From time to time, you will need to update your WordPress installation including WordPress core files, plugins and themes. WordPress has a built-in alert system that notifies administrators when their installations are out of date.
Updating WordPress is the number one fear that our students have. They are afraid that updating may break their website. BUT hear this, ignoring updates is never a good idea. The leading cause of a WordPress site being hacked is outdated files.
So … pay attention to these alerts. You will see them in the top admin bar and in the left sidebar menu.
Security vulnerabilities are corrected with new WordPress releases. Updating to the newest version of WordPress will ensure that you have the latest security fix. Not updating may leave your site open to hackers. At other times updates provide new features and improvements to WordPress and its functionality.
Before You Do Any Update
- Make sure you have FTP access – We never update a WordPress installation or plugins unless we have FTP access. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. Filezilla is a free open-source FTP program that you can download and use for transferring files from your website’s server to your computer. Make sure you can connect. You’ll get FTP information from your web hosting company.
- Take a backup of your site. All your posts and pages are held in the database, it’s essential to backup your database and your website files on a regular basis and always before upgrading your version of WordPress and your plugins. There are a number of great Backup Plugins available so you can schedule regular backups.
Updating WordPress Core Files
The One-Click Update Button will work in most cases.
WordPress 5.5 now offers auto-updates. This feature is turned off, by default, so if you choose to turn this on, make sure you understand the potential problems you may encounter and how to resolve any issues.
Keeping WordPress Plugins Up-to-date
If a newer version of a plugin is available in the WordPress Plugin Repository you will see a number next to the plugin in the left-hand column of your wp-admin. This number indicates how many plugins need your attention.
In the Manage Plugin panel, a message will display along with a link to update now. WordPress recommends that you deactivate a plugin before updating it. If an active plugin fails during upgrade your whole site can be adversely affected. Once updated you will be able to reactivate the plugin.
WordPress Theme updates
If you have made any modifications directly to theme files, updating the theme will overwrite your changes. It is best to create a child theme to protect modifications so that themes can safely be updated. Read more about updating themes here.
If Something Goes Wrong …
If the automatic upgrade of WordPress Cores files doesn’t work for you, don’t panic, try a manual WordPress update.
If your website gets stuck in maintenance mode, follow these instructions.
Some plugins may be outdated and no longer work as expected with the newer version of WordPress. If after updating WordPress you have an issue with a plugin, deactivate it and visit the plugin’s website. Many plugin authors will upgrade their plugins to accommodate the newer version, so it’s helpful if you notify them of the difficulty you’re experiencing.
If a plugin breaks your site during an upgrade, you’ll need to be able to access the /wp-content/plugins directory on your server via FTP. Simply delete the broken plugin and your site will be restored. If you’re not sure which plugin is the culprit, you will need to deactivate all plugins and reactivate them one by one.
Peace of Mind, WordPress Updates
If updating WordPress terrifies you, you can choose a WordPress Managed Hosting plan that includes updates.
With a little effort on a regular basis, you can keep your site current and safe from security threats!
Questions about WordPress Updates?
If you have any questions about WordPress updates, please add a comment below.