Whatever the reason, resetting your site will delete all your settings and customizations so you’re back to a clean slate — just like resetting your phone to its default factory settings.
Let’s take a closer look at why you might reset WordPress then walk through how.
Why Reset WordPress to Default
There’s a few reasons you might reset your WordPress site to its default settings. Let's take a closer look at them below.
You've Been Practicing Building a Website
Say you’ve been building out a new site but you’re not happy with the customizations. Maybe the branding’s off or the load time is ridiculously slow and you’d rather just start over than undo all the customizations you’ve made. Or maybe you’ve just been building out a site for practice as you learn more about WordPress. In either case, you can reset WordPress to quickly and easily start from scratch.
You're Repurposing the Site
Let's say you’re overhauling a client’s website or your own for a complete website redesign. You’ve already created and tested a new website using a staging site and are now ready to push it live. In that case, you might be better off resetting WordPress.
You've Been Hacked
Or maybe you’ve been hacked and there’s now junky code or spam in your plugin files, theme files, or posts and pages. Instead of combing through the back and front end of your site, you might prefer a reset.
Those are just a few reasons you might want to reset WordPress. However, pressing the reset button is not always the best solution. Let's walk through some situations when not to reset WordPress.
When Not to Reset Your WordPress Site
There’s also a few reasons why you might not want to reset your WordPress site to its default settings. Let's take a closer look at them below.
You Want to Redesign Part of Your Site
If you want to completely overhaul a website, then resetting WordPress makes sense. But if you want to redesign part of your site, then a reset doesn't.
Let's say you just want to replace your theme. In that case, you still want to keep your content, plugins, and settings — not completely start over from scratch. For this situation, and most redesigns, you'll want to optimize your existing content, set up some redirects, and update your XML sitemap rather than reset WordPress.
For the complete step-by-step process, check out Website Redesign SEO Checklist: Relaunch Your Site Without Losing Rankings.
You Want to Migrate Your Site
Let's say you want to make major changes to your site's architecture and not just its design. For example, maybe you want to move your site to a new server, CMS, or domain. In that case, you wouldn't reset WordPress. Instead, you'd migrate your site. While the exact steps of a website migration vary, a WordPress plugin can simplify the process. For example, with the Duplicator plugin, you can clone your site and recreate it on a new hosting server.
Read How to Migrate Your WordPress Site with WordPress Duplicator to follow the step-by-step process.
You Want to Delete All Content
If you don't want to keep your site active, then you should consider deleting it instead of resetting it. If you simply reset it, then a hacker could gain access. Deleting it will ensure that no one can compromise your account. To do so, simply delete the WordPress files stored on your server using cPanel or an FTP client and then cancel your hosting subscription.
Wondering how to delete all wordpress content and start over using the same hosting account? Delete the WordPress files from the root directory on your server, but don't cancel your hosting plan. You can then upload a new WordPress installation to your same hosting server.
Now that you know when (and when not to) reset WordPress, we’ll walk through how to reset a site with or without a plugin so you can pick the option you’re more comfortable with.
How to Reset Your WordPress Site
There are two ways you can reset your WordPress site: manually or with a plugin. Both methods will result in your posts, pages, settings, plugin, and theme files being deleted. This can’t be undone.
Backup Your WordPress Website
Resetting WordPress will completely erase all of your customizations and settings. That’s why, before you begin the process of resetting WordPress, you must create a backup of your website manually or using a WordPress backup plugin. This will give you the option of restoring your site after resetting it just in case you change your mind or something goes wrong.
Reset WordPress With A Plugin
Using a plugin is the easiest and fastest way to reset a WordPress site. There are dozens to choose from, but WP Reset is a popular and reputable plugin that enables you to reset a WordPress site in a few clicks. Here’s how to use the free version:
1. Install and activate the WP Reset plugin. You can do so directly in your WordPress dashboard by clicking Plugins > Add New.
2. Go to Tools > WP Reset.
3. Scroll down to the Site Reset section.
4. Type “‘reset” in the Confirmation field.
5. Click the Reset Site button.
6. A popup message will appear asking you to confirm that you want to reset your site. Click Reset WordPress to continue.
7. When the reset has been completed, you’ll be redirected to your WordPress dashboard homepage where you’ll see a success message.
You’re not quite done yet. By default, WP Reset deactivates theme and plugin files instead of deleting them. However, you can use this plugin to delete these files as well. Just follow the steps below.
1. Go to Tools > WP Reset.
2. Click the Tools tab.
3. Click the link labelled “Delete Themes.”
4. Click the Delete all themes button.
5. A popup message will appear asking you to confirm that you want to delete your themes. Click Delete all themes to continue.
6. Now click the Delete plugins button.
7. A popup message will appear asking you to confirm that you want to delete your plugins. Click Delete plugins to continue.
Reset WordPress Without A Plugin
If you’d prefer not to use a plugin, then you can manually reset your WordPress website. The process will be more difficult and take longer — but it will help you understand the fundamentals of a WordPress installation.
To manually reset a WordPress site, you’ll need to delete your database, create a new one, delete your plugin, theme, and other files, and rerun the WordPress installation script. Let’s break down the process below.
1. Log into cPanel.
2. Scroll down to the Databases section.
3. Click MySQL Databases.
4. Identify your WordPress database and click Delete under the column labelled “Actions.”
5. Next, scroll to the Create a New Database section.
6. Name your new database and click Create Database. The page should refresh automatically.
7. Next, scroll to the Add a User to a Database section. Select your previous username (with all its previous permissions) and newly created database from the dropdown menus.
8. Click Add.
9. Now go to File Manager in cPanel.
10. Click the public_html folder.
11. Select the wp-content folder and delete it. This will delete your plugin and theme files.
Your website will be completely reset now — but you’re not quite done. To make your website functional, you’ll need to rerun the WordPress installation script.
1. In the browser’s address bar, type in your domain name and add /wp-admin/install.php to the end.
2. Fill in the form with the required information, including your site title and username.
3. Click Install WordPress when you’ve filled out the entire form.
4. You’ll be prompted to login with your username and password.
That’s it! Your website will be completely reset. You can now build out a new site with a different theme, plugins, content, and settings.
Resetting Your WordPress Website
Whether you want to start over on a test installation, completely redesign your website, or fix a security issue, resetting WordPress will return your site to its default settings. You can reset your site with or without a plugin. Beginners will prefer a plugin, while more advanced users might prefer to reset it manually.
Using either method will result in a blank site. You can then build a new site from scratch: installing a new theme and plugins, creating new content, and configuring new settings.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Dec 9, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated May 10 2022