How to Export a Media Library WordPress? And How to Import It? Full Guide
13 min.

The ability to efficiently move content between different sites is a crucial skill for any web professional. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into one of the essential aspects of WordPress management: exporting and importing the media library. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a beginner, understanding how to handle your site’s media files effectively can save time and prevent potential headaches. 

So, how to export a media library WordPress? How to import it? This article will provide a step-by-step walkthrough, covering everything from the basics of the library to advanced techniques for seamless transfer. Get ready to master the art of moving your images, videos, and other media assets between WP sites with ease and precision.

Preparing for Export

Before exporting your WordPress media library, it’s important to prepare adequately to ensure a smooth process:

  • Organize Your Files: Properly categorize and name your files for easy management. This includes grouping files into categories or folders and adopting consistent naming conventions. Additionally, clean up your library by removing unnecessary or duplicate files to streamline the export.
  • Check Server and PHP Settings: For large exports, ensure your server’s PHP settings are configured to handle the process:
    • PHP Memory Limit: Increase the PHP memory limit if necessary to prevent incomplete exports or server timeouts.
    • Max Execution Time: Adjust the PHP max execution time to accommodate lengthy export processes and avoid premature termination.
    • File Size Limits: Be aware of any server or hosting provider file size limits that might affect large libraries, and make adjustments as needed.

Preparing thoroughly for export helps avoid common issues and ensures a hassle-free transfer of your assets.

Library Export

Method 1: Using the WordPress Export Tool

Exporting your media library from WP can be straightforward using the platform’s native export tool. This built-in feature is designed to help users transfer their content, including files, from one site to another. Let’s walk through the steps of using this tool and discuss its limitations.

Step-by-Step Guide on Using the Native WordPress Export Feature

The WordPress export tool is accessible to anyone with administrative privileges on a site. Here is how you can use it:

  • Access the Export Tool: Log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to ‘Tools’ > ‘Export’. This area gives you various options for what content you want to export.
  • Choose Files: Select ‘Media’ from the list of content types. This option will export all media files such as images, videos, and documents.
  • Date Range (Optional): You can also filter the media by date range if you only need to export files from a certain period.
  • Download Export File: Click on ‘Download Export File’. WordPress will create an XML file that contains links to your media files and begin downloading it to your computer.

Limitations of the WordPress Export Tool

While the WordPress export tool is convenient, it has some limitations that you should be aware of:

  • Indirect Media File Export: The export file contains URLs to your media files rather than the files themselves. You’ll need to download these files separately or use a plugin to automate this process.
  • Size Constraints: For large libraries, the export file can be quite large, leading to issues with file size limitations on your server.
  • No Folder Structure: The export tool does not maintain any folder structure you may have used to organize your items within WordPress.
  • Dependence on Server Settings: The success of the export process is heavily dependent on your server’s configuration, including PHP limits and execution time.

Understanding these limitations is crucial for deciding whether the native WordPress export tool is the right choice for your needs. In the next section, we will explore alternative methods that might better suit scenarios where the native tool falls short.

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Method 2: Exporting with a Plugin

How to export and import a WordPress media library easily? For users who find the native WordPress Export Tool limiting, especially when dealing with large or complex libraries, using a dedicated plugin can be a more effective solution. WordPress plugins designed for exporting libraries offer enhanced features, greater control, and often a more user-friendly interface. In this section, we will explore how to select and use a plugin to export your WordPress library.

Introduction to Media Library Export Plugins

Media library export plugins are specialized tools that extend the functionality of WordPress in terms of data export. These plugins are particularly useful for:

  • Bulk Exporting: Efficiently handling large quantities of media files.
  • Preserving File Structure: Maintaining the organization of your library in the export.
  • Direct File Export: Unlike the native tool, many plugins allow you to export actual files, not just links.
Media Library Export Plugins

How to Choose the Right Plugin

Selecting the right plugin is crucial for a successful export. Here’s what to consider:

  • Compatibility: Ensure the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress.
  • Features: Look for features like bulk export, file type selection, and the ability to maintain file structure.
  • User Reviews and Ratings: Check the plugin’s reviews and ratings in the WordPress plugin repository.
  • Support and Updates: Consider the frequency of updates and the quality of support offered by the plugin developer.

