7 Best Local WordPress Development Environments in 2023

In many cases, a local WordPress development environment is a better choice than paying a hosting provider when starting a new WordPress project. Local WordPress development environments enable you to set up as many websites as you need on your computer, all for free.

These environments are perfect for developing new projects and for testing purposes. Depending on what tools you use, you can launch new WordPress sites in a matter of minutes, and loading times should be near instant. Plus, no one will be able to access your local projects until you’re ready to share them.

development team working on computers

In this article, we’ll break down how local WordPress development environments work and how to choose one. Then we’ll introduce you to seven top picks. 

What is a local WordPress development environment?

A local development environment is a set of tools you can use to set up and host websites on your computer. In this scenario, the computer acts as the server. It’s also a kind of ‘sandbox’ where you can experiment with, create, and refine websites without worrying about paying for WordPress hosting or breaking anything important.

local development site with the name "Test Site"

Normally, WordPress runs on a web server on the internet, and you interact with it via a web browser. It can be hosted with your preferred server or in a WordPress Sandbox environment for testing. If you use a local WordPress development environment, you can still access the sites you set up via a browser, but they’re not accessible to people outside your local network, as every element of the site, from its files to the database, is hosted on a local machine known as localhost — your computer.

The tools that allow you to do this are called local development, own virtual machine environments, or localhost environments. Some popular examples include MAMP and XAMPP, although there are many others.

two developers working side by side

What are the benefits of a local development environment?

If you work with WordPress, you probably have access to hosting where you can launch new websites and test projects. Using a local WordPress development environment requires you to customize your computer to be able to host sites (i.e., turn it into a server).

That process is much simpler than you might expect, thanks to local WordPress development software. The most popular options will set up all the tools you need to host a WordPress site, from PHP to server and database software.

There are a number of reasons why it makes sense to do this instead of using a typical hosting environment. Some of the benefits include:  

A safe development environment

With a local environment, you have the liberty to experiment without the fear of breaking your live website. Any mistakes remain confined to your local server setup, and can be easily rectified without impacting online visitors.

Near-instant loading times

Local environments are faster, since you don’t have to constantly upload or download files from the server. Changes are instantaneous, leading to a more efficient development process.

Offline access

Since the entire setup resides on your machine, you can work on your website even when you’re offline. This independence from internet connection and connectivity can be a boon for developers on the move, and those with unreliable internet connections.

black and white image of a man working on a laptop

Learning and testing

These tools provide a safe platform for beginners to learn WordPress, or for more seasoned developers to try out new plugins, themes, and updates before implementing them on live websites.

The final benefit of a local environment is that it’s free. A lot of hosting plans limit the number of websites you can set up. Instead of paying for more expensive plans, you can host sites locally. This is useful if you’re working on a lot of simultaneous projects, or if you simply like testing the limits of what WordPress can do.

How to choose the right local WordPress development environment

Choosing the right local development environment depends on your specific needs, skill level, and comfort. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Ease of use: If you’re a beginner, you might prefer an environment that’s easy to set up and use. Some local development environments provide more user-friendly interfaces and straightforward setup processes, whereas others are focused on advanced users (some rely entirely on the command line, for example).
  • Compatibility. As a first step, you’ll want to ensure that the environment you choose is compatible with your operating system. Some environments are designed specifically for Windows, macOS, or Linux, while others are versatile and can operate on multiple platforms.
  • Advanced functionality. Some local environments offer features like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) support, local email testing, support for multiple versions of PHP, plugins, and more. Pick an environment based on the features you need for your development projects.
  • Access to community and support tools. Look for environments that have strong community support and comprehensive documentation. This can be particularly helpful if you encounter issues or need help understanding certain features.

It’s also worth noting that not all local environments are designed specifically for WordPress users. A lot of these tools are flexible, which means you can use them to set up any kind of website you want.

