How to Install and Setup a WordPress Multisite Network

WordPress is one of the most popular CMS systems today, but if you’ve ever had to update WordPress multisite for your business, you know how much of a pain it can be to remember all those passwords and keep it all maintained. But did you know that WordPress has a way to administer multiple sites from a single dashboard? We’ll talk about what you need to do to set up a WordPress multisite network and how it can help your business.

What is a WordPress Multisite Network?

WP Multisite networks let multiple WordPress sites share the same base installation of WordPress. All of the sites can share the same themes and plugins. Each site in the network will have its own space in the same database and their own media folders.

Multisite networks are useful in three general cases:

  1. Your business has a network of sites, such as separate sites for different business locations or subsections of your larger business.
  2. You are administering a large number of client sites that run off of your server.
  3. You are allowing customers to create their own sites using your network, something which is easily done using a multisite network.

Why use it?

A multisite network lets you administer all of the sites on the network from a single dashboard while still allowing other admins to manage individual sites on the network. If you want to make a change to a theme or plugin configuration, you can cascade the change down through all the sites. Updating is also a snap because there is only one base installation of WordPress.

However, there are some disadvantages when you use a multisite network. Obviously, if you only have a single site then it doesn’t make sense to enable multisite on your installation. But here are some other things to consider:

  • If your main site goes down, all of the sub-sites will go down with it.
  • If your super-admin account gets hacked, all of the other sites become vulnerable.
  • Not all plugins work well with a multisite network.
  • If one of your sites needs its own database for security, that site won’t work in a multisite installation.
  • If a site requires its own IP address, it won’t work with multisite.

Your hosting provider may also need to enable certain options on your account and you will need access to your hosting directory to edit some files. Some of these faults can be reduced with good network security practices.

Choosing a structure

Before you enable a multisite, you need to choose a domain structure. There are two types. Say you have a website called Here are what the two types look like:

  • Subdomains:,,
  • Subdirectories:,,

There are plugins that will allow you to reroute either of these options into unique domain names, but you’ll need to choose one or the other for administrative purposes. If you are using an existing site, chances are you will be forced to use the subdomains option in order to prevent any conflicts with the current site. However, your hosting provider may need to set up a special wildcard subdomain in order to make subdomain redirection work. It may even forbid you from making subdomains. See this article from for more technical information about the differences.

Enabling Multisite in WordPress

Before you can set up a multisite network in WordPress the option needs to be enabled. FTP or use your hosting provider’s method to gain access to where your WordPress installation is located. Find the file wp-config.php and open it.

At the top of the file, Add the following lines:

/* Multisite */
  define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );

The first line is a comment. The second is the code that enables the multisite options. Save the file, then go into the dashboard of your WordPress install. Refresh if you’re already in there. When you hover over Tools, you should see a new option called Network Setup. If you can see it, you’ve enabled the ability for multisite.

Activating the Multisite Option

Before you go into the options though, there’s an important step that must be done. You must deactivate all plugins prior to activating multisite on your installation. Going to Plugins - Installed Plugins will let you see what’s active and allow you to disable it.

Once all plugins are disabled, go into Tools - Network Setup. The most important choice to make on the new screen is selecting subdomains or subdirectories for your network. There may also be additional warnings that you may need to heed, such as enabling a wildcard subdomain. Doublecheck the domain, title, and email address for the network, then click the install button.

You’ll then be given two pieces of code. One piece goes into wp-config.php. The other goes into your .htaccess file. .htaccess is a hidden file in your hosting directory, so you will need to enable viewing hidden files to find it. Replace any existing WordPress code in .htaccess with your multisite code. In some cases, you may not have a .htaccess file. If not, create one with that name and paste in the code.

Save both files, then logout and log back into your WordPress dashboard. You should see the multisite dashboard. You’ll know it by the My Sites and Network Admin entries in the left-hand column. My Sites is a listing of all the sites on the network and allows you to administrate them directly. The rest of this article will focus on the Network Admin screen.


This controls the settings on your multisite network. The most important thing for a new install is the registration settings, which lets you determine who can add new users and sites to your network. You’ll definitely need to set this the way you want before you go live with your site. The rest of the options are pretty self-explanatory. For instance, you can define some basic settings for all new sites in this menu, which can then be changed within the individual sites.

WordPress Multisite

Adding Sites

From the Network Admin screen, go to Sites - Add New. In the new screen, put in the address of the new site, the name of the site, and the email of whoever the admin will be. That’s it! You can find the new site either by hovering over My Sites or going to Sites - All Sites from the Network Admin menu, depending on whether you have used the same email as your current login or not.

Adding Users

The Users menu is much like the standard Users menu but with one difference. You’ll be able to assign which users have access to which sites. Otherwise, it’s just like a normal WordPress install.

Adding Themes and Plugins

Adding a theme to your network allows all of the sites to have access to it. However, it doesn’t force sub-sites to use a particular theme. The admins for those sites can deactivate it and add a new one. Like a standard install, you can use the editor to tweak the theme how you like.

Plugins work in a similar way, but there is a difference. In the Network Settings screen, there is an option whether or not to allow site administrators access to the plugin menu for their sites. This is a great security feature and it is enabled by default. This lets the super-administrator control the configuration and installation of plugins across the network.

From the plugins screen, you can enable or disable a plugin network-wide, but if you wish to enable a plugin on a single site, you’ll need to use the super-admins account to add and configure it directly on that site, unless you choose to enable the option to allow standard administrators access to the plugin menu.

Note that not all plugins are designed to work across a network of sites. This plugin menu should tell you whether or not the plugin will work in this way. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to either find a new plugin or manually install the plugin on each site if it’s vital.

wordpress plugins


Updating your sites is a breeze with multisite networks. Just go to the update screen in Network Admin and follow the instructions. It’s quite similar to updating a standard WordPress installation.

For more information about multisite installations and troubleshooting questions, the first place to visit is the WordPress Codex. If you have trouble with these steps, this is the first place to look for next steps. It will also be updated when WordPress changes. The second place to look is with your hosting provider. There are certain configurations that will prevent a multisite installation from working correctly. They should be able to help you get your account configured so you can use this powerful WordPress feature.

Not every business will need the power of a WordPress multisite install, but if you are finding yourself juggling a bunch of sites and spending too much time doing site administration and not enough time with your business, this could be a way to cut down your workload.

Related Posts

How to Create a Multisite?

The Complete Guide To Creating A WordPress Multisite Installation

20 Free WordPress Widgets You’ll Love to Have on Your Website

Top 7 Security WordPress Plugins to Turn Your Website into a Fortress

P.S. Just to make sure you get WordPress Templates in the right place.

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Posting contributed articles about the major web design highlights and novelties. Come across a handful of useful tutorials and guides shared by experts in the web design and online marketing fields.

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