Detailed Instructions on Using a Plugin for Exporting Media Files

Once you have chosen a plugin, follow these general steps to export your library:

  • Install and Activate the Plugin: Navigate to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add New’ in your WordPress dashboard. Search for your chosen plugin, install it, and then activate it.
  • Navigate to the Plugin’s Export Section: Most export plugins will add a new option under ‘Tools’ or in their own menu in the dashboard.
  • Configure Export Settings: Select the specific media files or categories you want to export. Some plugins also allow you to filter files by date or other criteria.
  • Begin the Export Process: Follow the plugin’s instructions to start the export. This might involve clicking a button like ‘Export Now’ or ‘Download’.
  • Download and Save Your Files: Once the export is complete, you should be able to download a zip file containing your media files.

By using a plugin, you can overcome many of the limitations of the native WordPress export tool, especially when dealing with larger or more complex media libraries. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to import these files into another site, completing the migration process.

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Method 3: Exporting via FTP

Exporting your WordPress library via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a hands-on approach, ideal for large libraries or when other methods are impractical.

FTP Overview: FTP is a network protocol for transferring files between a client and a server, commonly used for managing website files. To use FTP, you need access to an FTP server (provided by your web host) and an FTP client software like FileZilla, WinSCP, or Cyberduck.

Exporting Media Files via FTP:

  • Install an FTP Client: If you don’t have one, download and install an FTP client.
  • Connect to Your Server: Enter your web host’s FTP server details in the FTP client to connect to the server.
  • Access Media Library Folder: Navigate to your site’s root directory, find the ‘wp-content/uploads’ folder, which houses all your media files.
  • Download Files: Choose to download the entire ‘uploads’ folder or specific files/subfolders to your computer.

FTP exporting offers flexibility for handling large data volumes and maintaining file structure but requires more technical knowledge than other methods.

Exporting via FTP

Method 4: Exporting Through cPanel’s File Manager

Exporting your WordPress media library via cPanel’s File Manager is a user-friendly alternative for those who prefer not to use FTP. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Access cPanel: Log into your cPanel account using the link provided by your hosting provider.
  • Open File Manager: In the cPanel dashboard, click on the ‘File Manager’ icon to manage your website’s files through a visual interface.
  • Compress and Download Media Library:
    • Navigate to ‘uploads’ Folder: In File Manager, go to the public_html or WordPress root directory, open ‘wp-content’, and find the ‘uploads’ folder.
    • Compress the Folder: Right-click on the ‘uploads’ folder and select ‘Compress’ to create a ZIP file.
    • Download the ZIP File: After compression, right-click on the ZIP file and choose ‘Download’ to save it to your computer.

cPanel’s File Manager allows for straightforward exporting of media files without additional software, making it a convenient choice for those who prefer graphical interfaces. However, be cautious while handling website files to avoid unintended modifications.

Now, let’s discuss how to import the library!

Preparing for Import

Preparing for the import of your WordPress library involves several key steps to ensure a smooth process:

  • Check File Permissions and Upload Limits:
    • Ensure the ‘wp-content/uploads’ directory on your new site has the correct file permissions (755 for directories, 644 for files) for WordPress to access the imported files.
    • Verify the maximum upload file size in your WordPress dashboard and adjust if necessary. You might also need to modify PHP settings like ‘upload_max_filesize’ and ‘post_max_size’ for larger files.
  • Organize Items for Import:
    • Maintain any existing folder structure from your exported library to manage files effectively on the new site.
    • Consider importing large numbers of items in batches to avoid server overload and simplify troubleshooting.
    • Check that the file types you’re importing are supported by WordPress, including common formats like jpg, png, gif, mp4, mov, and mp3.

These preparatory steps are crucial for a successful import to your new site, ensuring that the files are accessible and compatible with your site’s configuration.

