How to Set Up WordPress Locally in 5 Minutes with DesktopServer

Setting up a localhost environment for WordPress can save you loads of time if you regularly test themes and plugins. And thanks to DesktopServer, it can take as little as 5 minutes to get WordPress up and running on your local machine.

DesktopServer is so easy, you may even consider ditching WAMP.

In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to set up the limited version of DesktopServer on OS X.

DesktopServer
Setting up DesktopServer is a piece of cake. You’ll have your own localhost environment up and running in no time.

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What is DesktopServer?

DesktopServer, by ServerPress.com, allows you to create dozens of “virtual servers” for developing and testing themes and plugins. Each of these servers is created on your computer and can be accessed from your browser using a made-up name, i.e. www.testsite.dev.

Earlier this week I looked at MAMP, a similar server software tool that also provides the necessary server setup needed to run WordPress on a computer rather than online.

The cool thing about DesktopServer is that it’s even easier to setup than WAMP and you don’t have to manually edit any files, like wp-config.php or .htaccess.

For this tutorial, we’re going to set up the limited version of DesktopServer, which provides a maximum of three virtual servers.

Installing DesktopServer

Head to the ServerPress.com website and download DesktopServer. There is also a pro version of the software, DesktopServer Premium, but today we’re going to stick with the free, limited version.

ServerPress
DesktopServer is a ServerPress product.

The Desktop Server file is 177MB. Once downloaded, install DesktopServer like you would any other software on OS X.

Once installed, launch DesktopServer and you will be prompted to complete set up.

DesktopServer setup
Follow the prompts to install DesktopServer.

In the next window, accept the terms and conditions. You’ll then be asked to choose a product. Select “New DesktopServer Limited Installation.”

DesktopServer product
In this tutorial we’ll set up the limited version of DesktopServer.

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DesktopServer will then carry on installing and ask you to close the installer.

DesktopServer installation
All done! Now for configuration…

The software will then prompt you to restart so it can run as an admin and create, modify, start and stop web service. Ensure “Yes” is selected and click “Next.”

DesktopServer restart
Restart DesktopServer to continue setup.

You’ll then be prompted to start running Apache and MySQL services in order to run WordPress. Keep “Yes” selected and click “Next.”

DesktopServer Apache and MySQL
You will need to run Apache and MySQL for WordPress to work.

Now that DesktopServer is up and running, it will ask you whether you want to create a new developer website. Choose option three and click “Next.”

DesktopServer new dev site
Set up a new development site.

Under Site Name, enter a fictitious name for your site. It can be anything you want. I called mine “testsite” since I’ll be using this installation as a test site.

In the Blueprint, select the latest version of WordPress. If it isn’t available, you can manually add it to the list. To do this, download the latest version of WordPress and drop it into the folder at Applications/XAMPP/blueprints on your Mac. The latest version of WordPress should now appear in your list.

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Click “Create” to continue creating a new site.

DesktopServer create site
Name your development site and WordPress will be automatically installed. Too easy!

DesktopServer will create a new installation of WordPress. Once complete, you will be prompted to visit the setup page on your newly created site.

DesktopServer WordPress
Your new test site is set up and almost ready to go!

The final step is to complete the WordPress famous five minute install. Fill in your details and click “Install WordPress.”

WordPress install
The WordPress famous five minute install.

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Your new WordPress install will be available at your fake web address. In my case, I can access my site at www.testsite.dev

DesktopServer test site
Your test site is ready for testing!

What about WordPress Multisite?

Unfortunately, the limited version of DesktopServer doesn’t support Multisite. However, the premium version does. It costs $99 a year and includes access to support, updates and extra features.

Summing Up

DesktopServer is a fantastic solution if you want to set up a local server environment. It’s quick and easy to install and the free limited version is more than enough if you manage fewer than three sites at any time.

If you need to use Multisite or you need more than three virtual development sites, you may consider upgrading to DesktopServer Premium.

I’m not forgetting the Windows users! Later this week I’ll walk through how to set up WAMP on Windows.

Do you use DesktopServer? Isn’t it awesome? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below.

Comments (19)

  1. Went to a presentation from these guys at WordCamp Phoenix. Use this almost everyday. Running local has been a game changer for me…DesktopServer provides a solution with a very low barrier to entry. Great write up @Rae.

    • Hi Aaron,

      The whole point with creating our software is to streamline your workflow from creating your site to deploying it. I’m happy to know that you have already created a workflow that works for you. That’s the most important thing.

