Install WordPress Using WP-CLI on Ubuntu 18.04

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WordPress is well-known for its rich content management feature set, ease of use, and quick installation time. The WordPress command line interface (WP-CLI) provides useful commands and utilities to install, configure, and manage a WordPress site. This guide walks you through some common tasks you can complete using the WP-CLI.

In this Guide:

This tutorial covers how to complete the following tasks:


Before moving ahead, make sure you have completed the following steps.

  1. If you have not already done so, create a Linode account and Compute Instance. See our Getting Started with Linode and Creating a Compute Instance guides.

  2. Follow our Setting Up and Securing a Compute Instance guide to update your system. You may also wish to set the timezone, configure your hostname, create a limited user account, and harden SSH access.

    This guide is written for a non-root user. Commands that require elevated privileges are prefixed with sudo. If you’re not familiar with the sudo command, you can check our Users and Groups guide.
  3. If you’d like to use your own Domain Name to host your WordPress installation, ensure that your domain name is pre-configured to point to your Linode’s IP address.

  4. Follow the Installation, Apache Configuration, and PHP Configuration sections of the How to Install a LAMP Stack on Ubuntu 18.04 guide. Skip all other sections. This guide will cover the steps needed to configure your Apache Virtual Hosts File.

Install WP-CLI

  1. WP-CLI is available as a PHP Archive file (.phar). You can download it using either wget or curl commands:

    curl -O


  2. You need to make this .phar file executable and move it to /usr/local/bin so that it can be run directly:

    chmod +x wp-cli.phar
    sudo mv wp-cli.phar /usr/local/bin/wp
  3. Check if it is installed properly:

    wp --info

    You should see a similar output like that displayed below, which means you can proceed:

    OS:	Linux 4.15.0-50-generic #54-Ubuntu SMP Mon May 6 18:46:08 UTC 2019 x86_64
    Shell:	/bin/bash
    PHP binary:	/usr/bin/php7.2
    PHP version:	7.2.24-0ubuntu0.18.04.2
    php.ini used:	/etc/php/7.2/cli/php.ini
    WP-CLI root dir:	phar://wp-cli.phar/vendor/wp-cli/wp-cli
    WP-CLI vendor dir:	phar://wp-cli.phar/vendor
    WP_CLI phar path:	/home/lsalazar
    WP-CLI packages dir:
    WP-CLI global config:
    WP-CLI project config:
    WP-CLI version:	2.4.0

    You can use the above three steps for upgrading WP-CLI as well.

Activate Bash Completion

The bash completion feature of WP-CLI allows you to see all its available commands on the fly when pressing Tab. WP-CLI supports tab completion for Bash and Zsh.

  1. Download the bash script in your home directory:

    cd ~
  2. Edit your shell’s configuration file so that wp-completion is loaded by the shell every time you open a new shell session:


    • Open the .bashrc file and add the following line to the bottom of the file:

      File: ~/.bashrc
      source /home/$USER/wp-completion.bash
    • Run the following command to reload the bash profile:

        source ~/.bashrc


    • Open the .zshrcfile and add the following line to the bottom of the file:

      File: ~/.zshrc
      autoload bashcompinit
      source /home/$USER/wp-completion.bash
    • Run the following command to reload the Zsh profile:

        source ~/.zshrc
  3. Shell completion is now enabled. To test it, type wp theme (include the trailing space) Without Pressing Enter, and press Tab twice. You will see the list of available commands with wp theme again on the prompt.

Basics of WP-CLI

In this section, you will learn some basics of how WP-CLI works. This will help you when using the tool in the upcoming sections of the guide.

  • So far, we have seen WP-CLI accessed through the main command, wp. You can follow the main command with nested subcommands. For example, WP-CLI includes a command to download WordPress:

    Do not issue the example wp command. You will install WordPress in the Download and Configure WordPress section of the guide.
      wp core download

    In the example, wp is the main command while core and download are its nested subcommands. Nesting subcommands can extend one or two levels. Î

  • WP-CLI also comes with a detailed help section, which displays all the commands you might need. To access help:

      wp help

    The output should resemble:

    Manage WordPress through the command-line.
    wp <command>
    cache               Manage the object cache.
    cap                 Manage user capabilities.
    cli                 Get information about WP-CLI itself.
    comment             Manage comments.
    core                Download, install, update and otherwise manage WordPress proper.
    cron                Manage WP-Cron events and schedules.
    db                  Perform basic database operations.
    eval                Execute arbitrary PHP code after loading WordPress.
    eval-file           Load and execute a PHP file after loading WordPress.
    • : is a prompt that, with subcommands, can help you navigate through this help menu.
    • Up and down arrow keys will let you scroll through the entire help command list.
    • Typing q will exit the help menu.
    • For additional details on how to further navigate through the complete help section, you can always type h at the above prompt.
    • You can use the enabled bash completion to demonstrate WP-CLI’s readily available command list. Simply type wp and press tab twice. You will see the list of available commands. Now, type wp core and press tab twice. You will see a list of commands that can be used with core. This double tabbing after a command can be repeated for any primary or subcommand.

