Running Commands Remotely Edit

Using an SSH connection

WP-CLIWP-CLI WP-CLI is the Command Line Interface for WordPress, used to do administrative and development tasks in a programmatic way. The project page is accepts an --ssh=[<scheme>:][<user>@]<host>[:<port>][<path>] global parameter for running a command against a remote WordPress install. This argument works similarly to how the SSHSSH Secure SHell - a protocol for securely connecting to a remote system in addition to or in place of a password. connection is parameterized in tools like scp or git.

Under the hood, WP-CLI proxies commands to the ssh executable, which then passes them to the WP-CLI installed on the remote machine. The syntax for --ssh=[<scheme>:][<user>@]<host>[:<port>][<path>] is interpreted according to the following rules:

  • The scheme argument defaults to ssh and alternately accepts options for vagrant, docker and docker-compose.
  • If you provide just the host (e.g. wp, the user will be inferred from your current system user, the port will be the default SSH port (22) and the path will be the SSH user’s home directory.
  • You can override the user by adding it as a prefix terminated by the at sign (e.g. wp
  • You can override the port by adding it as a suffix prepended by a colon (e.g. wp
  • You can override the path by adding it as a suffix (e.g. wp The path comes immediately after the port, or after the TLD of the host if you didn’t explicitly set a port.
  • You can alternatively provide a known alias, stored in ~/.ssh/config (e.g. wp --ssh=rc for the @rc alias).

Note: you need to have a copy of WP-CLI installed on the remote server, accessible as wp.

Furthermore, --ssh=<host> won’t load your ~/.bash_profile if you have a shell alias defined, or are extending the $PATH environment variable. If this affects you, here’s a more thorough explanation of how you can make wp accessible.

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You can utilize the scheme component of the ssh argument to define a shorthand for connecting to local containerized or virtualized machines.

The scheme argument is set to ssh by default, but it also accepts vagrant, docker, and docker-compose as alternate options.

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To use Docker, the command is: wp rewrite flush --ssh=docker:<name>
The Docker container’s name can be found by using the docker ps command.

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For Docker Compose, the command is: wp option get home_url --ssh=docker-compose:<name>
The Docker container’s name can be located in the docker-compose.yml file.

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With Vagrant, you can use the command: wp rewrite flush --ssh=vagrant:<name>

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WP-CLI aliases are shortcuts you register in your wp-cli.yml or config.yml to effortlessly run commands against any WordPress install.

For instance, when you are working locally, have registered a new rewrite rule and need to flush rewrites inside of your Vagrant-based virtual machine, you can run:

# Run the flush command on the development environment
$ wp @dev rewrite flush
Success: Rewrite rules flushed.

Then, once the code goes to production, you can run:

# Run the flush command on the production environment
$ wp @prod rewrite flush
Success: Rewrite rules flushed.

You don’t need to SSH into machines, change directories, and generally spend a full minute to get to a given WordPress install, you can just let WP-CLI know what machine to work with and it knows how to make the actual connection.

It can also easily utilize Vagrant’s ssh helper command to figure out the SSH parameters, by piping the WP-CLI command to vagrant ssh using the vagrant scheme like --ssh=vagrant:default where default is the Vagrant machine name/id, or if defined as an alias like the examples below. Some Vagrant boxes ship this by default so you can use WP-CLI from the host machine out-of-the-box.

Additionally, alias groups let you register groups of aliases. If you want to run a command against both configured example sites, you can use a group like @both:

# Run the update check on both environments
$ wp @both core check-update
Success: WordPress is at the latest version.
Success: WordPress is at the latest version.

Aliases can be registered in your project’s wp-cli.yml file, or your user’s global ~/.wp-cli/config.yml file:

  ssh: vagrant@
  ssh: vagrant:default
  - @prod
  - @dev

You can find more information about how to set up your configuration files in the Config section.

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Running custom commands remotely

If you want to run a custom command on a remote server, that custom command needs to be installed on the remote server, but it does not have to be installed on the local machine you’re launching wp from.

You can use the WP-CLI package manager remotely to install custom commands to remote machines.


# The command is not installed on either local or remote machine
$ wp db ack
Error: 'ack' is not a registered subcommand of 'db'. See 'wp help db'.
$ wp @dev db ack
Error: 'ack' is not a registered subcommand of 'db'. See 'wp help db'.

