How to Install WordPress on Your Computer or USB

WordPress code logo thumbnailInstalling WordPress on your computer is a great way to test and explore WordPress features. It’s also an excellent way to work on WordPress Themes and Plugins without exposure to the public view. When your site is set up and ready, it’s easy to move WordPress from your computer to your hosted server.

Why would you want to install and setup a portable version of WordPress?

  • It allows you to design and develop a testing environment protected from public eyes.
  • It allows you a safe, secure space, especially for testing private and security-specific WordPress development.
  • You can take WordPress with you or mail the thumbdrive to anyone. Plug it into any Windows-based machine and fairly instantly have WordPress up and running, ready to show clients what their future site will look like and have them test it fully while not connected to the Internet nor exposed to the public.
  • You can work on WordPress while not connected to the Internet.

There are a variety of tools that will help you install WordPress to your computer dependent upon the operating system. Some are very simple requiring few steps to completion. Others are a little more complex, so read through the documentation carefully before deciding which one to try, or try several to get the feel of how they work and which ones will work for you and your needs.

You have two choices in making WordPress portable. You can install it on a thumbdrive or to your laptop or desktop computer.

For my classes and workshops, unless you are used to bringing in your laptop, I recommend you install it on a Thumbdrive. Most of the computers in the classrooms where I teach are Windows based, so use Instant WordPress and install it to your thumbdrive.

Another alternative is to install your working, experimental version of WordPress to Amazon AWS. This doesn’t make WordPress portable, but it does offer an access point from any Internet-connected computer. For students already familiar with working with Amazon AWS, I’ve included links at the bottom of this article for reference on installing WordPress to this environment.

Things You Need to Know About Installing a Portable Version of WordPress

Installing WordPress on a portable drive or your laptop allows you to develop and test a WordPress site, WordPress Theme, and WordPress Plugin without the site going live, isolated from the web and public view.

WordPress, WordPress Themes, and Plugins may be easily updated through the Administration Panel interface via the web or manually, but the content is not visible nor accessible to the public.

If you choose to do some of your WordPress homework on WordPress installed on your computer, please publish or share screenshots as examples of the homework assignments or use a version of a desktop WordPress installer installed on a USB drive and bring it to class for a little show and tell.

Be aware that there are currently only two color choices for making the Administration Panels (back end) of WordPress look different across multiple installations. Pay very close attention to which site you are on when you add or edit the site. Many people get confused between what is live on the web and what is the test site. Look at the upper left corner for the site name and consider changing the interface through Users > Personal Settings > Set Admin Color Scheme. Note that WordPress 3.6 currently has removed that option.

To migrate a site from a portable version of WordPress, see:

There are also several WordPress Plugins that will help you move or migrate your site and push it out live. Check the WordPress Plugin Directory for your options.

Install WordPress on Your Laptop

For Windows operating systems the following options are available:

For Mac operating systems:

Install WordPress on a Thumbdrive or Portable Hard Drive

To install WordPress on a portable USB drive so you can take it with you when you go, an excellent option for working with clients or bringing “homework” to class, consider these options:

I recommend Instant WordPress for my classes working with Windows systems. It is currently not available for Mac.

Adding Jetpack WordPress Plugin to a Local Installation of WordPress

Until recently, there was a work around for installing the Jetpack WordPress Plugin on local installations of WordPress. Then that broke.

Birgire wrote Run Jetpack Locally WordPress Plugin to add to local installs, no matter which type you are using, to fool Jetpack into thinking the site is live on the web. Most of the Jetpack features such as galleries, comments, and shortcode embeds will work, but Publicize and a few that require the site to be on a live server will not work.

To activate and use Jetpack on a WordPress local install:

  1. Go to Plugins > Add New and install and activate the Jetpack WordPress Plugin
  2. Go to Run Jetpack Locally WordPress Plugin (on Github not on the WordPress Plugin Directory) and download or copy the file into a text file per instructions.
  3. Copy the file into the wp-content/plugins directory on your local server. The file sits in the root of the Plugins directory, typically named run-jetpack-locally.php.
  4. Go to Plugins and look for Run Jetpack Locally and activate the Plugin.

Most of the features of Jetpack will now function. Go to the Jetpack menu and activate the features you wish to use.

Other Options for Installing WordPress for Testing

For a list of other options and operating systems, see this list on installing WordPress locally and installing WordPress on your computer.

For information on how to install WordPress to Amazon AWS, taking advantage of the free options, see:

When you are ready to install WordPress on your server, see the Installing WordPress instructions on the WordPress Codex.

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11 thoughts on “How to Install WordPress on Your Computer or USB

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  5. Excellent Lorelle – exactly the info I have been looking for! I need students to run WordPress connected to Macs – have you tried Portable Web Server with XAMPP and what problems did you have with Bitnami?

    • My students had the problem and I don’t know specifics. The main issues is that the classroom has Windows computers and they brought in their Mac laptops. The USB didn’t transfer well between them, so we decided to stick with the Windows version so we were all on the same page.

  6. MAMP is easier to work with than Bitnami, based upon my student’s experience. You can give it a try. They are all free. See which works best with your systems. Talk to your server folks. They may have a preference and be able to push the installs out to all the machines at once, since both installs can take a long time to do. That would run it from the computers but see if they have a preference. That would allow you to work on the machines in the classroom, and then emulate that for “on a stick” so it matches across the board.

    I talked to the students and most of them switched from Bitnami to MAMP out of total frustration with the long and complicated installation. I only watched them struggle as I focused on the majority of students using Windows who raced through the process quickly (so much so several of them installed InstantWP several times to manage multiple test sites (can’t install more than one site in a single install of Instant WP, though I don’t see why not) in the time it took the Mac-using students to install Bitnami once.

    Let me know what you find out and decide as that will be helpful to me in the future. Thanks!

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