How to Manually Transfer an Account Between Servers

Last modified: July 13, 2022


When accounts are too large to move with the WHM Transfers features, you can move the accounts manually. To do this, you must log in as the root user.


This tutorial uses the following information:

  • Username — user

  • Domain —

Create a temporary directory with the mkdir command

To create a temporary directory, run the mkdir command:

mkdir /home/user-temp 

This command does not produce output, but creates the user-temp directory inside of the /home directory.

Create a compressed backup of the public_html directory

Certain settings change how cPanel & WHM creates subdomain and addon domain directories. On some servers, these directories may not exist in the cPanel account’s public_html directory. For more information, read the Domains section of our Tweak Settings documentation.

Typically, most of an account’s disk space usage occurs in its public_html directory. If you create a compressed backup of the public_html directory and omit it from the transfer process, you can reduce the size of the transfer.

To create a compressed backup, run the tar command:

tar cvzf /home/user-temp/user-backup.tar.gz /home/user/public_html 

  • This command is an archive utility that compresses the archive when you give it the appropriate arguments.

  • This results in a compressed archive of the pubic_html directory that the system creates in the /home/user-temp/user-backup.tar.gz directory.

In the above command, the tar utility receives four arguments (cvzf) and two input variables (/home/user-temp/user-backup.tar.gz and /home/user/public_html).

  • c — This argument creates a new archive. You must pass the -c argument to the tar utility. This allows the tar utility to create a new archive rather than extract an existing one.

  • v — This argument prints verbose information about the tar utility’s actions to the command line.

    This command does not require this argument, but it allows you to debug any errors.

  • z — This argument uses the gzip compression utility to compress the new archive and save disk space. For more information about the gzip utility, read the’s gzip man page documentation.

  • f — This argument causes the tar utility to read from and write to the specified file.

In this example, the tar utility writes to the user-backup.tar.gz file.

Move public_html with the mv command

To move the public_html directory to the temporary folder that you create, run the following mv command:

mv /home/user/public_html /home/user-temp/ 

Never remove the public_html directory before the transfer finishes. Maintain a copy of the public_html directory throughout the transfer process to ensure that you can restore the site if you encounter failures.

Create compressed backups of logs

Large websites usually generate large logs. To save transfer time and disk space, create a compressed backup of these logs. The /usr/local/apache/domlogs directory stores the domain’s Apache weblogs.

To create a compressed backup of the domain’s weblogs and move the weblogs from the /usr/local/apache/domlogs directory to the temporary directory, run the following two commands:

tar -cvzf /home/user-temp/user-logs.tar.gz /usr/local/apache/domlogs/
mv /usr/local/apache/domlogs/ /home/user-temp/

  • The first command creates the compressed backup of the domain’s weblogs in the /home/user-temp/user-logs.tar.gz directory.
  • The second command moves the existing weblog files to the temporary directory.

Manually transfer the compressed backups with the scp command

Several methods exist to transfer compressed backups after you create them. The secure copy (scp) protocol transfers files between servers quickly and securely without the use of arguments.

To manually transfer compressed backups, run the scp command:

scp $local file to move $remote host:/path/to/new/file 

You must possess the username and password for the remote server, and specify a path for the files that you wish to copy on the remote server.

For example, to transfer compressed backups to the /home/temp/ directory, run the following commands:

scp /home/user-temp/user-logs.tar.gz
scp /home/user-temp/user-backup.tar.gz 

These two commands transfer the compressed backups that you create of the user’s public_html directory and Apache weblogs to the /home/temp/ directory of the new server. The system will prompt you for the password when you connect to the new server. You can now use the WHM Transfer Tool interface to move the rest of the account information.

Some remote server configurations may require you to specify arguments to the scp protocol. The following table lists these arguments:

Argument Description Example
-P This argument allows you to specify a port number. Specify the remote server if the remote server does not use the default SSH port (22). scp -P 372 /home/user-temp/user-logs.tar.gz [email protected]:/home/temp/
-i This argument allows you to specify a key file if the remote server requires key-based authentication. scp -i key-name /home/user-temp/user-logs.tar.gz [email protected]:/home/temp/
-v This argument causes the scp utility to produce verbose output. Use this argument if you experience problems with the scp utility. scp -v /home/user-temp/user-logs.tar.gz [email protected]:/home/temp/

Extract the compressed backups

After you transfer the two compressed backups and finish the transfer of the account, extract the compressed backups to their appropriate locations. To extract the compressed backups to their appropriate locations, run the following command:

tar -xvzf $file-to-extract.tar.gz $/path/to/place/contents/

This command uses the -x argument instead of the -c argument. The -x argument tells the tar utility to extract information from the specified files.

To restore the user’s public_html directory to the /home/user directory and extract the Apache logs to the /usr/local/apache/domlogs directory, run the following two tar commands:

tar -xvzf /home/temp/user-backup.tar.gz /home/user/
tar -xvzf /home/temp/user-logs.tar.gz /usr/local/apache/domlogs/ 

When you run these two commands, you transfer and restore the backups that you created, and successfully move the account.

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