# To make the command work on the remote machine, we can install it remotely
# through the WP-CLI package manager
$ wp @dev package install runcommand/db-ack
Installing package runcommand/db-ack (dev-master)
Updating /home/vagrant/.wp-cli/packages/composer.json to require the package...
Using Composer to install the package...
Loading composer repositories with package information
Updating dependencies
Resolving dependencies through SAT
Dependency resolution completed in 0.311 seconds
Analyzed 4726 packages to resolve dependencies
Analyzed 162199 rules to resolve dependencies
Package operations: 1 install, 0 updates, 0 removals
Installs: runcommand/db-ack:dev-master aff8ccc
 - Installing runcommand/db-ack (dev-master aff8ccc)
Writing lock file
Generating autoload files
Success: Package installed.

# Now we can run the command remotely, even though it is not installed locally
$ wp @dev db ack

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Making WP-CLI accessible on a remote server

Running a command remotely through SSH requires having wp accessible on the $PATH on the remote server. Because SSH connections don’t load ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc, you may need to specify a custom $PATH when using wp --ssh=<host>. A few ways to make wp available on the remote server are:

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Copy WP-CLI binary to $HOME / bin

In many Linux distros, $HOME/bin is in the $PATH by default, so a way to make wp accessible is to create a $HOME/bin directory, if it doesn’t already exist, and move the WP-CLI binary into $HOME/bin/wp:

mkdir -p ~/bin
cd ~/bin
curl -O
chmod +x wp-cli.phar
mv wp-cli.phar wp

If $HOME/bin is not already in your path, then you can define it in your ~/.bashrc file or equivalent for your remote server’s specific shell:


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Specify the $PATH in $HOME / .ssh/ environment

Another way to achieve this is to specify the $PATH in the remote machine user’s ~/.ssh/environment file, provided that that machine’s sshd has been configured with PermitUserEnvironment=yes (see OpenSSH documentation).

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Remote non-interactive shell resolves aliases and runs wp as alias with php

Some webhosts are configured very restrictive:
– They do not allow you to execute your own shellscripts, so everything from method WP-CLI binary fails.
sshd is configured with PermitUserEnvironment=no, so customizing ~/.ssh/environment has no effect and fails too.
– Also using the before_ssh hook on the client machine will not help you, as in all cases you cannot run wp on the remote.

The solution: On the remote configure ~/.bashrc like this:

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Configure the remote non-interactive shell to resolve aliases

  • By default aliases in non-interactive shells are not resolved but you can change that:
    • Somewhere very much on top of your ~/.bashrc (certainly before the first alias definitions) insert:
    shopt -s expand_aliases
    • Be also sure that there’s no mechanism which exits the non-interactive shell too early! If you have something like the following construct on top (e.g. Ubuntu is configured like this) then outcomment or delete all lines of the construct:
    # If not running interactively, don't do anything
    [ -z "$PS1" ] && return

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Alias wp to php which runs the WP-CLI binary

  • Somewhere after the shopt -s expand_aliases line insert:
    • alias wp="php ~/bin/wp"
    • or
    • alias wp="php ~/bin/wp-cli.phar"
  • In other words: You have an alias “wp” which is a one liner where php runs the WP-CLI binary by stating the path to the wpi-cli.phar file, wherever it may be, under whatever name it may have.
    • php is allowed on basically any webhost.
    • And the wp-cli.phar file itself must not even have the execute flag set (=”can be entirely passive”), as formally the file gets run (=interpreted) by php. Note: An executable ~/bin/wp file (the renamed wp-cli.phar with an execute flag) of course also gets run by the php interpreter eventually. But the invocation in the shell is formally different. And that is what makes the crucial difference here.

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Using before_ssh hook on client machine

Alternatively, in case you cannot make it work from within the server, you can achieve the same effect by hooking into the before_ssh hook, and defining an environment variable with the command you’d like to run:

WP_CLI::add_hook( 'before_ssh', function() {

    $host = WP_CLI\Utils\parse_ssh_url(

    switch( $host ) {
        case '':
            putenv( 'WP_CLI_SSH_PRE_CMD=export PATH=$HOME/bin:$PATH' );
} );

If you put the code above in a pre-ssh.php file, you can load it for your entire environment by requiring it from your ~/.wp-cli/config.yml file:

  - pre-ssh.php

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