How to Install a WordPress Theme on Localhost

We installed WordPress on a Windows machine using Xampp in this tutorial. We are going to pick from that WordPress installation and add a theme. There are thousands of themes available that can be used with WordPress. This means that you do not have to have design or coding skills to get a beautiful website. Some of these themes are free for download, while others are premium themes. In this tutorial, we are going to discuss a step by step guide to install and activate a theme in WordPress. We are going to cover three ways of installing a WordPress theme;

  1. Copying a theme file to the WordPress file system
  2. Installing through the WordPress dashboard.
  3. Uploading a theme file from your computer.

Copying a Theme file to the WordPress File System

You can also install a theme by copying the downloaded theme file to the WordPress folder in your local server. To do that, we are going to follow these steps;

  • The first step will be to download a theme file to your computer. For this part of the tutorial, I am going to download this theme.
  • After the download is complete, we are going to copy the zipped file to our WordPress folder in htdocs folder, assuming that you are using Xampp. Inside the WordPress folder, navigate to the themes folder and copy the zipped file there. In my case, I am navigating to C:\xampp > htdocs > new_WP > wp-content > themes. Notice that any themes already installed can also be seen here.
  • We will now extract the theme files into this folder.
Extracting the theme file
  • After extracting the file, log in to the admin dashboard and navigate to themes through Appearance > Themes as shown on the other steps above.
  • You will be taken to the themes page where you can see the themes that you have installed on your WordPress installation. Among these themes, there is the Twenty Fourteen theme we have just installed.
Newly installed theme
  • To activate the theme, move the mouse cursor on it to get the Activate and Live Preview buttons. Click on the activate button to have the theme activated.
Activating the newly installed theme

Installing through the WordPress Dashboard

A fresh install of WordPress comes with a few themes already installed such as themes named twenty seventeen and twenty sixteen. These themes are quite simple and one might one to change them. There are plenty of free themes that can also be downloaded through the WordPress dashboard. To do that, we are going to follow these steps;

  • The first step is to log in to the WordPress dashboard then navigate to Themes through Appearance > Themes as shown below.
Navigating to themes through the dashboard
  • This will take you to another page where you will see all the themes that you currently have installed. These are the default themes that come with WordPress. At the top of this screen, there is an Add New button. Click on this button to add a new theme.
Add New button
  • Assuming that you have an internet connection, you will be taken to another page where there are multiple of themes that you can install and activate. You can sort them by featured, popular, latest and favorites. Identify the theme that you would like to install and point at it with the mouse cursor to get more options on previewing and installation.
Installing a theme
  • Before installing a theme, you might want to preview it and see if it meets your requirements. Click on the Preview button shown above to do so. If you are happy with the theme, click on the Install button shown above. This will start installing the theme. When the installation is done, the buttons above changes to Activate and Live Preview as shown below. Click on the Activate button to activate the theme.
Activating the theme

We have now successfully installed and activated the Adelle theme above. If you visit your website, you will realize that it takes its design from this theme.

Uploading a Theme File from your Computer

Not all themes can be found in the WordPress themes section of the admin dashboard. Some theme developers sell their themes through their sites or through popular sites such as Themeforest. Here are steps to follow to install such themes by uploading a theme file from your computer;

  • The first step is to download the theme to your computer. I am going to download this theme for this part of this tutorial. The theme is downloaded to my downloads folder in a zipped format.
  • After the download is complete, navigate to Themes at your WordPress admin dashboard through Appearance > Themes as shown on installing a theme through the admin dashboard above.
  • This will take you to the themes page where there is an Add New button at the top. Click on this button.
Add new button
  • You will now be taken to available themes that can be installed through the dashboard. At the top of this page, there is an Upload Theme button. Click on this button.
Upload Theme button
  • This will open a window that allows you to upload a theme from your computer. Click on the Choose File button and navigate to your downloads folder on your computer where you have the downloaded theme.
Choosing the file to upload
  • Once you have chosen the theme file to upload (remember it is supposed to be in a zipped format), click on the Install Now button as shown below.
Install Now button
  • Installation of the theme will begin. This will take just a moment but it depends on the size of the theme you are installing. After a successful installation, you will be taken to a page that looks like the one below where you can preview the theme, activate the theme or return to the themes page. Click on the activate link to activate the theme.
Activate the installed theme

We have now successfully installed and activated the theme. If you visit your website, you will realize that it now picks the design of the installed theme and you can customize it to meet your requirements.


That is how simple it is to install and activate a theme. Among the three methods, you can easily pick any of them as they are all straight forward. After covering a tutorial on how to install WordPress, and now how to install and activate a theme, I believe that no one should ever be able to give a reason as to why they have not set up a website for their work or even their personal profiles. Check out collections of wordpress themes here.


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