going live. As a duplicate of your live site, a staging environment lets you experiment with different designs, plugins, and content without affecting the user experience.

In this WordPress guide, we’ll cover three methods to create a staging site ‒ using Hostinger’s built-in staging tool, a staging plugin, and a subdomain website clone. We’ll also share tips for using and removing the staging site after updating your live WordPress site.

For those new to testing environments, we’ll go over their benefits and how they help enhance your website’s performance and user experience at the end of the article.

A WordPress staging environment is a private, test version of your entire site. With a staging website, you can safely test changes privately before implementing them on the live website.

How to Set up a WordPress Staging Environment

Regardless of your preferred method, keep in mind that publishing the staging content replaces files and databases on your original site. Back up your entire WordPress website before deploying staging changes to avoid any potential data loss.

Hostinger users can create and manage website backups in hPanel via Files Backups. If your web host doesn’t have a backup feature, various backup plugins are available to secure your data.

How to Create a WordPress Staging Environment Using Hostinger’s Staging Tool

Hostinger’s WordPress Business and cloud hosting users can create staging sites from hPanel, their hosting account’s dashboard. This method is beginner-friendly, as you don’t need to install additional tools.

1. Setting up the Staging Site

Let’s start by creating a staging site on Hostinger’s hPanel:

  1. Navigate to WordPress Staging from your hosting control panel.
hPanel sidebar, highlighting WordPress' staging tool
  1. In the Staging tab, select the Create staging button.
WordPress staging section in Hostinger
  1. Enter the subdomain name for the staging site and click Create.
A new staging environment creation popup with a field to enter a subdomain
  1. The duplication process can take up to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the production website. Hit the Close button to dismiss the confirmation message.
  2. Once done, scroll down to the staging site list and click Manage staging next to the newly created environment.
WordPress staging site list, highlighting the button to manage the staging environment
  1. In the staging dashboard, select Staging Admin Panel to access the WordPress admin area and start making changes.
WordPress staging dashboard in Hostinger, highlighting the button to access the admin area

2. Deploying the Changes to the Production Site

After making all the necessary changes, follow these steps to deploy them to the live website:

  1. On the staging site list, click the three dots icon next to the recently modified staging site and hit Publish.
WordPress staging site list, highlighting the button to push changes from the staging site to the live one
  1. Read the disclaimer and hit Publish to confirm. The process may take around 15 minutes to complete.
A disclaimer popup to confirm the publication of content staging
  1. Our WordPress staging tool automatically backs up your entire WordPress website. Click the three dots icon and hit Revert to roll back to the pre-staging version if needed.

Did You Know?

Our Managed WordPress hosting plans feature an IP manager, WP-CLI and SSH access, and automatic backups, offering enhanced data safety and complete control over your test environment.

How to Create a WordPress Staging Environment Using the WP Staging Plugin

If your hosting provider doesn’t have a staging feature, you can create a WordPress staging website using a plugin. Luckily, many staging plugins are available to ease your work as a site owner.

In the following section, we’ll use the free version of WP Staging, one of the most popular WordPress plugins for streamlining staging and backups. However, pushing changes to the live site is a Pro feature. To get it, purchase WP Staging’s premium plan starting at $8.08/month.

After installing and activating the WordPress plugin, follow these steps to create a staging site:

  1. Navigate to the WP Staging tab from the WordPress dashboard and click the Create Staging Site button.
WP Staging section, highlighting the button to create a new staging site
  1. Enter the site name to create a custom staging site URL. In this example, the staging site URL will be https://domain.tld/staging.
WP Staging site creation, highlighting the field to enter the site name
  1. The WordPress staging plugin automatically clones your live site’s data into the staging environment. Expand the Database Tables and Files sections to select items for duplication, streamlining the staging process. Otherwise, go with the default settings.
Choosing database tables and files to clone using the WP Staging backup plugin
  1. Select Start Cloning and wait for a few minutes for the process to complete.
  2. If the cloning process is successful, you’ll receive a confirmation message with the staging site URL. Click Close to dismiss it.
A confirmation message that appears when the staging site creation is complete
  1. Return to WP StagingStaging Sites and select Actions Open to access the newly created staging site with your admin credentials.
WP Staging site list, highlighting the option to access a test site

How to Create a WordPress Staging Environment Manually Using a Subdomain

The manual method demands more technical expertise and time than using a staging tool. However, it provides full control over staging, enabling testing of custom codes or complex site setups within a tailored environment that mirrors the live site.

This guide will cover how to create a WordPress staging site manually using Hostinger’s File Manager.

1. Creating the Subdomain

Setting up a WordPress staging site in a subdomain ensures safer changes as it’s separate from the production website. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to Domains Subdomains from the hPanel dashboard.
Subdomains section in Hostinger hPanel
  1. Enter the subdomain name. This step creates a new folder in the public_html directory. Alternatively, check the Custom folder for subdomain option to create a new subdomain folder with a custom name. Click Create.
Hostinger's subdomains section, where user can create a new subdomain
  1. The new subdomain will appear in the List of Current Subdomains section.
List of current subdomains in Hostinger

2. Copying the Website Files

The next step is to populate the new subdomain with your WordPress site’s files. You can copy the live site files using your hosting provider’s file manager or an FTP client like FileZilla.

