WordPress Widgets Import Guide

Learn in this guide & tutorial how to proceed a Widgets Import and export in your WordPress site so you can move it fast and easily

By Claudio Pires
Updated on January 22, 2023
WordPress Widgets Import Guide

Sometimes when moving WordPress sites, you may need to save and reuse widget settings from one WordPress installation to another. You can probably do that manually if a site has just a few widgets. However, you need a better solution if there are many widgets in multiple sidebars and widget areas. In this article, we will show you how to proceed with WordPress Widgets Import and export guide and tutorial.

WordPress Widgets Import

The WordPress widgets menu (Appearance – Widgets) is where the magic happens. You pick, choose, and customize whichever widgets grace your blog’s sidebars and footers. And once you have those chosen and set up perfectly.

Which may take a good long time. So, you don’t want to do it again. Mainly if you used a lot of custom code snippets or anything else that had to be copy/paste over and over.

Ready To Go on WordPress Widgets Import Guide

Once you have that perfect, head over to the WordPress.org plugin repository and grab yourself the plugin called WordPress Widget Importer & Exporter plugin, and we’ll share it in this guide & tutorial. Install it and activate it, too to continue this WordPress widgets export + import guide and tutorial.

Now you will have a new menu item at Tools – Widget Importer & Exporter. You can access it in the dashboard sidebar or the Installed Plugins page. Regardless, when you get there, you’ll see buttons for the two things this plugin does best: Import Widgets and Export Widgets. The plugin doesn’t have any setup other than that. Just click and go.

The critical part to notice is that the plugin will create an export file for all active widgets under Export Widgets (#2, above). That means only the devices currently appearing inside a sidebar, footer, or another widgetized area will be exported. So you don’t have to deal with blank copies of the 20 default widgets you may not be using to continue this WordPress widgets export + import guide and tutorial.

Clicking the Export Widgets button will generate a .wie file for your URL that you can save wherever you want.

The .wie file type is for this plugin only. However, you can quickly see how it exports the data by opening the file in a code editor. WordPress keeps widget data as a serialized array in the database, so that’s what you’re looking at here.

Technically, you can go in and find and move this stuff manually using SQL, but I doubt you’d want to.

WordPress Widgets Import Guide Process

Importing the file, however, is a little more complicated (but not by much). You will need access to whichever WordPress site you transfer the widgets to. Not only access, but you will also need permission to install and activate plugins because you’re going to have to install the Widget Importer & Exporter plugin on the second site as well.

Side note: Notice the different colors used for the admin dashboard? This option can be changed in your user profile, and it is a very good idea when dealing with multiple WordPress installations to use various color schemes. It helps keep them separated. And it’s a miracle when working on transferring data between two different buildings like this. Give it a shot.

Once installed and activated, click on the widgets Import / Export link or go to the Tools – Widget Importer & Exporter tab. Find the .wie file wherever you saved it on your hard drive or server. When ready, you must click the Import Widgets to initiate the process.

Immediately following, the plugin redirects you to the results summary. If everything went smoothly (which it likely did), you will see green imported messages indicating you were successful.

You get an eyeful of success when you check your Appearance – Widgets screen. All your areas and widgets are precisely like you left them on the initial site.

Perfecto! The moment the import is done, the widgets go live. Simple as pie, as they say.

Duplicate Widgets: WordPress Import Guide

While you can manually create duplicates of widgets, if you try to import the same widget twice, you won’t be able to. A widget already exists message in the orange text will show instead of the green success one.

That way, you don’t have to worry about importing the same widgets you just exported and pushing live a duplicate of everything. (This is also protected by changing your dashboard colors, too, remember.)

Existing Widgets

The widgets that you already have installed on your site are safe, too. Whenever you import anything using this plugin, the new plugins are appended to the widgetized areas. Instead of overwriting your existing setup.

So as long as you’ve done some house-cleaning so that your sidebar et al. don’t overextend their bounds, you may have next to no work to do beyond the import stage.


Because of the way the data is stored in the array within the .wie file, there’s no room for interpretation. The plugin looks for a widget area called Sidebar to dump all your Sidebar‘s widgets into. The same goes for Footer Area #1 and so on.

But if you have Footer A instead, it doesn’t know what to do. There is no 1:1 match. And the array can’t semantically interpret that title as being functionally the same thing.

So it puts anything it can’t find a place for in your Inactive Widgets area under Appearance – Widgets. That’s where you put your widgets whose settings you want to save but don’t want to show up on your site. So you maintain the integrity of the import itself, but you do need to go and put them in place manually. No data is out, though.


See? It’s a painless, easy to transfer WordPress widgets from one site to another. A few clicks, and you’re up. And if you’re going to an entirely new site using the same theme (and haven’t add any custom widget area names), you can be ready with this in a handful of minutes.

You did the work ages ago, getting everything right on the first site, so why reinvent the wheel? Just export that database array as a .wie and toss it into the new site, and you can move on to work that you haven’t done already.

Claudio Pires

Claudio Pires is the co-founder of Visualmodo, a renowned company in web development and design. With over 15 years of experience, Claudio has honed his skills in content creation, web development support, and senior web designer. A trilingual expert fluent in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, he brings a global perspective to his work. Beyond his professional endeavors, Claudio is an active YouTuber, sharing his insights and expertise with a broader audience. Based in Brazil, Claudio continues to push the boundaries of web design and digital content, making him a pivotal figure in the industry.