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How to install a WordPress theme manually

January 7, 2015.

So, you have finally purchased/downloaded your first WordPress theme. What to do next? This article will teach you how to set up a website with your new WordPress theme step-by-step. I'm trying to write things as simple as I can and give a quick overview, but if you don't understand something and need more information, just visit the official WordPress manual for a more detailed explanation. Alternatively you can hire a professional to do this task if you don't have time or it's too complicated for you.

If you already have a domain name and a webserver please skip to the next section.


How to set up your first WordPress website

First of all you need to get a domain name from a domain registrar like NameCheap or GoDaddy.

After that you'll have to sign up for a webhosting service. This is the place where your website will be phisically stored (a server). Here are some recommended hosting companies: A Small Orange, BlueHost, DigitalOcean. You don't have to buy the most expensive one. Usually a cheaper, shared hosting plan will do the job in most cases. What you will need in the package you purchase: PHP, MySQL and at least 1GB storage space. However if you already have a website with large traffic then you should choose a more serious plan or you might want to give WPEngine a try since it's a very recommended hosting service for WP sites with many visitors.

The next step is to connect your domain with your webhosting server. For this you would need to change the DNS (Domain Name Servers) at your domain registrar. Log in to your domain name account, select your domain name and find its DNS settings. Web hosting providers usually sends you an email containing your hosting account log in, FTP and DNS server address info. Use this DNS info to fill your domain's DNS settings and save it. Please note: it can take up to 24 hours for DNS changes to take effect. It means that if you visit your domain you will not see your site content yet.

If you get stuck somewhere just send an email to your domain registrar support and they will walk you through.


Installing WordPress core

imageAs you might already know WordPress is a free CMS system. You can download it from the official website here. Sometimes hosting companies provide an already installed WordPress core. In this case you can skip to the Installing your WordPress theme section.

Open the information email you received from your webhosting and find your MySQL database name, username and password. In some cases you have to create a database and a user manually via your webhosting account's interface. If that's your situation please read your hosting's manual in this topic or ask their help. Alternatively read the official WP manual for a more detailed explanation:

After you downloaded the WordPress core, extract the ZIP file, go to the root folder, rename wp-config-sample.php file to wp-config.php and open it with a text editor like Notepad or Notepad++. Now fill the MySQL database name, username and password (see image on the right). Also generate unique authentication keys by visiting this link. Copy everything and replace existing lines (#45-52) in wp-config.php file. Save the file.

Now you have to upload all the extracted WordPress files and folders to your server via FTP. If you want to install WordPress in the root of your domain (e.g.:, upload it into the root directory of your web server. If you want to have it in a subdirectory (e.g.:, create a directory named blog on your server and upload WordPress there. For uploading I suggest you to use FileZilla. It's a free FTP client. Here you can find more information about it:

Once upload is done just visit the URL where you uploaded WP (e.g.: or and you should see the WordPress install screen.


Select your language, fill the required form fields and you're done!


Installing your WordPress theme

Extract the WordPress theme file you downloaded and check its contents. In some cases the ZIP file contains the installable WordPress theme only. You know that if you see a style.css file in its root folder. If you bought one of my theme then it includes a documentation, layered PSD files and the theme itself in separate folders. There are two ways to upload a WordPress theme:

A) Uploading via FTP

Find your FTP access information in the email you received from your webhosting service. Sometimes you need to create your own FTP access via your hosting's web interface. Once you have the info log in to your webserver via FTP. If you don't have an FTP client, try FileZilla. Go into the wp-content/themes/ folder and upload the folder which contains your theme.

Example of wrong upload:
Example of correct upload:

Note: Never use spaces in directory paths!
When it's done, log in to your WordPress admin, go to Appearance - Themes and activate the new theme.

B) Uploading via WordPress admin

Create a ZIP file which contains the theme folder only. Log in to your WordPress admin, go to Appearance - Themes and click on Add New. Upload the ZIP file. Once it's up, go to Appearance - Themes and click on Activate link below the theme to make it live.

POST Content-Length Error when uploading theme
If you meet this error when uploading the theme, it means that your webhosting doesn't allow to upload large files. You need to increase the limits manually in your hosting admin panel or contact your server admin if you don't know how to do that. If you're an advanced user or developer then all you need to do is increase upload_max_filesize, post_max_size, max_execution_time and max_execution_time variables in your php.ini and restart your server. Alternatively you can choose option A) and upload it via FTP.


After theme activation you can start adding your content. All my themes contain a 1-click sample content importer so you can easily set up your site like the live preview. If you're not sure how to continue, have a look around here:


Now you have a working WordPress website if everything went smoothly. Enjoy!

If you're using one of my themes and something doesn't work as it should, feel free to ask for support here!