How to Create a WordPress Development Environment in Seconds with DesktopServer

I love to try out new ways to set up test environments for WordPress, in hopes of finding the most ideal development set up. DesktopServer is one that I found particularly easy to set up, even for non-technical persons. It is a free product from ServerPress that is suitable for Mac and Windows users alike. I mentioned DesktopServer in 10 Ways to Set Up a Testing Environment for WordPress. After giving it a test run, it was so outstanding that I wanted to go a little more in depth for our readers.

DesktopServer is based on XAMPP but goes beyond regular XAMPP in that it is optimized for WordPress. Features that you get beyond the regular XAMPP environment include:

  • New support for multiple versions of WordPress – Create sites for current and beta versions.
  • Support for WordPress Multisite and domain aliases for multisite development
  • Create multiple isolated sites: work, keep, and maintain multiple projects
  • Simplified wizard interface allows you to create a site in seconds
  • Work offline. Includes WordPress, no Internet connection needed
  • Automatic WP database installation, configuration, and removal
  • Exclusive fictitious top-level domain name mapping (.dev sites)
  • Includes updated phpMyAdmin 3.4.5 for total MySQL control
  • Integrated virtual hosting domain name manager
  • Includes Xdebug for more serious developers

Step 1: Download the Free DesktopServer Limited zip file for your platform.

This is easy. Go to the ServerPress downloads page and select the zip file for your platform.

Step 2: Unpack the files and move the folder to the right location.

Mac users – drag the XAMPP folder into your Applications folder.
Windows users – drag the xampplite folder to your root c: hard drive.

Here’s an example screenshot:

Step 3: Use the DesktopServer Wizard to set up a development site.

You can add easy access to the wizard by pinning the icon to your start menu (Windows) or adding the icon to your dock (Mac). Put that in place and then click on it and the wizard will guide you through the process of setting up a development site in just a few seconds. DesktopServer appends a fake .dev top level domain extension to your site name and it will only exist on your local computer.

The wizard will do everything for you – it creates the source folder, virtual hosts, server name entries, database and pre-configured WordPress files.

Now visit your new domain in your browser:

You’ll specify a title, username, and password, just like you normally would when you install WordPress. You’re off and running!

How to Delete a Development Site:

Since the free version limits you to three virtual host servers, you may want to scratch one and start over from time to time. Anytime you launch the wizard you’ll be presented with the options to either create new sites or delete existing ones. Select the one you want to delete, but be careful, because it will wipe everything, including database, all files, plugins, themes, etc.

Want unlimited virtual host servers?

If you’re looking to set up a supremely badass WordPress testing environment, then you’ll want to purchase the Full Version of DesktopServer, available from the ServerPress premium download center. You pay a simple one-time fee of $14.95 for access for a year. It’s a non-reoccurring subscription that does not automatically renew, giving you unlimited access to all of the ServerPress products, content, and support for the duration of your membership. For what you’re getting from ServerPress, this price is an absolute steal. This is especially applicable to WordPress multisite developers who require more complicated setups.

Once you have the files unpacked and put in the right folder, it is only a matter of seconds to create a new WordPress development site. Now you can take your laptop to the park and get some fresh air while working on themes, plugins or site building. Find out how productive you can be when working unplugged! For more information head over to the DesktopServer product page at ServerPress.

Comments (54)

    • [email protected]#

      There was an error on one of the global content delivery servers for Windows. Contact them, or look for the complete version (not the update) v3.2.2 on the download page.

    • I got the software to run, but it comes up with the web address as not found, I have tried it a few times, restarted the computer but no luck. I checked the hosts file and its setup to be local. I have 16 gig or ram so I dont have a power or ram issue. I can only think assume that the software want to do some things that the security software will not allow. I tested the software with the security software turned off also. It looks like a nice product, but for me, on my system, it does not get any farther than a blank web page.

      • Probably should move this conversation to their support forum. But check to see if there is a file inside your c:\xampplite\other\hosts. That should have been written to your c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc (after which you’d have to stop/restart the webserver). And yes, your security software would be locking that hosts file by changing it’s permissions, or read only-ing it, the folder its in, etc. to to protect it. I’m sure they’d like to know what that software is so they can update their troubleshoot list. :)

  1. It seems to be a security issue. I decided to keep the security and not uninstall or turn off the security settings. I did buy a year for $14 to get the full product. The way I got around the security problem was to create a virtual drive a run the software under a version of xp on my windows 7 laptop. It is a nice piece of software, going to try and install backup buddy and see if it will license the site in a virtual way so that I can use it to move the sites out to the web easily.

  2. Hi there, This looks great and I’m thinking of purchasing this program so I can work on a new theme for our website. I’m very new to all of this, so I have a question – once this dev site is completed and ready to take over our current site/theme, how do I do this? Is it simple enough for someone that doesn’t have a lot of coding or website experience? Thanks in advance for your help.

  3. Holy cow you rock! Great find, these guys are a great resource. I am curious if this would be good to install on a linux server for others to work on various WP installs. Or maybe if its good for a production environment for maintaining WPMU?