If you work only with WordPress, though, you’ll likely want to opt for a local development environment configured for that content management system (CMS). Typically, this means the software will come with features to make creating and managing WordPress websites easier.

woman working on a laptop, wearing headphones

The top seven local development environments for WordPress

So, how should you get started? The most important step is to choose the tool you’ll use to create your local sites. Below, we’ve included seven top options. For each one, we’ll tell you all about how it works and what WordPress-specific features it offers.

1. XAMPP (Windows, Linux, macOS)

XAMPP homepage with download options

XAMPP stands for Apache, MariaDB, PHP, and Perl. This open-source tool is a wrapper that sets up that entire development stack, and provides you with a minimalist interface you can use to manage it.

This is not a WordPress-specific local development tool. XAMPP simply sets up the stack for you and enables you to use it in any way you see fit. This approach is perfect if you’re a developer looking for a no-frills environment, but it’s not recommended if you prefer intuitive interfaces.


  • Lightweight software
  • Database and email management tools
  • Local FTP support
  • A Bitnami installer for easy WordPress setup


  • No intuitive interface
  • No WordPress-specific functionality

Installation and setup process: 

XAMPP comes with a simple installer for every operating system (OS) it works on. During the setup process, you can choose which components of the stack you want to install. For WordPress websites, you can skip the Perl installation, as the CMS doesn’t require it.

Ease of use: 

You can manage XAMPP using a dashboard that enables you to start, stop, and configure each of its components. This dashboard also gives you access to the terminal and a local file explorer for your site’s files.

XAMPP comes with a Bitnami installer that enables you to set up WordPress without having to do so manually. But aside from a simplified WordPress installation, XAMPP doesn’t offer any extra tools for managing your website (or switching between multiple projects).


XAMPP is a free open-source tool.

2. WampServer (Windows)

WAMP homepage with information about the tool

WAMP stands for Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. WampServer enables you to set up that full development stack locally, and it provides you with a simple management interface to interact with each component.

WampServer is fairly similar to XAMPP in terms of functionality and ease of use. The software isn’t designed for WordPress specifically, but the development stack is perfect for the CMS anyway. If you’re a seasoned developer, WampServer’s minimal interface shouldn’t pose a problem while you’re working on WordPress projects.


  • Lightweight software
  • Database management tools
  • Built-in debug tools


  • Only works with Windows
  • Lack of website setup tools
  • No WordPress-specific functionality

Installation and setup process: 

WampServer comes with an installer that requires minimal configuration during the setup process. You can’t pick what elements of the stack to install, but all of them are needed to run WordPress locally.

Ease of use: 

WampServer sets up a start-tray menu that you can use to manage its components and start and stop the service. On the other hand, it doesn’t include any tools that will help you during the site setup process.

Installing WordPress with WampServer is a manual process. You’ll need to download the latest version of the CMS, extract the files on the localhost folder WampServer sets up for you, create a database using phpMyAdmin, and run the official WordPress installer tool. This process is not necessarily complex, but it can be overwhelming if you’re used to web hosts that install WordPress for you.


WampServer is a free tool.

3. MAMP (Windows, macOS)

MAMP homepage design with an orange background and elephant logo

In many ways, MAMP is a more user-friendly version of both XAMPP and WampServer. This software enables you to set up a variable development stack, with the option of choosing between Apache or Nginx, as well as MySQL, PHP, Python, Perl, and Ruby.

The main downside of using MAMP is that it’s not fully free software. Its free version limits you to a single local website. The premium version of MAMP gives you access to a lot of advanced development features, like cloud backups, support for multiple versions of PHP, mobile testing apps for your sites, and a built-in text editor.

Both the free and premium versions of MAMP come with WordPress installers. The premium version also includes some Quality of Life (QoL) tools for WordPress, like options for importing sites and pushing them to production (your live WordPress site).

Although MAMP is available on both Windows and macOS, it’s clearly designed for the latter. When you compare the premium Windows and macOS versions, the former offers less functionality. If you’re primarily a Windows user, this might not be the best option for you.