Preparing for Import

Method 1: Using the WordPress Import Tool

Importing your media files into a new site can be efficiently done using the WordPress Import Tool. This native tool is designed to help users import content, including media files, from one site to another. Here’s a detailed guide on how to use this tool for importing items and tips on resolving common issues that might arise during the process.

Step-by-Step Guide on Importing Media Files with the WordPress Importer

The WordPress Import Tool is a straightforward way to transfer your library. Follow these steps:

  • Install the WordPress Importer: Navigate to ‘Tools’ > ‘Import’ in your new site’s dashboard. Here, you’ll find a list of import tools for various platforms. Click ‘Install Now’ under ‘WordPress’ to install the Importer plugin.
  • Run the Importer: Once installed, click ‘Run Importer’. This will prompt you to upload the WordPress export file (the XML file) from your old site.
  • Upload the Export File: Choose the XML file you previously exported and click ‘Upload file and import’.
  • Assign Authors: You’ll have the option to assign the imported content to existing authors on your new site or create new author profiles.
  • Import Attachments: Ensure to check the box ‘Download and import file attachments’. This option attempts to import the media files linked in the XML file.
Importing Media Files with the WordPress

Resolving Common Import Issues

While the WordPress Import Tool is generally reliable, you might encounter issues, especially when dealing with large media libraries:

  • Timeouts or Memory Limit Errors: If the import process stalls or fails, it could be due to PHP timeouts or memory limits. Increasing the PHP memory limit or max execution time in your server’s php.ini file can resolve this.
  • Failed to Import Media: Sometimes, the tool might fail to import some media files. This is often due to file permissions or incorrect file paths. Double-check that your items are correctly uploaded in the ‘wp-content/uploads’ folder of your new site.
  • Large Import Files: For very large export files, consider splitting the XML file into smaller parts using a tool like WXR File Splitter, and then import them one by one.

Using the WordPress Import Tool is a convenient method for users who prefer a straightforward, plugin-based approach. However, it’s important to be prepared for potential issues, especially when migrating larger sites or heavy libraries.

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Method 2: Importing with a Plugin

For those seeking more robust features and flexibility than what the native WordPress Import Tool offers, utilizing a library import plugin can be an ideal solution. These plugins are designed to simplify the process of importing large volumes of media files and often come with additional functionalities that cater to various import scenarios.

Introduction to Media Library Import Plugins

Media library import plugins extend the basic capabilities of WordPress by offering enhanced features such as:

  • Direct Media File Import: Ability to upload and import media files directly into your WP library.
  • Advanced File Mapping: Options to organize and categorize files during the import process.
  • Batch Importing: Facilities for importing large numbers of files in batches to prevent server overload.
Media Library Import Plugins

Detailed Instructions on Using a Plugin for Importing Media Files

Once you’ve selected a suitable plugin for importing your library, follow these steps:

  • Install and Activate the Plugin: In your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add New’. Search for your chosen import plugin, install it, and activate it.
  • Prepare Your Media Files: If you have exported your items using FTP or cPanel, ensure they are organized in a way that aligns with how you want them to appear in your new site.
  • Access the Plugin’s Import Interface: Most import plugins will add a new option under ‘Tools’ or their own menu in the dashboard. Navigate to the plugin’s import section.
  • Configure Your Import Settings: Upload your media files or folders, and set any necessary options or preferences provided by the plugin. This could include file categorization, author assignment, and date settings.
  • Initiate the Import Process: Follow the plugin’s instructions to start importing. This may involve clicking a ‘Start Import’ button or similar.
  • Monitor the Import Process: Keep an eye on the import progress. Some plugins provide a real-time progress report and log any issues encountered during the import.

Using a plugin for importing media files into WordPress is especially useful for users dealing with large libraries or needing more control over how files are imported and organized in the new site.

