What is WordPress Multisite? How it Works?

What is WordPress Multisite? How it Works?

What is WordPress Multisite?

WordPress Multisite was introduced back in 2010 with the upgrade of WordPress 3.0. It replaced WordPress Multi-User , a feature that used to allow individuals to set up large networks of sites. WordPress Multisite allows hosting of different sites on a single WordPress installation in order to cater to specific business cases that require multiple websites that need to be managed from a single location.

WordPress Multisite has the advantage of being able to have several sites on a single hosting plan. Additionally, the administrator could centralize management of all WordPress updates, themes and plugins.

Some Other Advantage of WordPress Multisite:

There are several reasons a site manager may want to use Multisite. Some of the benefits include:

  • Managing several sites which use the same theme and plugins becomes easier.
  • Since all sites within the Multisite network share the same WordPress core files, theme, and plugins, updating only has to happen once each time, rather than logging into several individual sites.
  • Easy managing of subdomains of your root domain in one central dashboard

Why not use WordPress Multisite?

There are also several reasons that a site manager should not use the Multisite configuration. Since managing a Multisite is more complex to manage, if you are unsure of whether you could or should use Multisite, usually it is best to avoid using Multisite until a clear need arises. If,

  • When You manage a single site
  • You are on a Personal level plan, these plans do not support the use of Multisite
  • You have not added the Multisite add-on to your Startup, Growth, or Scale plan.
  • Each of your sites has a strong level of customization it is usually best to manage them separately
  • You are unsure of whether Multisite would be a good fit for your needs (when in doubt, stick with a single site)
  • Each of your sites use the same theme but with different custom functions added – since with Multisite each subsite shares the same themes and plugins, editing the theme would make changes for all sites using this theme.
  • You manage multiple unrelated sites which do not use the same theme, plugins, or design scheme, Multisite may not be an ideal solution to manage all your sites.

How it Works?

You will know how to set up WordPress Multisite, add new sites, themes and plugins in following sections

How can we enable it?

Now let’s go through the steps needed to enable multisite on a fresh installation of WordPress.

First, you need to edit a file in your site’s directory ( back end not from WordPress Admin panel ).

1. Open your wp-config.php file within your WordPress root directory (directory where you have installed WordPress) and find the line that reads:

/* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */

2. Just above that line, paste the following line:

define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );

3. Save your wp-config.php file.

Next, you need to log in to your WordPress site and set up your network.

4. Once logged into your site, go to Plugins > Installed Plugins and deactivate all of your plugins. You can either do this for each plugin individually or select all and deactivate in bulk.

5. Go to Tools > Network Setup. You’ll be prompted to choose whether you want to use subdomains or subdirectories. Select the option that works best for you.

6. Give your network a title and enter your email address.

7. Click “Install.”

Lastly, you need to edit two files in your site’s directory.

8. After installing multisite in the last step, you will be taken to the “Enabling the Network” screen.

You’ll need to update two files in your WordPress website’s directory to enable multisite mode.

9. In your site’s directory, open your wp-config.php and .htaccess files and edit them according to the instructions on the screen. If you can’t find your .htaccess file, it’s probably because it’s a hidden file so update your settings so you can view the file and edit it. If you don’t have an .htaccess file, simply create a new one.

10. Save both files.

WordPress multi-site is now installed. When you refresh your site, you’ll be prompted to log in, and when you do, you’ll see the multi-site dashboard instead of the regular WordPress dashboard.

The WordPress multisite dashboard is a little different from the regular standalone version of WordPress.

You’ll notice a few small differences compared to the regular WordPress dashboard: there’s a “My Sites” link in the top right, which you can click to return to the network admin dashboard; there’s also a “My Sites” sub-menu item under “Dashboard,” which, when clicked, will display a list of sites in your network.

Add New Sites to Your WordPress Multisite Network

To add a new site to your multisite network:

1. Click on My Sites > Network Admin > Sites, then click “Add New”.

Alternatively, if you’re already in the Network Admin dashboard, you can click on “Sites” in the sidebar.

Accessing sub-sites in WordPress multisite.

2. Enter the site address you want for your new site, give it a title, choose a language, and enter an admin email.

Adding a new sub-site to a WordPress multisite network.

3. Click “Add Site” to create your sub-site.

When you go to Sites > All Sites, you’ll see all of your sub-sites displayed.

Add Themes to Your WordPress Multisite Network

As I mentioned earlier, only users with super admin privileges can install themes and plugins and make them available for sub-sites.

To install a theme:

1. Go to My Sites > Network Admin > Themes and click “Add New”. Click “Upload Theme” to upload your own theme, or search for a free option on the “Add Themes” page.

Network enabling a new theme in WordPress multisite.

2. On the “Installing Theme” screen, click “Network Enable” to enable the theme for use on any sub-site in your network.

Adding a new theme to a WordPress multisite network.

You can also enable themes on individual sub-sites. To do this:

1. In the network admin, click on “Sites” and underneath the site you want to enable a theme for, click “Edit.”.

2. Click the “Themes” tab and under the theme you want to enable, click the “Enable” link.

Enabling a theme for a multisite sub-site.

3. When you go to the admin screen for the sub-site and click Appearance > Themes, you’ll see the theme you just enabled included in the list of themes available for activation.

Add Plugins to Your WordPress Multisite Network

Like themes, plugins are installed by a super admin. But unlike themes, you can’t enable a plugin from the Network Admin screen to run on an individual sub-site. Instead, you can network activate a plugin to run on every site in the network, or you can go to a sub-site’s dashboard and install and activate a plugin there.

To network activate a plugin:

1. Go to My Sites > Network Admin > Plugins.

Accessing network-wide plugins in WordPress multisite.

2. Click “Add New” and install the plugin you want to use as you would on a regular WordPress installation.

3. On the “Installing Plugin” screen, click “Network Activate.”

The plugin will now run on all sites in your network, though admins for individual sites won’t have the ability to disable it.

If you want to activate a plugin for just one site, you can install the plugin as a network admin and then site admins can activate it on individual sub-sites. To do this:

1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above to install the plugin you want to set up.

2. On the “Installing Plugin” screen, click “Return to Plugin Installer.”

3. Go to the admin dashboard for the site you want to activate the plugin for and click “Plugins” in the sidebar.

4. Under the plugin you want to activate, click the “Activate” link.

Activating a plugin in multisite.

It’s worth nothing that on the “Plugins” screen for individual sub-sites, there’s only the option to activate or deactivate plugins — you can’t delete or update them as only super admins can carry out these actions.


I hope you’ve found the blog article about WordPress Multisite useful. Now you know how to set up multisite, add new sites, themes and plugins, but that’s just the start. While it looks and works just like a regular standalone version of WordPress, there is so much more you can do with multisite.

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