  • The ability to choose between Apache and NGINX
  • Access to WordPress-specific tools
  • One-click WordPress installation
  • Cloud backups
  • SSL support
  • A built-in text editor
  • Support for multiple PHP versions and extensions


  • Support for just one website on the free version
  • Less functionality included with the Windows version compared to the macOS version
  • No WordPress-specific functionality

Installation and setup process: 

MAMP comes with an installer that enables you to choose which components to set up. The software also offers one-click installation options for WordPress in both its free and premium versions.

Ease of use: 

The free version of MAMP comes with a management interface that’s similar to XAMPP. This interface enables you to manage and configure all the environment’s elements, including the server and PHP installation. If you use MAMP Pro, you get access to a more comprehensive management dashboard that includes WordPress-specific options.


Free, with premium versions available starting at $99.

4. LAMP (Linux)

LAMP is not a standalone local development environment. It’s the name of a specific software stack that includes Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. In other words, it has all the components you need to run WordPress.

As the name implies, you need to use a Linux distribution if you want to set up this stack. The process involves using the terminal to install and configure each of the components. This process can be intimidating if you don’t have a background in web development or aren’t familiar with using the command line.

example of the command line in action

In practice, there’s little difference between using LAMP or setting up a development stack like XAMPP. The main thing to keep in mind is that, with a self-installed stack, you don’t get access to a management dashboard that enables you to control all components. Instead, you need to use the terminal or access the components through the browser (for example, by using phpMyAdmin) to make changes to the stack.


  • Full control over the WordPress development stack
  • The ability to set up as many local websites as you need


  • Familiarity with Linux and the command line is necessary
  • No central management dashboard for stack components

Installation and setup process: 

There’s no hand holding when it comes to installing LAMP. The process requires you to understand how to set up packages using the Linux terminal, and to be comfortable configuring them without a graphic interface. This often involves accessing and editing configuration files using a text editor.

Ease of use: 

If you don’t have a background working with Linux or using the command line, LAMP isn’t for you. But if you’re comfortable with both of those aspects, LAMP gives you an unparalleled degree of control over your local WordPress setup.

You can configure the development stack in any way you need without limitations imposed by software. For a lot of developers, this freedom is much preferable to relying on wrappers like XAMPP or WampServer.


LAMP is a software stack you can install for free on Linux.

5. Vagrant (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Vagrant homepage with the tagline, "development environments simplified"

One disadvantage of most local site development software is that it doesn’t enable you to set up multiple environments. For example, if you set up a LAMP environment on Linux, you can’t also run an NGINX server simultaneously without things getting complicated.

This is problematic if you need drastically different environments for WordPress projects. Vagrant solves this issue by helping you create local virtual machines where you can set up any development environments you want.

Vagrant is incredibly lightweight, and you interact with it via the command line. Typically, virtualization software requires powerful hardware to run multiple machines. Vagrant removes a lot of the overhead for virtual machines and enables you to power them up or down as necessary.

Moreover, there’s a large library of Vagrant “boxes” you can choose from. These boxes are pre-built environments that you can download and install for rapid WordPress setup. Typically, WordPress boxes include extras like WP-CLI, debugging tools, and more.

One final pro of using Vagrant is that it’s relatively easy to share config files between members of a team. Virtual environment config files enable you to reproduce exact machine configurations, so you can have coworkers use the same virtual hardware to collaborate on a project. Combine this with Git support, and you have an ideal set of tools for collaborative WordPress development.


  • The ability to set up multiple environments using virtualization
  • Doesn’t require top-of-the-line hardware to run
  • Pre-built WordPress development boxes that make it easy to set up environments
  • The ability to share environment config files easily
  • Git support


  • Works solely through the command line

Installation and setup process: 

Vagrant offers installers for all major OSs. Alternatively, you can install the software through the terminal on either macOS or Linux. The installation process is simple, and it doesn’t offer configuration options, as you’re not setting up an entire development environment from the get-go.

Ease of use: 

If you’re comfortable using the command line, you’ll feel right at home with Vagrant. The software makes it easy to spin up new WordPress site installations and configure environments. But if you’re looking for a graphical user interface (GUI), you won’t find it here.