Install WordPress

In this section, you will complete the prerequisite configuration steps needed to install WordPress. Then, you will install WordPress using the WP-CLI.

Prepare the WordPress Database

  1. Log in to the MySQL command line as the database’s root user:

    sudo mysql -u root

    If you set up a password for MySQL, you would log in with the -p flag as well:

    sudo mysql -u root -p
  2. Create the WordPress database:

    CREATE DATABASE wordpress;
  3. Create a database user and grant them privileges for the newly created wordpress database, replacing wpuser and password with the username and password you wish to use:

    CREATE USER 'wpuser' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';
    GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON wordpress.* TO 'wpuser';
  4. Type quit to exit the MySQL command line.

Download and Configure WordPress

  1. Create your WordPress site’s document root. Replace with your site’s name:

     sudo mkdir -p /var/www/html/
  2. Change the ownership of the public_html directory. Apache comes with its own www-data user and group. As a recommended practice, you should change the ownership of your installation directory to www-data:

     sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/
  3. Add www-data to your limited user account’s group and give the group write permissions to your home directory. In the next step, when you install WordPress, this will allow WP-CLI to create the .wp-cli/cache/ directory in your home directory. Replace group with your limited user account’s group name:

     sudo adduser www-data group
     sudo chmod 775 $HOME
  4. Download the WordPress files. Here, you need to use the prefix sudo -u www-data for running WP-CLI commands under www-data group. You will need to use this every time you run a command which requires WP-CLI to write to the directory, like installing or upgrading:

    cd /var/www/html/
    sudo -u www-data wp core download
  5. Create a wp-config.php file. Replace wpuser and password with your WordPress database user and password. dbhost and dbprefix are entirely optional and can be omitted unless you need to change their default values:

    sudo -u www-data wp core config --dbname='wordpress' --dbuser='wpuser' --dbpass='password' --dbhost='localhost' --dbprefix='wp_'
  6. Run the installation. Replace adminuser with the username you’d like to login to WordPress, and replace password with a unique password. Replace with your domain, or replace it with your IP address if you haven’t set up a domain yet:

    sudo -u www-data wp core install --url='' --title='Blog Title' --admin_user='adminuser' --admin_password='password' --admin_email=''

Configure Apache Virtual Hosts File

You will need to configure Apache so that you can access your WordPress site from a browser.

  1. Disable the default Apache virtual host file.

     sudo a2dissite *default
  2. Create directories for your WordPress site’s Apache error and access logs:

     sudo mkdir /var/log/apache2/
  3. Create your WordPress site’s Apache error and access log files:

     sudo touch /var/log/apache2/
     sudo touch /var/log/apache2/
  4. Navigate to your /var/www/html/ directory if you are not already there:

     cd /var/www/html/
  5. Create the virtual host file for your website. Replace the in with your domain name:

     sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/
  6. Create a configuration for your virtual host. Copy the basic settings in the example below and paste them into the virtual host file you just created. Replace all instances of with your domain name:

    File: /etc/apache2/sites-available/
    <Directory /var/www/html/>
        Require all granted
    <VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
        DocumentRoot /var/www/html/
        ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/
        CustomLog /var/log/apache2/ combined
        <files xmlrpc.php>
          order allow,deny
          deny from all
  7. Save the changes to the virtual host configuration file by pressing CTRL+X and then pressing Y. Press ENTER to confirm.

  8. Enable your new website, replacing with your domain name:

    sudo a2ensite

    This creates a symbolic link to your file in the appropriate directory for active virtual hosts.

  9. Reload to apply your new configuration:

    sudo systemctl reload apache2
    For more details on configuring your Apache virtual hosts file, see Apache’s official documentation.
  10. Visit (or http://<Linode IP address>/wp-admin if you haven’t set up a domain) and verify that you can log in with the WordPress user you created in the Download and Configure WordPress section of the guide.

Common Commands

Install Plugins

This section covers common WP-CLI commands related to installing and updating WordPress plugins. As an example, this section will use the Yoast SEO plugin.