Follow these steps to duplicate the live site files using Hostinger’s File Manager:

  1. Head to Files File Manager from hPanel, and choose Access files of [your live site].
Hostinger's File Manager, highlighting the option to access files of the live site
  1. Double-click public_html, the root directory, to access it.
  2. Copy all folders and files to the subdomain folder. The simplest method is to press Ctrl + A in Windows or Command + A in Mac, deselect the subdomain folder, and click the Copy file icon on the top toolbar.
The dashboard of Hostinger's File Manager, highlighting the Copy file button

3. Cloning the Database

After duplicating your WordPress files, do the same to the existing database.

Here’s how to clone your WordPress database using phpMyAdmin, a popular administration tool for MySQL databases:

  1. Navigate to WordPress Overview from hPanel. Open the Dashboard tab and check which database your main website is using.
WordPress dashboard in hPanel, highlighting the site's database name
  1. Head to Databases Management from hPanel and create a new database for the staging site. If the process is successful, the new database will appear in the List of Current MySQL Databases And Users.
The database management section in hPanel, where user can create a new database
  1. Access Databases phpMyAdmin and click Enter phpMyAdmin next to your live site’s database.
List of current databases in hPanel, highlighting the option to access one via phpMyAdmin
  1. Once hPanel redirects you to phpMyAdmin, open the Export tab and hit Go. Using default settings lets you download the database in SQL format to your computer.
phpMyAdmin export tab
  1. Return to the phpMyAdmin section in hPanel. This time, select Enter phpMyAdmin next to your staging database.
  2. Inside phpMyAdmin, open the Import tab and select the downloaded SQL file. Keep the default settings and hit Go.
phpMyAdmin import tab, highlighting the button to upload the downloaded database file
  1. If the import process is successful, a confirmation message will appear along with the database tables on the sidebar.
A confirmation message after a successful database import

4. Configuring the Subdomain’s wp-config.php File

Now that you have a separate database for testing, connect it to your new staging site in the subdomain. You can do so by modifying the wp-config.php file, a core element of your WordPress installation that stores database information.

Follow these steps to establish a new database connection in the wp-config.php file:

  1. On File Manager, open public_htmlstaging wp-config.php.
Hostinger File Manager, highlighting the wp-config.php file in the staging folder
  1. Scroll down until you find a line of code that says Database settings – You can get this info from your web host. Add the following code above it:

Remember to change the staging.domain.tld placeholder to your staging subdomain.

The content of wp-config.php file, highlighting the syntax to define the staging site URL
  1. Change DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD values to match your staging site’s database information and credentials. Once you’re done, click the Save icon.
WordPress database details in wp-config.php

You can now use the staging environment.

5. Deploying the Changes to the Production Site

This step involves importing the staging site’s database and files to the production environment.

Since you can only import into an empty database, clear the live site’s database first. After backing up the original site’s database using phpMyAdmin’s export feature, follow these steps:

  1. Export your staging site’s database via Databases phpMyAdmin.
  2. Open your live site’s database in phpMyAdmin.
  3. In the Structure tab, tick the Check all box under the list of tables and choose Drop from the dropdown field next to it. Select Go to remove all tables from the database.
phpMyAdmin interface, highlighting the command to remove database tables
  1. Import the staging site’s database file to the live site.

For your website files, copy everything except wp-config.php from the staging folder to the public_html folder using File Manager.

How to Delete a Staging Site

Many WordPress users like the convenience of having staging sites ready at all times. However, deleting a staging site post-update can conserve server resources and streamline website management, focusing your efforts on the production environment.

Here’s a guide to removing a staging site, depending on how you created it:

Deleting a Staging Site in Hostinger’s Staging Tool

  1. Head to the staging site list in hPanel and locate the website you want to remove.
  2. Select the three dots icon and hit Delete.
WordPress staging site list, highlighting the button to delete a staging site
  1. Read the disclaimer and select Delete to confirm.

Deleting a Staging Site in the WP Staging Plugin

  1. Head to WP StagingStaging Sites from the WordPress admin dashboard and locate the website you no longer use for testing.
  2. Click Actions Delete next to the chosen staging site.
WP Staging site list, highlighting the option to delete staging site
  1. Select all the staging database tables and files you want to remove, then click Delete.
Staging site deletion confirmation popup with lists of database and folder items

Deleting a Manual Staging Site in the Subdomain

  1. Delete the staging folder from the public_html directory via File Manager.
Hostinger File Manager, highlighting the option to delete a folder
  1. Head to the List of Current MySQL Databases And Users in hPanel through Databases Management. Click the three dots icon next to your staging database and choose Delete. Read the disclaimer and hit Confirm Delete.
The list of current MySQL databases and users, highlighting the option to delete a database
  1. Access the List of Current Subdomains via Domains Subdomains. Select the Delete icon next to the staging subdomain you no longer use. Read the disclaimer and hit Delete to confirm.
The list of current subdomains in hPanel with a delete button to remove each

