How to Set Up WordPress Locally in 5 Minutes with DesktopServer

How to Set Up WordPress Locally in 5 Minutes with DesktopServer

Setting up a localhost environment for WordPress can save you loads of time if you regularly test themes and plugins. And thanks to DesktopServer, it can take as little as 5 minutes to get WordPress up and running on your local machine.

DesktopServer is so easy, you may even consider ditching WAMP.

In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to set up the limited version of DesktopServer on OS X.

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What is DesktopServer?

DesktopServer, by, allows you to create dozens of “virtual servers” for developing and testing themes and plugins. Each of these servers is created on your computer and can be accessed from your browser using a made-up name, i.e.

Earlier this week I looked at MAMP, a similar server software tool that also provides the necessary server setup needed to run WordPress on a computer rather than online.

The cool thing about DesktopServer is that it’s even easier to set up than WAMP and you don’t have to manually edit any files, like wp-config.php or .htaccess.

For this tutorial, we’re going to set up the limited version of DesktopServer, which provides a maximum of three virtual servers.

Installing DesktopServer

Head to the website and download DesktopServer. There is also a pro version of the software, DesktopServer Premium, but today we’re going to stick with the free, limited version.

DesktopServer is a ServerPress product.

The Desktop Server file is 177MB. Once downloaded, install DesktopServer like you would any other software on OS X.

Once installed, launch DesktopServer and you will be prompted to complete set up.

DesktopServer setup
Follow the prompts to install DesktopServer.

In the next window, accept the terms and conditions. You’ll then be asked to choose a product. Select “New DesktopServer Limited Installation.”

DesktopServer product
In this tutorial we’ll set up the limited version of DesktopServer.

DesktopServer will then carry on installing and ask you to close the installer.

DesktopServer installation
All done! Now for configuration…

The software will then prompt you to restart so it can run as an admin and create, modify, start and stop web service. Ensure “Yes” is selected and click “Next.”

DesktopServer restart
Restart DesktopServer to continue setup.

You’ll then be prompted to start running Apache and MySQL services in order to run WordPress. Keep “Yes” selected and click “Next.”


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DesktopServer Apache and MySQL
You will need to run Apache and MySQL for WordPress to work.

Now that DesktopServer is up and running, it will ask you whether you want to create a new developer website. Choose option three and click “Next.”

DesktopServer new dev site
Set up a new development site.

Under Site Name, enter a fictitious name for your site. It can be anything you want. I called mine “testsite” since I’ll be using this installation as a test site.

In the Blueprint, select the latest version of WordPress. If it isn’t available, you can manually add it to the list. To do this, download the latest version of WordPress and drop it into the folder at Applications/XAMPP/blueprints on your Mac. The latest version of WordPress should now appear in your list.

Click “Create” to continue creating a new site.

DesktopServer create site
Name your development site and WordPress will be automatically installed. Too easy!

DesktopServer will create a new installation of WordPress. Once complete, you will be prompted to visit the setup page on your newly created site.

DesktopServer WordPress
Your new test site is set up and almost ready to go!

The final step is to complete the WordPress famous five-minute install. Fill in your details and click “Install WordPress.”

WordPress install
The WordPress famous five-minute install.

Your new WordPress install will be available at your fake web address. In my case, I can access my site at

DesktopServer test site
Your test site is ready for testing!

What about WordPress Multisite?

Unfortunately, the limited version of DesktopServer doesn’t support Multisite. However, the premium version does. It costs $99 a year and includes access to support, updates and extra features.

Summing Up

DesktopServer is a fantastic solution if you want to set up a local server environment. It’s quick and easy to install and the free limited version is more than enough if you manage fewer than three sites at any time.

If you need to use Multisite or you need more than three virtual development sites, you may consider upgrading to DesktopServer Premium.

I’m not forgetting the Windows users! Later this week I’ll walk through how to set up WAMP on Windows.


Do you use DesktopServer? Isn’t it awesome? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below.

Raelene Morey

Raelene Morey Raelene is the Founder of Words By Birds, a digital writing agency that works with startups, SaaS, B2B, and WordPress businesses on turning tech speak into words that convert. She was formerly the managing editor at WPMU DEV. A computer science grad turned newspaper journalist, when she’s not taming browser tabs, she likes brunching and bushwalking.