General Requirements

With Prime Mover, it includes support where you can export and import large sites.

If you think you have a large site, please follow these recommendations:

Enable PHP Shell Support

Please ensure you have these following PHP shell functions enabled: escapeshellarg, shell_exec, popen, exec

The easiest way to check to see the phpinfo() output of your server. Go to Core -> Disable_Functions and make sure that none of the required shell support functions are disabled.

Most hosting add support to enable and disable these functions (via their web hosting control panel). Once you made the change, re-check again the phpinfo() again and make sure the disable_functions does not include these shell functions.

This is used so Prime Mover can run processes under CLI mode. CLI mode has ideally no timeouts and less error prone compared to the normal web processes.


If you are using this constant in your site, please remove this as this can slow down the process. This constant is for compatibility with slow and host with problems using the plugin.

So open your wp-config.php and make sure this constant is removed:

defined('PRIME_MOVER_SLOW_WEB_HOST', true);

Upgrade your server PHP version to the latest version

Prime Mover supports latest version PHP 7.4 (latest as of May 2020). If you can upgrade PHP version, please do so and this is also recommended by WordPress core.

The latest versions of PHP should always be faster, memory efficient, stable and secure compared to older PHP versions.

Always use latest Prime Mover version

The latest version of the plugin should always be better than the previous version. It includes stability fixes, performance fixes and other new features that are not found in the old version.

And always use the same Prime Mover version in both source and target site.

Upgrade to Prime Mover Pro version

The last recommendation would be to upgrade to Prime Mover Pro version. It includes so many features that can support your large site backup and migration. For example, you can restore within your site server than using the default upload. You can also fetch large zips directly from the source server to your target site server.

It also includes settings you can tweak to maximize compatibility with your server.

Troubleshooting Problems

In case you run into issues, Prime Mover has many tools that shows problems and potential issues.

  • The default migration log is found in wp-content/uploads/prime-mover-export-files/. Find log files with file names like ***.migration.log.
  • If you are on a Pro versions, you can download log right immediately you see the problem by going to Prime Mover -> Advanced -> Download Log File. This log shows the details of the migration / backup process and should reveal issues to us.
  • Also with Pro version, you can also download the server info details in Prime Mover -> Advanced -> Export site info. This log shows your site server info so we will know if something is incompatible with your server with the plugin. If you are on a free version, use the default WordPress site health check or just the output of phpinfo() will do.

Now please share these logs to us by contacting directly in WordPress admin (Prime Mover 1.1.1 + ) in Prime Mover -> Contact Us.

You can also contact us via this contact page.

Recommended workflow

Prime Mover supports four export modes:

  • Export database only
  • Export database + media files
  • Export debugging package.
  • Complete export mode.

If you are cloning a big site for the first time, you should use complete export mode to clone everything (media, database and plugins/themes).

And then restore it to your target site.

Once the site is cloned, and you want to refresh the site to your target site. You don’t need the complete export mode if the plugins and media files are the same. You simply need to export database and restore database to your target site. This way the target site is refreshed with the source site changes.

If the source site only has database and images being updated, you can export database + media files only. This way , you don’t need to restore plugins in your target since its the same.

As of Prime Mover 1.1.1 , it does not yet support incremental image migration (meaning it will only import new images instead of migrating all images again). This will be added to our to-do list.

Troubleshooting Tips ( no shell mode support only)

If you don’t have shell support as suggested above, you can still use Prime Mover and export large sites. But things can be tricky. The following are some guidelines and tips and see which of the following are applicable to your site.

Scenario #1: Site is very large and you are on VPS / dedicated server willing to adjust server settings
  • Generate export or restore a big site and see if Prime Mover pops up any error or completes the process. If it completes, congratulations – no issue.
  • If there is a timeout error, please read this documentation to disable or increase server timeout.
  • You should be able to resolve this timeout error issue if you are on a VPS or dedicated server hosting as you have full control of your server. You can require assistance from your hosting support if you are unable to increase the timeout.

If you pursue this solution, Prime Mover handles everything including migrating databases and files automatically. There is no manual work needed in your end.

Scenario #2: Site is very large but I don’t want to adjust server settings or its impossible to change (on shared server)

Just like the first scenario, go ahead and do export / restore. See if Prime Mover is able to complete with no errors. If it succeed, congratulations there is no other adjustments needed.

If you are having issues. There are several ways of dealing this. It depends on what you feel comfortable to proceed and what works with your site.

Solution #1: Migrate database only. Manually copy all uploads and plugins.

Detailed Explanation: Prime Mover handles auto-replacement of URLs, paths ,etc. So if your site is very large, most likely you have a giant uploads directory or using too many plugins. What you can do is to export database only.

And then manually copy all plugins and media directory to the target site. You can do this quite easily using scp or sftp or even rsync. Make sure to copy the media directory to correct paths. If you are migrating from single site to single site, it would be like /sourcesite/wp-content/uploads/ to /targetsite/wp-content/uploads.

Or if you migrate from single site to multisite, it will be like /sourcesite/wp-content/uploads/ to /targetmultisite/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/ (Assuming the sub-site blog ID is 7.)

Just like that and vice versa.

Solution #2: [PRO VERSION USERS ONLY] Exclude media directory and generate full / complete export mode.

Detailed Explanation: With this solution, you need PRO version. The technique is to exclude all media files using this feature.

This works especially if your uploads directory is too big to migrate using Prime Mover (you will time out error which you don’t want to fix).

In this solution, a complete package is generated by Prime Mover which you can migrate using remote URL feature. It’s a complete package as it includes databases and plugins/themes. There are no images on the package but on all images will be searched / replaced automatically during site restoration. As if the images were on your target site uploads directory.

After you completely restore the complete package with excluded media. You can then proceed to manually copy only the uploads files from the source site to target site using SFTP, SCP ,etc. Since the image paths and URL’s are already replaced at target site during migration restore, the images should be resolved correctly.

Solution #3: Migrate only database and media files.

Detailed Explanation: This solution is helpful when you feel its redundant to move plugins and themes since its the same or very similar between the source and target site. Plugins and themes can be very heavy and could be one of the reasons of having a big package to migrate.

This solution is supported both in the PRO and Free version. When migrating a package which does not include plugins and themes. Prime Mover checks for compatibility and needs your approval to proceed with the migration restore in case it founds some differences.

Solution 4: [PRO VERSION USERS ONLY] Upload the package zip to your WordPress root directory and use remote URL feature to restore it

This solution is helpful if you want to migrate a very large site from your computer to a remote server location (e.g .your host). Prime Mover supports browser upload restoration (free and pro versions) but can be very slow depending on your Internet connection speed and your server limits (e.g. your server does not want to receive continuous upload requests).

What you can do easily is just to upload that package using FTP to your WordPress root directory. Take note of the resulting zip path URL, e.g .

Now you have the URL to the zip location inside your server, you can then migrate it using remote URL restore.

Scenario #3: Site has large uploads directory, I only want to clone site for debugging/troubleshooting, nothing else

Then you should generate an export as a debug package. This does not include media files in the package, saving bandwidth and processing time.

WARNING : Do not use debug package package with intention to migrate fully working WordPress sites (with full functionality and fully-working images). This package is only good for debugging and troubleshooting.

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