      There are a few things that the Premium version does beyond multisite, though. As Raelene mentioned, you are also able to manage unlimited sites. Also, though, is the ability to do a direct deploy which is a huge time saver. Once you have finished creating your local site, you can directly export it from your local work environment to the live site with just a couple of clicks. And, should you get stuck with the deployment, Premium subscribers get free assisted deployment services so you’re sure to get the site up and running with as little brain damage as possible.

      Also, the blueprints feature goes beyond throwing in another version of WordPress. It actually allows you to create a pre-configured install with any plugins, themes/frameworks that you like and get a site up and running out of the box based on that blueprint in just a few clicks, and that’s included in both the Premium and Free (limited) versions.

      Once again, though, MAMP and WAMP are fantastic products on their own, as well and all that really matters is that your system works for you.

  2. Raelene,

    Thanks for the write-up! Without articles and tutorials such as yours, DesktopServer would not be the success that it is, so we REALLY appreciate the hard work you put into producing posts like this.

    Also, if you’d like a complete tutorial/demo on either the Limited version or the Premium version, we’d be happy to connect with you and show you some things!

    Have a great day and thanks again!

    • Hi Marc,

      Thanks for jumping into the comments and helping out some of our readers! DesktopServer is a great product and has certainly improved my workflow.

      I’d love to take you up on a tutorial/demo. I’ll shoot you an email.

  3. Hi Raelene, you mention you’ll be doing something on WAMP for Windows users but I checked the site and this service also has a Windows version. Is there a reason why you are following up with WAMP? Also, having created a test environment is there an easy way to migrate my live site to it to test upgrades? Thanks for a great read.

    • Hi Paul,

      I realize I’m not Raelene answering this but thought I’d take a stab at it.

      There is a way that you can bring your live site down for testing in a local environment. DesktopServer has the ability to read either BackupBuddy or Duplicator (along with many other WordPress backup plugins) files and import them locally.

      With the premium version, all you have to do is run the import feature and then import the archive that you download from the live site. Importing allows you to do some custom things like customize your database and file scrubbing among other things.

      With the Limited version, you can take the archive and put it in your \blueprints folder and it will appear as a blueprint in the dropdown upon restart of DesktopServer. Once in a while you might run into a complication doing it this way because of how the above mentioned plugins store the database, but in general it works fine.

      Hope that helps!

      • Thank you Marc, that’s really helpful. I did try to achieve the same thing by setting up a non-indexed sub-domain as a test environment but bringing my live site across didn’t work properly – there was a problem with my theme so I gave up. I might give this a try locally instead.

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m interested in exploring the popular options available for setting up a localhost and WAMP was the first that came to mind for Windows. There is also a DesktopServer version for Windows, which I would recommend. I’ll post windows options for server environments in the coming days.

  4. I seriously love Desktop Server. I use it daily and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone that builds websites with WordPress. There’s no reason not to use it, especially since there is a free version. However, I use the Premium version so I can have unlimited sites, and it’s worth every penny. The title of this article states it takes 5 minutes to install WordPress locally. I’d say that’s how long it will take you the first time. It takes me under a minute typically. If you pair Desktop Server with the plugin “WP Migrate DB Pro”, it makes for the perfect sandbox environment to pull down your live site, test locally and do updates, then push your site live.

  5. I can only recommend Desktopserver. I’m on an older version of the premium server and have used it since 2012, without ever upgrading. it works like a charm and never lets me down.
    There is one catch, it’s so easy to make a new local installation, that sometimes I make a mess of my websites folder.
    One of the features I like the most, is the blueprint folder, I keep different language versions of WordPress in here, and with a click of button I can change the version to be installed.
    My editor and Desktopserver are my most important tools.

  6. I’ve used DesktopServer since beta days, and would not develop without it. I love the ability to create different Blueprints locally and then the ability to deploy to a remote site is awesome. Deployed one recently, some 140 pages, to GoDaddy – yeah, I know – and it went seamlessly. Cannot recommend this product highly enough!

  7. Thanks for two very interesting articles Raelene I tried out both products and was impressed, but have to admit neither product stands close to wpsimulator alright it’s a paid product but the tutorials alone are worth the price and it works on Mac and windows. I use both and what I really like it’s the ability to use either on the same project. And the easy way to upload your final project to the Internet.

  8. I use DesktopServer and I really like it for developing my WP sites locally before uploading them to my live host.

    The only thing I am struggling with at the moment is taking a copy of the live site to do further development on it. I am trying to find the most convenient way of backing up my live site and database content for importing into DesktopServer to create my .dev site.

    The backup solutions I use are UpdraftPlus and for multi site stuff the Cloner and Snapshot from WPMU DEV.

    None of them seem to create the simple .zip file I need of my live site so I can just import it into DesktopServer to create the .dev site.

    Is anyone using something to do this? Please feel free to share your tips and experiences :)

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