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Ultimate Guide To Install and Setup WordPress Multisite Network

WordPress multisite was introduced in WordPress 3.0. This very useful WordPress feature lets you create and manage more than one WordPress sites from a single dashboard.

You might have noticed the ‘multisite’ term in various places, but wasn’t sure what it exactly means. If that is the case, you have come to the right place. In today’s post, I will provide a complete guide to installing, activating and using WordPress multisite. After going through this post, you will have a clear idea about multisite, when and how to use it. Let’s get started.

Who Needs Multisite?

Because you are managing multiple WordPress sites, it does not mean you need multisite. WordPress multisite is especially useful for business, news or magazine sites with various departments, sections, and categories. By using the multisite feature, you can quickly create separate WordPress installations for each of them.

Educational institutions are another big field for using WordPress multisite. By using the multisite feature, it is possible to allow the students, faculty or other stuff to have their individual blogs.

Another probable use of multisite could be a network where people can register and create their blogs, either free or premium.

Precautions Before Using Multisite

You can install multisite in your existing WordPress installation. However, if you have never used multisite before, it would be wise to activate multisite in a test site or your localhost (which is a WordPress installation on your computer). By doing this, you will get a solid understanding of how to activate and use WordPress multisite.

If you are planning to enable multisite in your live WordPress website, make sure that you have a full backup of your website files and database. This will allow you to revert to the last working state if anything goes wrong.

Activating Multisite

The first step of activating multisite is to add a new line to your wp-config.php file. You can access the file by using a FTP client or your web host’s control panel.

Open up the file and search for the line that says: /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */

Now add following lines just above it:

/* Multisite */
define( ‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true );

Installing-Multisite-1

Once you have saved the wp-config.php file, get back to your website dashboard. Hover over the ‘Tools’ menu, and you will notice a new sub-menu titled ‘Network Setup’.

Installing-Multisite-2

Configuring Your Multisite

Go to Tools -> Network Setup. You will be taken to a page similar to the following –

Installing-Multisite-3

On this page, you will have two options to customize – Network Title and Network Admin Email.

Provide the title, email and click ‘Install’. This will start the actual installation process. After a few seconds, you will be taken to a page like the following –

Installing-Multisite-4

At this point, you will be required to add a few lines of code into your wp-config.php and .htaccess files .Get the files by using the FTP client of your web host’s control panel.

For the wp-config.php file, make sure that you are adding the code before the “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */” line.

For the .htaccess file, delete the lines between the “# BEGIN WordPress” and “# END WordPress” lines. And paste the lines you are provided with for the file. Make sure that you are adding the code correctly.

After updating the wp-config.php and .htaccess files, reload your website dashboard. You will be asked to log in again.

Once you log in, you will be taken to your regular dashboard, which will have a new top menu titled ‘My Sites‘.

Installing-Multisite-5

The Multisite Settings

If you hover over the ‘Settings’ menu of your network dashboard, you will find out two new sub-menus – Network Settings and Network Setup.

The Network Setup sub-menu will display the codes you added to the wp-config.php and .htaccess files during activating multisite. This is just a reference page; you will not find any actual option on this page.

All the settings options are located on the Network Settings page. If you go to Settings -> Network Settings from your network dashboard, you will be taken to a page like the following –

Installing-Multisite-6

As you can see, the settings page is divided into several sections. Let’s go through them one by one.

Operational Settings

There are only two options in this section – Network Title and Network Admin Email. You have already provided this information while installing multisite. If you want to change any of them, you can do that here.

Registration Settings

As the title suggests, this section hosts all the settings related to registration. You can allow new user registration, new site registration, both of them or none of them. It is possible to send an email notification to the network admin once a site or user has been created.

In the ‘Banned Names‘ field, WordPress lists some names that could not be used as the site names. You can add your names to this list too.

The last two options of the section will allow you to limit site registration to a certain domain only and to ban specific domains.

New Site Settings

Installing-Multisite-7

In this section, you can customize the options for the new sites. The first two fields let you customize the welcome email and the welcome user email respectively.

Then, you will find separate options to create a custom first post, page, comment, the comment author and comment URL.

Upload Settings

The ‘Site upload space’ option lets you limit the total uploaded file size for each location. The ‘Upload file types’ allows you to specify which file types are allowed for uploading. By using the last option, you can customize the maximum upload file size.

