Getting started with Local as your WordPress development environment

Getting started with Local as your WordPress development environment

Will Morris's Layout avatar

While most websites are (naturally) hosted online, there are plenty of situations in which you may want to create a local WordPress site. For example, you might need to set up a staging environment to develop your site before it goes live, require a safe place to experiment with designs, or perform troubleshooting.

In any of those scenarios, all you’ll need is the right solution. When it comes to creating an offline WordPress site, Local is one of the most intuitive and powerful tools for the job. This solution makes it easy to install WordPress on your computer, clone your site, and even push your local version live.

Here’s what I’ll cover in this article:

Let’s get started!

An introduction to local website development

If you want people to visit your website, it will have to be hosted online. In fact, one of the first things you’ll typically do when setting up a new website is to sign up for a hosting plan.

However, there are times when you’ll want to work on a ‘public-inaccessible’ website. A ‘local site,’ also known as a ‘development site,’ is a website stored on your own computer. This means no one is able to access it unless they’re logged into that specific device (and have the right credentials).

Local sites have many applications. Some of the most common include:

  • Experimenting with and learning a new platform.
  • Building a new site offline, so no one will see it in its half-finished state.
  • Redesigning a live site, or otherwise making large-scale changes to it.
  • Performing troubleshooting, to fix a hack, error, or other issue.
  • Creating a site for a client, to keep it private but enable collaboration and feedback.

What’s more, you can create a permanently private local site, or make a copy of a live site so you have a version you can play around with. Once you’re happy with the changes to your local site, you can even upload them back to your live site (I’ll talk more about this later on).

Of course, to set up a local site you’ll need the right tool. There are lots of options available, including third-party solutions and applications offered by your hosting provider. Next up, let’s take a look at one of those tools.

Local: A development tool for WordPress sites

If you’re looking to create a local WordPress website, you can’t go wrong with Local.

A screenshot of Local by Flywheel

This fully-featured tool contains everything you’ll need to set up and use local sites. It’s simple enough for beginners to use, but also offers plenty of advanced features if you want to customize the way your local environment works.

Some of Local’s key features include:

  • One-click WordPress installations, letting you set up your local sites fast
  • Local Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) support, to keep those sites safe
  • Easy access to your local sites’ root files, via Secure Shell (SSH) access
  • Shareable demo URLs, making it possible to show your site to select people
  • Customizable environments for developers, helping you configure the way your local site runs
  • The option to clone sites, export a live site to a local version, and push a local site to live hosting at Flywheel and WP Engine.
  • An Add-ons Library, allowing you to customize your local development environment with the features you need

Best of all, Local is completely free to use for Mac, Windows, and Linux. This means you can try it out without any risks or obligations involved. Let’s see how it works in action!

How to get started with Local (in 3 Steps)

Fortunately, setting up Local and using it to manage your local sites is a straightforward process. Over the next few sections, I’m going to walk through how to start using it. The process begins with installing the tool itself.

Step 1: Install Local

To download Local, visit the website and hit the Free Download button. Next, choose your platform, and enter some basic information (only the email field is mandatory, and it’s just so we can keep you in the loop on new features and functionality):

The form to download Local by Flywheel

Your download should start right away. Give it a few moments, and then run the installer file. You’ll then be taken to a start-up screen, where you simply need to select the Let’s Go! button:

The welcome screen for Local by Flywheel

This will install a few programs that are required for Local to work properly. The installation may take a few minutes to complete. If you receive any prompts during the process, make sure to hit Yes to permit the installer to do its job.

After, you’ll be taken straight to your new Local dashboard:

The "Create a new site" screen

There are several options to choose from. You can create a new site, which I’ll talk about next. You can also select the cloud icon to connect to managed WordPress hosting services, enabling you to make copies of existing sites and push local sites live.

Finally, in the top-left corner there’s an “Options” menu to let you configure various settings and preferences. However, this is optional—right now you’re ready to create your first local site!