To install a plugin, your first step will be to find the plugin slug. In this case, the slug is the last part of a permalink URL which describes the plugin. If a plugin is available at, then plugin-dir is the slug of the plugin. You install the plugin under the same directory on your WordPress site at Since this slug is unique to every plugin, you can search for the slug of any plugin using WP-CLI and then install it.

  1. Navigate to your WordPress site’s root directory. Replace with your own site’s root directory.

     cd /var/www/html/
  2. Search for the plugin you would like to install:

     wp plugin search yoast

    You will get an output similar to this.

    Success: Showing 10 of 574 plugins.
    | name                                              | slug                               | rating |
    | Yoast SEO                                         | wordpress-seo                      | 98     |
    | Yoast SEO: Search Index Purge                     | yoast-seo-search-index-purge       | 68     |
    | ACF Content Analysis for Yoast SEO                | acf-content-analysis-for-yoast-seo | 90     |
    | Glue for Yoast SEO &amp; AMP                      | glue-for-yoast-seo-amp             | 88     |
    | Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights | google-analytics-for-wordpress     | 78     |
    | Import Settings into WordPress SEO by Yoast       | yoast-seo-settings-xml-csv-import  | 100    |
    | Remove Yoast SEO Comments                         | remove-yoast-seo-comments          | 92     |
    | Surbma &#8211; Yoast SEO Breadcrumb Shortcode     | surbma-yoast-breadcrumb-shortcode  | 84     |
    | LiteSpeed Cache                                   | litespeed-cache                    | 98     |
    | WPGlobus &#8211; Multilingual Everything!         | wpglobus                           | 92     |

    You can see more than 10 plugins per page by modifying the command:

     wp plugin search yoast --per-page=20
  3. Now that you know the slug of the plugin you want to install (wordpress-seo), copy it to your command and activate it:

     sudo -u www-data wp plugin install wordpress-seo
     sudo -u www-data wp plugin activate wordpress-seo

Update Plugins

To update any plugin on your WordPress site:

  1. Navigate to your WordPress site’s root directory. Replace with your own site’s root directory.

     cd /var/www/html/
  2. Issue the plugin update command followed by the name of the plugin:

     sudo -u www-data wp plugin update wordpress-seo

    Or, to update all plugins issue the following command:

     sudo -u www-data wp plugin update --all
  3. To list all the installed plugins on your WordPress site, you can use the following command:

     wp plugin list

Uninstall Plugins

To uninstall a WordPress plugin:

  1. Navigate to your WordPress site’s root directory. Replace with your own site’s root directory.

     cd /var/www/html/
  2. Deactivate and uninstall the plugin:

     sudo -u www-data wp plugin deactivate wordpress-seo
     sudo -u www-data wp plugin uninstall wordpress-seo

Install Themes

The procedure for installing and activating a theme is nearly identical to that of a plugin. Just swap plugin for theme in all of the commands.

  1. Navigate to your WordPress site’s root directory. Replace with your own site’s root directory.

     cd /var/www/html/
  2. Search for the theme you’d like to install. Replace twentyfourteen with the theme you’d like to install.

     wp theme search twentyfourteen
  3. Install and activate the theme:

     sudo -u www-data wp theme install twentyfourteen
     sudo -u www-data wp theme activate twentyfourteen

Update Themes

  1. Navigate to your WordPress site’s root directory. Replace with your own site’s root directory.

     cd /var/www/html/
  2. To list all the themes in a tabular form issue the example command. You can use this command to find the theme you would like to update.

     wp theme list
  3. Update your theme:

     sudo -u www-data wp theme update twentyfourteen

    To update all themes installed on your WordPress site, issue the following command:

     sudo -u www-data wp theme update --all

Uninstall Themes

  1. Navigate to your WordPress site’s root directory. Replace with your own site’s root directory.

     cd /var/www/html/
  2. To uninstall a theme, activate a different theme first:

     sudo -u www-data wp theme activate twentytwenty
  3. Once you’ve activated another theme, you can safely uninstall the previously active theme:

     sudo -u www-data wp theme uninstall twentyfourteen

Update WordPress

To update your WordPress site:

For more details on best practices when updating your WordPress site, see WordPress’ official documentation.
  1. Navigate to your WordPress site’s root directory. Replace with your own site’s root directory.

     cd /var/www/html/
  2. Update all your site’s files first:

     sudo -u www-data wp core update
  3. Update your site’s database:

     sudo -u www-data wp core update-db

Next Steps

You can now further configure WP-CLI. These commands are just the tip of the iceberg about how you can manage WordPress from the command line. Write or edit posts, perform database queries, manage user capabilities, manage cron events, import or export content, manage attachments, and even manage multi-site installations through a few, quick and practical keystrokes. You have refined WordPress management, and conserved valuable time.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

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