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Is WordPress free? Everything you need to know

Here's what you need to know about WordPress’ free tier - including whether it’s right for you

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems around. It’s reckoned to power 40% of all websites, and it isn’t difficult to see why.

What was once best known as a tool for blogging is now a fully fledged publishing suite, with names such as The White House, Walt Disney and James Bond using it to underpin their sites. Despite this, it remains a cost-effective option, for everyone from the solo bedroom coder to multinational corporations with staff and resources to match.

The short answer to our question, “is WordPress free?”, is yes – but a fuller answer isn’t quite so clear-cut. While you can grab a copy without parting with any cash, you need to think about how you want to host it, not to mention the features you need to fully appreciate it. So it’s not so much about whether WordPress itself is free, but whether using it will be free for you.

There are four things you need to consider, starting with the download.

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Is WordPress free to download?

Yes. You can download WordPress for free from by clicking in the “Download and install it yourself” box. Once you’ve installed it, unzip the archive, rename the file wp-config-sample.php as wp-config.php, and edit it to include your database credentials where indicated. You can then upload the whole lot to your web space using an FTP client such as FileZilla (which is also free).

However, before going down that route, it’s worth checking whether your hosting account is equipped with a built-in installer. This can take care of copying over the latest version of WordPress, creating the necessary databases and applying the appropriate config tweaks we’ve mentioned above. If it is, you’ll find it by logging into your hosting account, where it’s usually a prominent feature on the dashboard.

When going down this route, keep a close eye on the installation folder: some installers are set to create a new WordPress site in a sub-directory, the name of which will need to be added to the end of your domain to access your content. If you want it to be the first thing visitors see when landing on your site, delete any mention of sub-folders from the installer configuration.

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Is WordPress hosting free?

If you want to use your own web space, you’ll usually have to pay for it. Hosts such as GoDaddy and Ionos offer flexible, keenly priced hosting deals with generous amounts of web space, and WordPress installers of the types we’ve mentioned above.

However, it is possible to find free hosting if you know where to look. As well as several charged-for options, 000webhost has a free tier that includes 300MB of web space, 3GB of bandwidth and a single MySQL database. It doesn’t include an email account, but you could delegate that to Gmail or Outlook.

If you prefer to keep everything in one place, you could instead host your site with WordPress itself. Its hosting plans include a free tier and four paid options, each of which comes with WordPress pre-installed and fully configured. Unfortunately, the free tier allows you to only host your site in a subdomain of, rather than at a domain you own; but it’s only fair to expect compromises if you’re not ponying up.

Once you’ve sorted the software, you need to think about how your site will look, which brings us to themes.

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Are WordPress themes free?

One of the joys of using WordPress is that all of the content on your site is tightly defined – as a header, title, image, paragraph, caption and so on. That way, each piece of content can be dropped into a predefined slot on a template, which in turn dictates how the post, page or archive it’s attached to will look when you click Publish. And, when several templates are bundled together, they become what’s known as a theme.

By handling the content of your site and its design separately in this way, WordPress makes it easy to change one without affecting the other. So, you can write a new post without touching a template, and tweak – or even swap – a whole theme without needing to rewrite your posts.

The good news is that there are thousands of free themes to download and install, whether from the official WordPress repository or from third-party sites you can find via a quick web search. You can also download premium themes from stores such as Themeforest and TemplateMonster. Or, if you fancy trying your hand at developing a theme of your own, all you need to get started is a plain text editor and WordPress’s thorough documentation.

If you’re hosting WordPress on your own web space, you can install as many themes as you want by hovering over Appearance in the Dashboard sidebar and clicking Themes. After that, click Add New at the top of the screen. Now scroll through the highlighted themes, use the search box or click the Upload Theme button at the top of the page to import a theme you’ve previously downloaded.

If you’re working on a site hosted at, you’ll have access to all of the free themes in the WordPress repository on all tiers, including Free. However, your ability to tweak them will be limited unless you’re signed up to at least the Premium tier, which costs £84 per year or £17 a month. The Premium, Business (£240 per year; £32 per month), and eCommerce (£432 per year; £55 per month) tiers also provide unlimited access to a range of premium theme templates that aren’t available to Free or Personal (£36 per year; £8 per month) plan users.

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Are WordPress plugins free?

Plugins, which first appeared in 2004, allow publishers to develop their own features on top of those that are built in. If you can’t code yourself, you can download thousands of plugins for free, for a charge or on a freemium basis, where paid options accompany a more limited complimentary edition.

Wordfence is a case in point. This highly regarded security plug-in can stop brute-force attacks and lock out users who incorrectly enter a password too often. Although the full set of features requires a subscription, which provides access to more frequently updated firewall rules, blocking visitors based on their browsing location, and enhanced support, there’s a free version that offers many of the features a hobby user could want.

Yoast, which helps optimise sites for better search performance, and Jetpack, which provides a wide range of enhancements including video hosting and site backup, likewise operate “freemium”’ models.

However, even if a plugin is free, you might not be able to install it without paying, depending on the version of WordPress you’re using.

If you’re hosting WordPress yourself, you can install as many plugins as you choose. To do so, hover over Plugins in the Dashboard sidebar and click Add New on the fly-out menu. Use the search box to find the plugin you’re after – or, if it isn’t hosted in WordPress’s own library, click the Upload Plugin button at the top of the screen, followed by Browse. Navigate to the plugin on your computer, in .zip format, and click Install Now.

Plugins aren’t automatically enabled when added to a self-hosted site. To activate one, click Installed Plugins in the sidebar, then click the Activate link beneath the name of the plugin you want to work with.

If you’re using a hosted version of WordPress at, you’ll need to be signed up to at least the Business plan to use plugins. The eCommerce plan that sits above this also allows you to install plugins, but the Free, Personal and Premium plans don’t – which, we feel, somewhat dents their appeal.

WordPress is free to download and so are a wide range of plugins and themes. You can even host WordPress for free, either as a subdomain of, or on a third-party web-hosting provider. To get the most out of it, though, and to craft a site that precisely meets your needs, it’s often wise to spend at least a little money on paid hosting or one of the more advanced tiers at By doing this, you’ll be able to enjoy the full convenience and flexibility the platform has to offer.

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