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Okay so I installed the website using the IP instead of the domain. Everything worked fine. The IP server then changed so at the same time I started using the domain. So I went into the database tables and mass replaced all ip addresses with the full domain name. Also removed all files under /var to refresh that. Didn’t need to change local.xml because the database details are still the same.
The frontend works fine, the login area works fine for customers. But index.php/admin/ just won’t load properly. After about 3 mins it eventually brings up the login screen, but it doesn’t appear to have any stylesheet, and when I attempt to login from there it just times out.
I installed magento again into a subfolder, then went back to the original installation and told it to use the fresh new database. Problem gone. Unfortunately once I was logged in this gave new errors, unsurprisingly. But at least I know the admin hanging has something to do with the database, not the files themselves.
Guess I’ll just have to slowly go through all 14,000 lines of the mysql file.