  4. Wow! I can’t tell you how amazing this is! I set up a WordPress site, from start to finish with this tutorial, downloading DesktopServer, running the setup, etc., within 3 minutes. No bugs. No fuss. It was so simple, I was wondering if I was missing steps.

    Compare this to how you normally set up a local WP dev environment… first, xampp takes some tweaking; then you gotta set up a db. Hunt down vhosts stuff on Windows. Then download and install the latest WP package. Troubleshoot random stuff that goes wrong during that process.

  5. Alright…I might give this a look. I’m so completely frustrated with trying to install anything on my machine. First it was Wamp. Then Bitnami. I even HIRED an IT friend of mine to set up Bitnami, and it worked for 1 day, and now doesn’t.

    Is setting up a virtual server the ONLY way to do this? Can’t one just set up a test directory with another version of WP and use Dreamweaver to tweak, and then replace old site with new WP?

    • If you want to create multiple isolated sites: The ‘other’ way is to login as admin or with admin privileges, edit your hosts file, install XAMPP, edit your vhosts file to create a virtual host definition that matches the domain name you entered in your system host file and map the virtual server name to one of your local folders, edit your http config file to grant your username access to local resources, restart the web services, access phpmyadmin to create a username and database with the appropriate db rights, download WordPress, unzip and follow the install directions and supply the credentials you got from phpmyadmin.

      If you want to make a tweak for a new site, you’ll have repeat the above, but then use a third party plugin to scrub the database. Remember, WordPress is a CMS, and the database is where your content is stored, not the folder (that only dictates the style).


      DesktopServer’s “create” and “copy” functions. They’re designed to make it easier ;-)

  6. No, I think you misunderstand. I move the folder to the root of c: and then I need to start the wizard. I would assume that that I would need to click on an executable file in order to that. There are no executable files in the folder or its subs. Maybe I should have said: “How do I start the wizard?” or “Which file do I click on to start the wizard?”

    • Hello David, it doesn’t sound like you are seeing all of the installed files. Within the root folder, there must be a c:\xampplite\DesktopServer.exe program present. Windows is a little bit more busy then Mac’s 6 folders as the 18 folders make up for a lot of missing functionality for Linux/Unix compatibility. Please take a moment to look at all the executable files in the downloaded package. There are 18 folders and 7 applications (similar to the standard xampplite package). The additional application is DesktopServer.exe and has a blue icon. If you do not see any applications, your computer maybe hiding them.

  7. Well, I decided to download the package again and Voila! there are the files & icon in question. Why they didn’t download correctly the first time is a mystery but Hey! it now makes sense and works. Thanks for your help

  8. I’ve been using Instant WP as wordpress local host for quite a while, but I found some disadvantages (for instance – very old myphpadmin). My first impressions from DesktopPress are really positive.
    Thanks again for this interest and useful article Sarah – you rock!

  9. Just a heads up. If you are having a problem with installing this on windows 7. First try to download the Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x64 Redistributable Setup and Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 x86 Redistributable from Microsoft and repair your Visual C. It works everytime for me..

  10. Just wanted to let everyone know that v3.5.7 dropped today. Here’s the changelog info:

    This version (3.5.7) includes the following updates:

    New “Deploy database only” allows use of third party file management (FTP/Git/IDE clients).

    New support for DirectDeploy of large databases via “chunk” processing.

    New UI feedback provides more accurate progress bar and DB file count.

    New “Sites” button for listing projects, aliases, and built-in utilities.

    Build number now appears on localhost/sites page.

    Version number now appears in title bar.

    Override limited memory & timeout operations on limited servers to reduce “500 errors”.

    Optimized cleanup of project/version folders (.git, .svn, etc.) for faster exports.

    Updated phpMyAdmin to latest “3.X” series, version

    Updated default WordPress core to 3.5.2.

    Ability to override TLD.

    Fixes USE db; and CREATE DATABASE db; causing errors on import scripts.

    Fixes backupbuddy_backups from exports resulting in excessive file sizes.

    Fixes incorrect Multisite siteurl on imports with more than 5 domains.

    Fixes Nil Object Error when sharing a site with an empty database.

    Fixes domain name issues on non-casesensitive operating systems.

    Fixes BackWP Up issue causing “missing database error”.

    Fixes residue BackupBuddy archives on import.

    Fixes interfering ds-deploy folders on import.

    Fixes file path link wrapping on export page.

    Limits error message box maximum window size.

    More info can be found here:

  11. Does anybody have any tips for using the free version to recreate our live site on my local PC?

    I have the software up and running locally, but every time I try to import the live sites backed up database I get an error message about “drop table”.

    I can’t swing $99 for the full version right now, certainly without testing it first.


  12. Hi JorJ,

    Were you able to get this answered? If not, you can use a free plugin like “Duplicator” on your live site, then put the archive in your “Blueprints” directory. When you start up DS, you will see the archive listed as a new blueprint. It should be able to import it that way and do all of your database scrubbing.

    I hope that helps!