Helpful Tips for Working With a WordPress Staging Site

Here are some of the best practices to ensure a smooth and secure web development process:

  • Restrict access to your staging site. Allowlist your IP address and those of relevant team members to protect the staging environment from external threats. Alternatively, block all access except yours by adding the deny from all command in your .htaccess file.
  • Use different databases for production and staging sites. This practice prevents staging tests and changes from impacting your production site, avoiding accidental data overwrites or conflicts between the two environments.
  • Clear cache before deploying changes. As caching can sometimes present an outdated version of your site, flushing them out forces the site to reload to show recent changes.
  • Sync staging and live WordPress sites regularly. Conducting tests and developments on your live site’s current version ensures accurate results.

WordPress Staging vs Local Development Environments

Staging sites and local development environments serve different roles in website development and maintenance, so it’s crucial to choose the right one for your needs.

In this article, we focus on staging environments, which replicate your live site for safe update testing in an environment that closely mirrors the live setting. They’re perfect for conducting final checks before implementing changes, ensuring that everything works without any errors or downtime.

In contrast, local WordPress environments run offline on your computer. They’re best for early development phases, extensive coding work, and testing significant changes without incurring server costs or needing internet access.

If you aim to become a WordPress developer, a local staging environment can serve as your sandbox for hands-on learning. It lets you build and test sites under various conditions anytime, anywhere, without internet connectivity ‒ providing a cost-effective way to sharpen your skills.

See our tutorial on installing WordPress locally for detailed methods and steps.

Reasons to Use a WordPress Staging Site

You know that a WordPress staging site enables development and testing without impacting the live website. If you need more convincing, let’s dive deeper into the benefits of staging.

WordPress Core Updates

Implementing WordPress core updates is crucial for security, performance, and accessing new features. However, these updates can sometimes lead to site crashes, especially if there are compatibility issues with outdated plugins or themes.

Using a staging website lets you identify and resolve any conflicts or issues before affecting your live site. It helps prevent downtime and ensure site reliability during major updates.

If you want to double-check your WordPress version, head to WordPress Security from hPanel. Note that the location of this information varies depending on your web host.

WordPress security section in hPanel, showing the current version of the CMS

WordPress Design and Functionality Customization

Integrating custom code into core files, themes, or plugins is crucial for scaling a WordPress site. However, making these changes directly on a live site carries the risk of errors or functionality issues.

A staging website provides a safe environment to test and refine these customizations without affecting the live site. This way, you maintain your site’s stability while freely experimenting with new features.

Plugin and Theme Testing

Testing plugins and themes in a staging website lets you safely assess their impact on your live site without risking its stability. This process helps identify compatibility issues, performance drops, or visual inconsistencies before they go live.

Additionally, developers can use staging to thoroughly test and refine their new plugins or themes, fixing bugs before the public release.


Creating a staging WordPress site enables you to test new features and designs safely. This feature promotes innovation and practical learning, as well as improves your security by preventing errors and downtime on the live site.

Let’s recap three effective methods for setting up your own WordPress staging site:

  • Using Hostinger’s staging tool ‒ the easiest and fastest of the three, as it only takes a few clicks to complete without installing additional features.
  • Using a WordPress plugin ‒ ideal for users without a staging tool on their hosting control panel. Several staging plugins offer a free version with varying features.
  • Manually in a subdomain ‒ takes more time to set up but provides more flexibility and control over the staging environment.

We hope this article helped you learn how to set up a WordPress staging site for testing purposes. If you have any questions, check out the FAQ section or leave a comment below. Good luck!

WordPress Staging FAQ

This section answers some of the most common questions about WordPress staging sites.

What Is the Difference Between Staging and Production in WordPress?

In WordPress, the staging environment is a test area mirroring the production site for safe experimentation and testing. Meanwhile, the production environment is where the live website operates, implementing changes for all visitors to see.

Is the WordPress Staging Tool Necessary?

A WordPress staging tool benefits users of all levels by providing a secure platform to test changes without impacting the live site. It ensures all changes stay private until you decide to push them to the live or production environment, significantly reducing the risk of errors or downtime.

How Do I Synchronize Staging and Production in WordPress?

Most staging tools by hosting providers or plugins feature a one-click synchronization option, making it easy to push changes from staging to production. If your chosen tool lacks this feature, manually transfer files and database tables to the live site.

The author

Nadia Maya Ardiani

Maya is a Content Specialist and WordPress Contributor. With years of journalistic experience under her belt, her main goals are to help people understand complex processes in a simpler way, and tell the stories of people who thrive thanks to technology. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching sci-fi movies while eating ramen. Follow her on LinkedIn.

The Co-author

Jordana Alexandrea

Jordana is a Senior Content Writer with over 5 years of experience in digital marketing and web development. When she’s not busy with work, she dabbles in creative writing and movie reviewing. Follow her on LinkedIn.