Step 2: Create your local WordPress site

Next up, let’s create a brand-new local WordPress website. To do so, select Create a New Site in your Local dashboard. This will take you to a simple setup wizard, where the first step is to create a name for your site:

Name your Local site

You may want to make this something descriptive, especially if you plan to create multiple local sites. You can always change the name of your site later on.

In addition, you can expand the Advanced Options tab to configure a few optional settings if you’d like:

Site creation advanced options

Here you can set a domain and path for your local site, You can choose any domain name and suffix that you’d like, and Local will modify your hosts file to make it work. In our case, we went with my-first-local-site.local.

Local will also automatically create a directory to store your site’s files, but you can also set it to any folder you like.

Once you’ve entered a name for your site, you can continue to the next screen:

Choose your Local site setup

Here, you have two options. You can choose Preferred to set up your local site using a recommended set of tools, or select Custom to configure your environment:

Local by Flywheel custom setup

The Preferred option works well for most beginner users, while Custom comes in handy for developers with more specific requirements. Just keep in mind that if you go with the Custom option, you won’t be able to connect your local site to Flywheel (in order to publish it live if you so choose). It may also require downloading some additional files.

Either way, continue to the last step once you’re done here:

Site creation last step

On this screen, you’ll create a WordPress username, a secure password, and an admin email address. Under Advanced Options, you can also specify if you’d like this installation to be a multisite setup. Then, hit the Add Site button.

After a few moments, you’ll see your new site listed in the dashboard, along with all of its information:

A Local WordPress site

You can now select the Admin button to log into your site and get to work! In addition, you can always come back to this dashboard if you want to make changes to your local site’s setup or domain.

As a note: what you’re working with here is a fully-featured WordPress site, set up in record time! This means that you can install any plugins you want, add custom themes, break it, fix it, break it again, etc. It’s a coding playground, and there’s no risk to a live site!

Step 3: Export your site & take it live

Technically, the above two steps are all you need to set up and use a local WordPress website. However, if you’re building a site that will eventually go live, you’ll also need to know how the process works.

You can always export your local site and import it to the host of your choice. The steps to import and take a site live vary from host to host, but you’ll likely need to install a plugin, export, import, zip up some files, verify that your migration is working, etc.

We’d highly recommend Local Connect if you’re looking for a quick-click workflow. Using Local Connect, you can easily move a site between a local environment and the live environment on one of two preferred hosting providers: Flywheel and WP Engine. This dramatically streamlines the offline-editing and go-live process, and it’s totally free to use.

You can create or log into your Flywheel or WP Engine account through the Local dashboard:

Connect to Flywheel

You’ll just need to enter your username and password to make the connection. After, all of your local and live sites will be listed in your Local dashboard!

From there, it’s a matter of a few clicks to push your local website live. Once your account is connected, you’ll have other options here as well. You can make a copy of a live site and turn it into a local site, for example. Then you can make changes, and copy them back over to the live version.

With that, you know everything you’ll need to create and manage development sites through Local. How you use them is up to you!


Being able to quickly create a local WordPress site offers numerous benefits. It lets you develop a new website in peace, and makes it easy to perform testing and troubleshooting without affecting your live site. Local enables you to do all of this easily, while offering plenty of advanced tools to enhance your local development options.

In this article, I’ve shown you how to get started with Local. All you’ll need to do is follow these three steps:

  1. Install Local.
  2. Create your local WordPress site.
  3. Export your site to Flywheel or WP Engine when it’s ready to go.

Do you have any questions about what you can do with Local? Let me know in the comments section below!

Download Local (for free!)

Stop debugging local environments and spend more time launching WordPress sites. Download it here.

This article was originally published 3-26-2019. It was last updated 6-21-2021.

Comments ( 26 )

  1. Nishant

    July 19, 2020

    i have downloaded the local & completed the set up , but when i click on the admin or view site. it shows 404 not found. help me out.