Menu Settings

There is the only option in this section. Titled ‘Enable administration menus‘, this option lets you choose whether the site admins will have access to the plugins page.

After you have made the necessary changes, click ‘Save Changes’.

The Network Dashboard

WordPress multisite will create a dedicated network dashboard. To access that page, go to this URL – www.yoursite.com/wp-admin/network/

Obviously, you need to replace the ‘yoursite’ part with your domain. The network dashboard will look like the following –

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The network dashboard will show you the number of users and sites in your network. You will also find links to create a new site and user right from that page. Below, there are two separate search boxes for finding out existing users and sites.

You can view a list of the sites, users, themes and plugins of your network by going to the Network Admin menu from the top navigation bar. While the plugin and users page looks almost like their regular counterparts, the themes page will have a radical design change.

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As you can see, the installed themes are displayed as a list. You can enable any theme by hovering over the theme and clicking the ‘Network Enable‘ link.

Similarly, you can disable the active theme by clicking the ‘Network Disable’ link. The same rules apply for the plugins too. New WordPress themes and plugins could be installed by following the regular steps.

Adding a New Site

There are two ways to create a new site. They are –

  1. Creating a new site from the network dashboard and
  2. Creating a new site from the top menu.

For the first method, go to your network dashboard. Click the ‘Create a New Site‘ link.

For the second method, go to My Sites -> Network Admin -> Sites from the top menu. This will take you to the ‘Sites’ page. From the page, click the ‘Add New’ button.

Both of these methods will take you to a page like the following –

Installing-Multisite-10

Provide the site address, title and Admin email in their respective fields. Then, click ‘Add Site’. This will create the site for you.

To view a list of all the sites, go to My Sites -> Network Admin -> Sites.

Or, if you are already in the network dashboard, you can only go to Sites -> All Sites.

Hovering over any site will reveal the available options – Edit, Dashboard, Deactivate, Archive, Spam, Delete, and Visit.

And that is how you use WordPress multisite. If you are testing the multisite on a demo site, feel free to create new sites and try installing and activating new themes, plugins.

Read Next: Essential Settings After Installing WordPress

Final Words

While WordPress is already a powerful platform, features like multisite make it even more dynamic and future-proof. The handy multisite lets you install WordPress only once and then create new sites only by clicking on a link.

Activating and using multisite is not that difficult. If you have read the tutorial thoroughly, you should have a clear idea of installing and using WordPress multisite.

As you have noticed, the user interface is the same in both the regular and multisite version of WordPress. The only difference is the latter comes with more options for you to control your sites. However, if you are still confused about any multisite feature, feel free to use the comment form below. I will be glad to make things clear for you.

Ultimate Guide To Install and Setup WordPress Multisite Network
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9 Comments

  1. Sam Anthony

    Nice guide. Multisite can be a pain to set up and a guide like this will come in handy for a lot of people out there.

    • WPDean

      Thanks for your feedback Sam.
      Feel free to reach us in case of any help with multisite setup.

  2. Steve

    Successfully installed WordPress multisite. Followed every step and it is now up. Thank you.

  3. Hiren Chabhadiya

    Very Superb your website and explain method , this site very usefull .
    Thank for your creative ideas and knowledge.

  4. Tiago

    How can i setup sub-domain or sub-directory?

    I want sub-directory but it come with sub-domain instead.
    Where do I setup that?

    Thanks

  5. Carole

    Nice and clear instructions – thanks so much! I managed to follow perfectly right up to the themes part.

    I easily network enable themes, but when I navigate to the new site, to activate one of the network activated themes – none of them appear on the list (only two old wordpress themes appear).

    Then, I get a internal server error when I attempt to go to the new site’s dashboard. Any advice?

  6. Alejandro

    How about different domains? It says on other tutorials to use Wp Mu mapping plugin, but it outdated since 2013.

    Is there a newer way to achieve this?

    thanks

  7. fred

    Hi just tried to set up multisite but I’m using port 1234 as a workaround the problem of port 80 so I cant get past 1st base, can you suggest anything.

    I’ve also tried to load wordpress twice in xampp under different names to create separate sites but it just kept coming up as wordpress already exists. Have you done a tutorial on doing it this way?

  8. Kenny Toenges

    You are given the choice between sub-domains and sub-directories, except when existing settings restrict your choice. You must choose one or the other. You can reconfigure your network to use the other choice after installation, despite the advice on the screen, but reconfiguring it might not be easy.

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