Vagrant is free.

6. Docker (Windows, Linux, macOS)

blue background with white text saying "develop faster. run anywhere."

In terms of functionality, Docker is fairly similar to Vagrant. You can use Docker to set “containers” and configure unique development environments on each of them. That means you can have multiple local WordPress websites, each with a unique virtual server, all cohabitating on the same computer.

The main difference between Vagrant and Docker is that the latter doesn’t use virtual machines. Containers are standalone executable packages that contain everything you need to run an application. Unlike a virtual machine, containers don’t include a full OS. This makes Docker more flexible, and both tools can cohabitate.

Docker works through the command line, just as Vagrant does. You can use Docker to create individual “containers”, and set up WordPress development environments by installing the stack you want to use.

Alternatively, you can download pre-built Docker containers from the developers’ online library. This library includes hundreds of WordPress containers, each of them with a unique configuration. This means you’re free to choose containers based on the type of environment you want to use.


  • The ability to set up multiple development environments using virtual machines
  • Pre-built WordPress development containers that make it easy to set up environments
  • A more lightweight setup than Vagrant in terms of hardware requirements
  • The ability to run services like databases, caching layers, etc. in different containers


  • You need to be comfortable using the command line

Installation and setup process: 

Docker offers standalone installers for all the most popular operating systems. Just as with Vagrant, the installation process doesn’t require a lot of configuration. Still, you may need to enable virtualization in your device’s BIOS settings to use Docker.

Ease of use: 

Docker is a command line tool without a GUI, so you need to be comfortable working with commands to manage a server. If you don’t have a background as a developer or system administrator, there’s a steep learning curve involved in using this kind of tool.


Docker offers a free personal version you can use for local WordPress development. Premium versions enable you to set up private repositories for your containers, starting at $5 per month.

7. Laragon (Windows)

purple background with white text that says "Laragon"

Laragon is a project from users who were frustrated with environments like XAMPP and WampServer, due to their perceived lack of user-friendliness. With Laragon, you get a tool that combines command line use with a management dashboard for the development stack.

Laragon enables you to set up containerized environments (think Docker or Vagrant) with an emphasis on being as lean as possible and easy to customize. Laragon tends to require the least amount of hardware resources when compared to similar tools.

In terms of friendliness for WordPress sites, Laragon enables you to install popular software and tools with only a single click. You can use the Laragon management dashboard to configure your own development environment and install WordPress locally without needing to use the command line.

The Laragon dashboard enables you to access any aspect of local WordPress projects, including databases, local files, and even SSH with a single button press. Combine that with command line access, and you have a very versatile tool on your hands.


  • A central management dashboard and terminal access
  • Containerized development environments
  • Configurable environments
  • One-click WordPress installation
  • Lightweight hardware requirements


  • Only available for Windows

Installation and setup process: 

Laragon comes with a Windows installer. The installer includes a handful of basic options, but none of them are related to your development environments.

Ease of use: 

Laragon offers both a GUI and terminal support, which makes it more user-friendly than most alternatives. You can set up and manage WordPress local websites without touching the command line, which may be a plus depending on your background. The only big downside of Laragon is that it’s only available for Windows.


Laragon is free.

Comparison of WordPress local development environments

If you’re still on the fence about which local WordPress site development environment to use, let’s take a moment to recap all the recommended options. You’ll want to take into consideration each tool’s interface options and ease of use when making a decision.