  2. Arjan

    June 8, 2020

    The idea and how Local works is really what I like, but what are the minimum requirements of the hardware to run it without get disappointed about it like I do, what also is bad for your name ;-) For example I have a Windows 10 machine with 4Gb and a AMD 64 bit CPU, a bit old but still very fast while developing websites, but unfortunately not with Local. Even a brand new WordPress installation and Divi or Oxygen Builder is far to slow. Om my Macbook a fast one, I can life with it, but my remote hosting is much faster. So thats why I am curious to the minimum hardware to run Local WP better.

  3. Carlos Lopez

    January 11, 2019

    This is a great tool!
    Can I export websites developed locally using this tool to another hosting provider or is only useful for the Local by Flywheel environment?
    Thank you.

    • Morgan Smith

      January 14, 2019

      Hey Carlos! You can export sites developed in Local to any hosting provider. While the Connect feature makes it extra easy to push a site to Flywheel, you can take the site wherever you need to! :)

  4. David

    November 14, 2018

    I'm already with a hosting service.
    "To export your local site, you’ll need a Flywheel hosting account."
    That line in inverted commas is quoted from the info above.
    I have an existing subscription to a hosting company. Do I need to cancel that before I even download this app and begin making the website with flywheel?

    • Morgan Smith

      November 15, 2018

      Nope! You only need a Flywheel hosting account if you're exporting to Flywheel. If you're hosting somewhere else, you can simply export the Local site and take it where it needs to go! We'll update the article to make it a little more clear :)

  5. Wray

    November 14, 2018

    Does the 'free migration tool' allow for uploading my .ZIP file to my existent servers? Also, this begs the initial question; 'Can I import the site I'm presently developing on my server into Flywheel Local?

  6. Fahim

    December 12, 2017


    How can I setup my site without wordpress?

  7. martin

    November 13, 2017

    need to know which server conditions i need to do an automated plugin update. What is needed on the serverside!? Plz lemme know. Look forward to hear from you ! Greetings Pls write back to [email protected] - thanks in advance!

  8. Kevin

    September 19, 2017


    When it was first released it did not have the option to export it as a zip file to other hosting providers. Has that changed or are there plans to allow a Flywheel Local site to be uploaded to other web hosts?


    • Morgan Smith

      September 20, 2017

      Hey Kevin, while we'd love if you chose Flywheel, you can host your Local sites wherever you like! Many users use a backup plugin like Duplicator or BackupBuddy to download the site files. Where you host them after that is totally up to you! :)

  9. Laura Rodd

    September 5, 2017

    Great article Morgan! Definitely editing websites that are currently running ‘live’ is not the best option, especially when you’re maintaining a stable and professional business. During the testing phase of your editing process, your website can go down, or some buttons may not work. That's why we've written an article that covers this same topic on setting up a wordpress dev environment and would love to hear your feedback :)

  10. Lori

    August 12, 2017

    Hi there,
    This sounds like a great option. I am wanting to move my live site with duplicator down to a local version so I can test out some new changes. How would I do this with your software, is it easy to accomplish or is there documentation? I am not setting up a new local site, so the instructions here don't apply.


  11. Pato

    June 20, 2017


    I'm interested in using Flywheel to start developing locally when I go on travels that force me to be offline. I'm just wondering, how would the process to make the site live work. Do you have an article on that? Could I simple use the duplicator plugin?

    Thanks for the answer!

    • Morgan Smith

      June 22, 2017

      Hey Pato, that's a great way to use Local by Flywheel! It's perfect for developing on the road :)

      If you're looking to take the site live on Flywheel, you can simply export a ZIP file of your local site and upload it to our free migration form. Our support team can take it from there!

  12. James Smith

    May 30, 2017

    How can you share with multiple developers on a local network? Running isolated docker?

  13. Ro

    May 13, 2017

    Hi -
    can I upload the ZIP.file as well to another hostservice or is only flywheel suporting these files?
    Cheers, Ro

    • Morgan Smith

      May 15, 2017

      Hey Ro, they should work with any host! Your provider should be able to help you out with any specifics about the files.