Method 3: Importing via FTP

Importing media files into WordPress via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a good option for those seeking direct control, especially for large media libraries or maintaining existing folder structures. Here’s a condensed guide:

  • Connect to Your Server: Use an FTP client with credentials provided by your hosting provider.
  • Navigate and Upload: Go to the WP root directory, locate the ‘wp-content/uploads’ folder, and upload your items or folders. Ensure the folder structure inside ‘uploads’ mirrors your existing structure.
  • Wait for Completion: Allow time for the upload to complete, especially for large libraries.
  • Set File Permissions: After uploading, ensure directories have a permission setting of 755 and files have 644. This can be done by right-clicking on folders/files in your FTP client and adjusting the permissions or ‘CHMOD’. Use the recursive setting to apply permissions to all subfolders and files.

Using FTP requires technical knowledge, particularly for setting file permissions, but offers precise control over the import process.

Importing via FTP

Method 4: Importing Through cPanel’s File Manager

Importing media files into WP via cPanel’s File Manager is a user-friendly alternative for those not comfortable with FTP. This method is especially useful for handling libraries compressed in ZIP files. Here’s how to do it:

  • Log into cPanel: Access your cPanel dashboard using your hosting service URL and credentials.
  • Access File Manager: In cPanel, click on the ‘File Manager’ icon to open the web-based file management interface.
  • Navigate to ‘uploads’ Directory: Go to the public_html or root directory of your WordPress installation, locate the ‘wp-content’ folder, and open the ‘uploads’ folder.
  • Upload and Extract ZIP File: Use the ‘Upload’ button to upload your ZIP file containing the media library to the ‘uploads’ directory. Right-click on the uploaded ZIP file and select ‘Extract’ to decompress the contents into the ‘uploads’ folder. Ensure the folder structure matches the standard WordPress ‘uploads’ format.
  • Check and Verify: After extraction, check file permissions (755 for folders, 644 for files) and verify some uploaded files through the dashboard to ensure proper accessibility and linkage.

Importing through cPanel’s File Manager is straightforward and doesn’t require additional software, but it’s important to maintain the correct folder structure and file permissions for successful integration with WordPress.

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Post-Import Checklist

After importing your media library to a new site, it’s important to:

  • Verify all media files are correctly imported by checking the Media Library in the dashboard and testing file accessibility.
  • Regenerate thumbnails if necessary, using plugins like ‘Regenerate Thumbnails’ or ‘Force Regenerate Thumbnails’.
  • Update media links within posts and pages, possibly with plugins like ‘Velvet Blues Update URLs’ or ‘Better Search Replace’, and manually check key pages.

This ensures a smooth transition and maintains your site’s integrity.

Where is the WordPress Media Library Stored?

The WP Library is stored in the ‘wp-content/uploads’ directory on your web server, where files are organized into year and month folders. This structure can be altered using plugins or specific settings.

Is the WordPress Media Library Public?

Yes, by default, the WordPress Media Library is public, meaning anyone with the direct URL to a media file can access it. While there isn’t a public interface for browsing all files, security plugins and server settings can be used to limit access to these files.

Why Can’t I Access the Media Library in WordPress?

The inability to access the WP media library is often caused by permission issues in the ‘wp-content/uploads’ directory, conflicts with installed plugins, or server limitations like PHP memory limits. Each of these factors can disrupt the functionality and accessibility of the library.

Does the Media Library Slow Down WordPress?

Yes, a large library can slow down a site, but it’s often due to poor management rather than the library’s size. Issues like unoptimized images, subpar hosting, and database overhead contribute to this slowdown. Properly managing the library, including image optimization and choosing a robust hosting service, can significantly reduce these slowdowns.


WordPress export a media library is an essential skill for website administrators and developers. This guide has outlined various methods for these processes, including the use of tools like the WordPress Export and Import Tools, plugins, FTP, and cPanel’s File Manager. 

The right method depends on your technical proficiency and specific needs. Preparation is critical, involving file organization, checking server settings, and understanding PHP limits for large data transfers. Post-import, it’s important to verify file imports, regenerate thumbnails, and update media links to ensure smooth site operation. 

Additionally, addressing common queries about the Library helps in its efficient management, which is vital for a fast and responsive site. Regular optimization and staying updated with WP best practices contribute to your website’s overall health and success.

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