OS ProsConsPrice
XAMPPWindows, Linux, macOSLightweight software, includes database and email management tools, local FTP support, Bitnami installer for easy WordPress setupNo intuitive interface, no WordPress-specific functionalityFree
WampServerWindowsLightweight software, includes database management tools, built-in debug toolsOnly works with Windows, lack of website setup tools, no WordPress-specific functionalityFree
MAMPWindows, macOSChoice between Apache and NGINX, access to WordPress-specific tools, one-click WordPress installation, cloud backups, SSL support, built-in text editor, support for multiple PHP versions and extensionsFree version supports one website with limited advanced features, Windows MAMP Pro offers less functionality than its macOS counterpart, no WordPress-specific functionalityFree, with premium versions available starting at $99
LAMPLinuxFull control over the WordPress development stack. Set up as many local websites as you need.Familiarity with Linux and the command line is necessary, no central management dashboard for stack componentsFree
VagrantWindows, Linux, macOSSet up multiple development environments using virtualization, lightweight, pre-built WordPress development boxes, share environment config files easily, Git supportWorks solely through the command lineFree
DockerWindows, Linux, macOSSet up multiple development environments using virtual machines, pre-built WordPress development containers, lightweight in terms of hardware requirements, run services in different containersRequires comfort with using the command lineFree, with premium versions available starting at $5 per month
LaragonWindowsCentral management dashboard and terminal access, containerized development environments, configurable environments, one-click WordPress installation, lightweight hardware requirementsOnly available for WindowsFree

Ultimately, once you set up a WordPress site in a local environment, it will work just the same regardless of how you created that environment. That means your choice should come down to what tool you feel most comfortable using.

two female developers working on a desktop computer

Frequently asked questions about local development environments

If you still have any questions about creating local websites with WordPress development environments, this section will answer them. Let’s start by talking about alternatives to local environments.

What are the alternatives to using a local development environment?

The best alternative to using a local WordPress development environment is to create new sites with your web host or to rely on staging functionality. But the staging functionality only works if you want to test changes to existing websites.

For new projects, you’ll want to create entirely new websites if your hosting plan allows for it. Still, local development environments are often a cheaper, faster choice.

Besides using local development environments, you can use a modern cloud-based alternative called InstaWP. This tool allows creating staging environments in one click, as well as creating fresh WordPress instances without investing in hosting resources. This way, you will be able to collaborate on your WP projects, experiment, create staging from live sites, build new sites, perform migration, and more in a cost-effective manner.

Why use a local development environment instead of a live web server?

In most cases, you shouldn’t use a live server for any significant testing purposes. Testing major changes in a production environment can lead to catastrophic errors and a lot of time spent troubleshooting them.

Working in a local or staging environment means that if anything goes wrong, no visitors have to deal with it. You get to fix errors knowing that it doesn’t affect your live sites in any way.

How does a local environment compare to a staging environment on a live server?

Staging environments are copies of live websites that you can work on without affecting the original environment. With a staging site, you typically get the option to push any changes you make to “production”, which means they go live after you’re sure everything works properly.

Local environments enable you to test new projects or copies of live websites. On the other hand, most local development tools don’t offer the option to push changes you make to a live site. 

woman working at a table with a laptop

Is it easy to move a site from a local environment to a live server?

The process varies depending on what local WordPress development tool you’re using. Moving to a live server works just like migrating between two web hosts. That means you need to copy the site’s files and database, and make sure everything is pointing to the right addresses. 

Some local WordPress development tools have partnerships with specific hosting platforms. That means you have the option of pushing local sites to a live server if you have an account with those web hosts.

Start experimenting with local WordPress development environments

When you work on a website or a project on a live server, it feels like the stakes are always high. On top of having to pay while testing a project, you also have to keep users away from it. Local environments make for much better testing grounds. They’re usually free (depending on which tool you use), and you can create as many sites as you want.

Your own WordPress development environment experience will vary a lot depending on what platform you use. Some local development tools rely only on the command line, whereas others offer user-friendly GUIs, and a few are designed for WordPress specifically. It’s best to test at least a few of the options above until you find one you’re comfortable with.

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Jen Swisher profile

Jen Swisher

Jen is a Happiness Engineer for Jetpack. She has been working with WordPress and Jetpack for over a decade. Prior to starting at Automattic, Jen has helped small businesses, local non-profits, and Fortune 50 companies create engaging web experiences for their customers. She is passionate about teaching others how to create on the web without fear.

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