SSH tunneling to access your site’s database

Updated on March 9th, 2023

While it isn’t common, there may be times you need to access your Flywheel site’s database using an external tool instead of the Database manager in your Flywheel dashboard. Thanks to our SSH gateway and a nifty feature called SSH tunneling, you can do just that.

SSH tunneling allows you to set up a secure connection to transmit data via an encrypted SSH connection. In our example here we’ll be setting up MySQL Workbench, a visual database design tool, but the concepts will apply to any number of tools that can connect to a server via SSH tunneling.


SSH tunneling is a powerful, technical tool. If you don’t feel confident setting up SSH access and using a tool to manage or access your site’s database, we recommend talking to a developer, as you could break your site.

That said, it’s always a good idea to create a fresh backup before altering your database.


  1. If you haven’t already, set up your SSH key in your Flywheel dashboard and test your SSH connection.
  2. Using SSH, run cat ~/.my.cnf to view your site’s my.cnf file to get the host IP address, database user, and database password. Alternatively, you can download a copy of your site’s wp-config.php file and get the DB_HOST, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD values.
  3. Choose and open the third-party tool you’ll be connecting to the database. We’re going to use MySQL Workbench as an example here, but there are various tools available that can be used.


Puttygen users may need to convert their key to OpenSSH.

  • Open Putty Key Generator.
  • Load the private key by going to File – > Private Key.
  • Go to Conversations and Export to OpenSSH – save the file in a safe location.
  • Go to Workbench and under SSH key file point it to the new OpenSSH file instead of the previous private key file.

Connection Settings

In your chosen tool, fill in the connection settings to set up the connection with your Flywheel site’s database. Here’s an example in MySQL Workbench:

connection settings in MySQL workbench

Connection Name: The name of the site or really any meaningful name you want to give the connection
Connection Method: Standard TCP/IP over SSH
SSH Hostname:
SSH Username: username+site-slug or team+org-name+site-slug
SSH Password: leave this field empty
SSH Key File: upload the private key file created when you generated your SSH keys
MySQL Hostname: host IP address from my.cnf or DB_HOST IP address from wp-config.php
MySQL Server Port: 3306
Username: user from my.cnf or DB_USER from wp-config.php
Password: password from my.cnf or DB_PASSWORD from wp-config.php

Finding your username

Your SSH username begins with your Flywheel username, which can be found in a couple of different ways:

  1. By connecting to via SSH and copying it from the prompt
  2. Or, on your Profile page

user profile in Flywheel dashboard with username highlighted


If you’re connecting to a site owned by an Organization, the Organization’s username can be found before the site slug in the URL when viewing the site in the Flywheel dashboard.Flywheel site url with Organization username and site-slug highlighted

Finding your site-slug

The second part of your SSH username is the site-slug, which can be found in a couple of places:

  1. In the menu, once you’ve connected via SSH.
  2. At the end of the URL (after the site owner’s username) when viewing a site in the Flywheel dashboard.
    Flywheel site url with username and site-slug highlighted


If the site you’re connecting to belongs to another user, replace your username with the site owner’s username.

Save and test the connection

Once you’ve got everything filled out, you can test and save your connection settings. Now you can connect to your Flywheel site’s database whenever you want to!

Need help?

If you have any questions our Happiness Engineers are here to help!

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