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  • A client has an existing WP installation.
  • I want to setup a dev/preview site that pulls same page/post content as existing site (and has same active plugins and settings), and I don't want the existing site to be affected.

How can I do this? Is is safe to do a separate WP install in a new directory and just feed it the same DB credentials (including WP table prefix) during the install process?

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    If you connect to the same DB, any content changes made on your dev site will be reflected in production. A copy of the DB gives you all of the content and settings w/o the risk of changes to the current site. – jdm2112 Oct 21 '15 at 19:57
  • Well...I want the content to be the same, between the sites, in case the client needs to update posts/pages (via existing site) during the dev process. For this phase of the project, I'll be focusing on framework/theme, rather than updating the content of the site. – Be Brilliant Oct 21 '15 at 20:10
  • I doubt it's possible to deny DB write abilities from your dev site. I could be wrong. If not, this means your "...I don't want the existing site to be affected" requirement is not possible if you simply share a DB. This is a very common situation when a new theme is needed for a site and when performing other dev tasks. Just pull a new copy of the DB every so often. It's unlikely the dev site needs to be 100% in sync with production site content. – jdm2112 Oct 21 '15 at 21:12
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There are tools available for simplifying the synchronization of databases between multiple WP installations, such as WP Sync DB.

As @jdm2112 mentioned, using a copy of the database—versus attempting to use the same database—reduces the risk of development work interfering with the production environment. However, simply making a copy of one site's WP database is generally insufficient for using it on another site. You can read more about moving WordPress here.

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