  14. Noelle Barber

    May 5, 2017

    I'm attempting to host our site locally, using the files downloaded from Flywheels Back-up download. After adding the site, local by flywheel is stuck at the 'installing WordPress'. Does this indicate the the backup does not include all the files I need to launch the site on local?

    • Morgan Smith

      May 5, 2017

      Hey Noelle – sorry it's giving you some trouble! Sounds like you might've found a bug. If you head over to the Local Community, you can report this to the developers and follow along with updates.

  15. Justin

    March 15, 2017

    Am I able to import a WP site created locally in say MAMP, into Local by Flywheel?

  16. Darla Villani

    February 23, 2017

    Hi there, wonderful article!
    I'm having troubles with my admin password - it's not a typo issue.
    Please advise and thanks!

  17. George

    January 25, 2017

    How do I generate a shareable URL?

    • Steve

      August 8, 2017

      I have been researching that same question. Would like to share my site with other developers on my local network. Can't find documentation anywhere. The first bullet in the benefits list states this:
      "Live Links: Show off your latest work! Create shareable URLs to demo your local WordPress sites to clients, collaborators, friends, or adoring fans."
      I hope to find documentation on that soon.

  18. James

    December 26, 2016

    Mac only, so I won't ever use your products.

    • Morgan Smith

      December 26, 2016

      Don't worry James, a Windows version is coming very, very soon! Stay tuned :)

  19. Fred

    December 7, 2016

    Tried downloading it and spinning up a site... resulting in: 'Error: WordPress installation failed'. Re-installed WordPress and now can't connect to the database, with Adminer, Sequel Pro or through the Wordpress config set-up. No docs, nothing back from support on the community forum. Hummm.

    • Morgan Smith

      December 7, 2016

      Hey Fred, sorry about the trouble. Looks like a member of our team replied to your question in the community forum this morning. They'll be able to help you get to the bottom of this!

  20. Piet

    December 2, 2016

    As soon as I read the news over at WP Tavern, I just had to try it out.

    As the others above have said already, it is super easy to spin up a new site and to access it via SSH and Adminer.
    I had never heard of Mailcatcher and I think it is great as is the usefulness of adding SSL and a live demo URL!

    Simply awesome that you offer this free of charge, thank you Flywheel!

  21. Lawrence Riddick

    December 1, 2016

    Absolutely amazing! Speechless on how easy this app is to use. Thank you Flywheel!

  22. David Coleman

    December 1, 2016

    Hi Morgan!

    Thanks so much for this—it looks amazing! I'll be giving it a try ASAP.

    Hope all is well!

    All the best,


    • Morgan Smith

      December 2, 2016

      Thanks David! We're pretty excited about it, too. Can't wait to hear what you think once you've tried it out! :)

  23. Chris Mcintosh

    December 1, 2016

    Will you have a feature coming out for pulling in a live flywheel site to a local installation?

    • Morgan Smith

      December 1, 2016

      You bet! Flywheel integration is definitely on the roadmap :)

  24. James Cartwright

    December 1, 2016

    You guys rock! I'm also currently using ServerPress but my subscription ran out and I'm super excited to try this.

    So, I'm hoping for sweet deployment options straight into flywheel with pro? ;)

    • Morgan Smith

      December 1, 2016

      Happy to hear that, James! We've definitely got some big plans up our sleeves. Stay tuned! :)

  25. d

    December 1, 2016

    Hi, This is very, very cool! Just wondering how it works to go from local to Flywheel hosting? Thanks!!

    • Morgan Smith

      December 1, 2016

      For now, you can export a ZIP file of your local site and upload it to our free migration form to move a site onto Flywheel. We'll be releasing some super simple updates soon though, so be sure to sign up for updates!

  26. Erik

    December 1, 2016

    Wow. To offer this--and for free? Terrific! Set up was a breeze. I used to use ServerPress, but this is super sweet and will be a vital part of my workflow. Thanks, Flywheel! You guys rock the casbah!

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