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Use search-replace in WP-CLI

The WP-CLI search-replace command can be used to replace strings in a selection of database tables. This is useful for updating post content and options, especially when changing URLs for sites on a WordPress multisite.

Note

There is a known bug in WP-CLI that makes certain database commands not work as expected. This guide clarifies the workarounds needed in different environments.

--dry-run

Always run a search-replace command first with the --dry-run option. This will output the potential results of the command without actually running it, making it possible verify the results prior to making changes in the database.

Adding the  --dry-run option to the end of the command will make it easier to remove it when running the final command.

--report-changed-only

By including the --report-changed-only option in a search-replace command, only the fields and tables affected by the command will be reported. This keeps the reporting output shorter which can be more readable in some cases. The --report-changed-only option is useful and compatible to run with the --dry-run option.

Single-site install, entire site

Add --all-tables or --all-tables-with-prefix to a command:

wp search-replace oldstring newstring --all-tables --dry-run 

The difference between flags

  • --all-tables-with-prefix: Enable replacement on any tables that match the table prefix (even if not registered on $wpdb).
  • --all-tables: Enable replacement on all tables in the database, regardless of the prefix or --url flag. This overrides --network--url and --all-tables-with-prefix.

The differences between these two flags primarily apply to sites on a WordPress multisite.

The  --all-tables and --all-tables-with-prefix flags will be ignored if a table is specified in the command (e.g., wp_comments, wp_commentmeta).

Single-install and targeting specific table(s)

Same as above, but with table name(s):

wp search-replace oldstring newstring wp_comments --all-tables --dry-run
wp search-replace oldstring newstring wp_comments wp_commentmeta --all-tables --dry-run

Multisite, all sites

wp search-replace oldstring newstring --all-tables --dry-run

Multisite, only root site (ID 1)

This one is a bit trickier since we need to use --all-tables or --all-tables-with-prefix, and site ID 1 tables are not prefixed with wp_1_. We can’t target the main site very easily and instead, have to manually specify the tables to hit.

Just ID 1 tables:

wp search-replace oldstring newstring wp_a8c_cron_control_jobs wp_commentmeta wp_comments wp_links wp_options wp_postmeta wp_posts wp_term_taxonomy wp_termmeta wp_terms --all-tables --dry-run

Also the network tables (be sure to pick and choose as/if needed):

wp search-replace oldstring newstring wp_a8c_cron_control_jobs wp_blog_versions wp_blogmeta wp_blogs wp_commentmeta wp_comments wp_links wp_options wp_postmeta wp_posts wp_registration_log wp_signups wp_site wp_sitemeta wp_term_taxonomy wp_termmeta wp_terms wp_usermeta wp_users --all-tables --dry-run

Multisite, child site (not ID 1)

Use --all-tables-with-prefix without a --url flag:

wp search-replace oldstring newstring --all-tables-with-prefix wp_3_* --dry-run 

Note: The wildcard table selection (e.g. wp_3_*) is what is needed to restrict, if a specific site is not targeted with --url (or else the prefix ends up being just wp_ because it’s the main site and ends up being affecting the entire database).

Specify a site on a multisite with --url instead of site prefix:

wp search-replace oldstring newstring --all-tables-with-prefix --url=domain.go-vip.net --dry-run

If specifying --url, the --all-tables-with-prefix option is still required. Remember, --all-tables-with-prefix doesn’t take an argument, it determines automatically from context, which is determined by the --url.

This will run on all tables that belong to the specific sub-site. Once this is run, the last remaining instance of the oldstring from the wp_blogs table must also be replaced. See the next section for the exact command.

Multisite, specific table(s)

Updating a network table (--url will be ignored due to --all-tables):

wp search-replace oldstring newstring wp_blogs --all-tables --dry-run

If the  --all-tables-with-prefix option is included for a search-replace on a subsite (using --url), this will not work because it will be restricted to wp_<id>_* prefix.

Using a wildcard to get all comments tables:

wp search-replace oldstring newstring wp_*comments --all-tables --dry-run

The --network flag will not be necessary; just use --all-tables* instead. The --network option does not even work without the --all-tables* flag.

Beware of overlapping URLs or partial strings

Before proceeding with running the commands on multiple blogs inside the multisite, make sure there are no overlapping URLs which would cause some issues during the search replace on shared tables. For instance, if the multisite is a directory multisite, the blogs must be processed with directory in the URL first.

For example, on a multisite that has a root site (Site ID 1: oldexample.com) and a subsite (Site ID 2: oldexample.com/blog2), doing wp search-replace oldexample.com newexample.com wp_blogs will not only override the URL for blog ID 1, but also for Site ID 2, since the oldexample.com is a part of its URL.

It would be better to do the search-replace first for Site ID 2:

wp search-replace "oldexample.com/blog2" "newexample.com/blog2" --all-tables --dry-run

Then Site ID 1:

wp search-replace "oldexample.com" "newexample.com" --all-tables --dry-run

Similarly, if two directory multisite’s blogs have overlapping slugs, eg: /ham and /hamburger, the /hamburger blog must be processed first, as replacing /ham first would also replaced the /hamburger due to the overlap on the beginning of the slug.

Finally, if changing example.com to www.example.com, this string would also change existing instances of www.example.com to www.www.example.com, and emails to @www.example.com. Instead, target the search at //example.com

Elementor

If the site’s theme is Elementor, then some data may be stored in a serialized fashion that won’t be hit by WP-CLI’s search-replace command. Elementor provides its own search-replace utility that is effective for updating that data.

The utility is found in a site’s WordPress admin at: 
/wp-admin/admin.php?page=elementor-tools#tab-replace_url
For more information, review Elementor’s guide to “Search and Replace URLs using Elementor“.

Note that Elementor’s search-replace accepts only full URLs, so searching for multiple variations (http vs httpswww vs non-www, et al) is required.

Plugins that store serialized content in JSON format can also have unexpected search-replace issues.

A search-replace for the JSON encoded URLs needs to account for escape slashes ( \/ ) included in the values:

wp search-replace "https:\/\/old.site.com\/subfolder\/" "https:\/\/new.site.com\/" --all-tables --report-changed-only --dry-run

Clearing the cache

Before reviewing the results of a successful search-replace command, the cache must be flushed:

wp cache flush

On multisite, the --network or --url options may need to be included depending on where updates were made.

For example, to flush the cache for all sites on a multisite:

wp cache flush --network

To flush the cache for one specific site on a multisite:

wp cache flush --url=http://example.com

If a command produces unintended results, a database backup can be downloaded and imported to restore a database to a previous state.

Last updated: March 24, 2022