Updating WordPress – How to safely update the Core, Themes, and Plugins

Updating WordPress Safely

One of the major advantages of choosing WordPress for your company’s website is in how easy it is to keep it updated however updates are not without risks. Safely updating WordPress themes, plugins and the WordPress core is something every WordPress and WooCommerce website owner should learn how to do from the day their site launches.

On most occasions, updating WordPress is as simple as clicking the update button. Sometimes though, an update can trigger a range of problems on a WordPress or WooCommerce website. This can happen to even the most experienced of WordPress developers so understanding how to safely update WordPress is hugely important for the health of your website…. and your sanity!

1. Safely Updating WordPress – Why it’s important:

Keeping your WordPress site up to date is essential for its security, performance, and compatibility with the latest web standards. Regular updates ensure that your website remains protected against potential vulnerabilities, offers new features, and maintains compatibility with the ever-evolving online landscape.

The WordPress.org development community regularly update the WordPress core with bug fixes, security patches and new features. WordPress theme developers ad plugin developers do the same so keeping your WordPress or WooCommerce website updated will keep your site protected and running smoothly.

Updates to WordPress core, themes, and plugins serve several crucial purposes. They:

  • Enhance Security: Updates often include patches that fix security vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches.
  • Improve Performance: Updates can optimize code, improve loading times, and optimize resource usage, leading to a better user experience.
  • Introduce New Features: Updates frequently bring new functionalities, allowing you to leverage the latest tools and enhancements available.
  • Ensure Compatibility: Updates help maintain compatibility with the latest versions of web browsers, operating systems, and other software components.

2. Updating WordPress Core

Updating the WordPress core brings numerous benefits to your website:

  • Enhanced Security: Core updates address known security issues, keeping your site protected.
  • Stability and Performance Improvements: Updates often include bug fixes and performance optimizations, improving your site’s stability and speed.
  • Access to New Features: Core updates introduce new features and functionalities that enhance your website’s capabilities.

2.1. Preparing for the Update

Before updating WordPress core, it’s essential to take a few preparatory steps:

  1. Backup Your Website: Create a full backup of your website files and database to ensure you have a restore point in case anything goes wrong during the update process.
  2. Check Theme and Plugin Compatibility: Ensure that your installed themes and plugins are compatible with the latest version of WordPress core. Visit the developers’ websites or support forums for any compatibility announcements or updates.

2.2. Performing the Update

To update WordPress core, follow these steps:

  1. Access the WordPress Dashboard: Log in to your WordPress admin area using your credentials.
  2. Check for Updates: Click on the “Updates” option in the sidebar menu. If an update is available, you’ll see a notification.
  3. Update WordPress Core: Click the “Update Now” button to initiate the update process. WordPress will automatically download and install the latest version.
  4. Review and Test: After the update, thoroughly review your website’s pages, functionality, and plugins to ensure everything is working as expected.
  5. Delete Update-Related Files: Once you’ve verified the update’s success, delete any unnecessary update-related files to maintain a clean website structure.

2.3. Post-Update Considerations

After updating WordPress core, it’s important to:

  • Update Themes and Plugins: Check for available updates for your installed themes and plugins and update them accordingly to maintain compatibility with the latest WordPress version.
  • Clear Cache: Clear any caching mechanisms used by your website, such as caching plugins or server-side caching systems, to ensure visitors see the latest changes.
  • Test Responsiveness: Verify that your website appears and functions correctly across different devices and web browsers.

3. Updating WordPress Themes

Updating themes is vital to:

  • Keep up with Security Patches: Theme updates often address security vulnerabilities, preventing potential exploits.
  • Maintain Compatibility: Theme updates ensure your website remains compatible with the latest WordPress version, plugins, and browser updates.
  • Benefit from Enhancements: Theme updates can introduce new features, design improvements, and performance optimizations.

3.1. Checking for Theme Updates

To check for theme updates:

  1. Access the WordPress Dashboard: Log in to your WordPress admin area.
  2. Navigate to Appearance: Click on “Appearance” in the sidebar menu and select “Themes.”
  3. Check for Updates: Look for a notification indicating available theme updates. Some themes also have built-in update mechanisms or offer update notifications on their respective pages.

3.2. Updating WordPress Themes Safely

To safely update themes:

  1. Backup Your Website: Before proceeding with theme updates, create a backup to safeguard your website’s files and database.
  2. Update Themes: Select the themes you wish to update and click the “Update” button. Alternatively, if you’ve obtained your theme from a third-party marketplace, follow their provided instructions for updating.

3.3. Testing after Updating WordPress

After updating themes, perform thorough testing to ensure everything works as expected:

  • Browse Your Website: Visit different pages, test navigation, and check for any design inconsistencies or errors.
  • Verify Responsiveness: Test your website on various devices and screen sizes to confirm it adapts properly.
  • Check Functionality: Test any custom features or functionality provided by your theme.

4. Updating WordPress Plugins

Regularly updating plugins is crucial because:

  • Enhancing Security: Plugin updates often address security vulnerabilities, making your website less susceptible to attacks.
  • Ensuring Compatibility: Plugin updates maintain compatibility with the latest WordPress version, themes, and other plugins.
  • Bug Fixes and Improvements: Updates can resolve known issues, improve performance, and introduce new features.

4.1. Verifying Plugin Compatibility

Before updating plugins, ensure they are compatible with the latest WordPress version by following these steps:

  1. Research Compatibility: Visit the plugin developer’s website or support forums for information regarding plugin compatibility with the latest WordPress version.
  2. Review Documentation: Check the plugin’s documentation for any compatibility announcements or update instructions.

4.2. Updating Plugins Correctly

To update plugins:

  1. Access the WordPress Dashboard: Log in to your WordPress admin area.
  2. Navigate to Plugins: Click on “Plugins” in the sidebar menu and select “Installed Plugins.”
  3. Check for Updates: Look for notifications indicating available plugin updates. Plugins with available updates will display an “Update Now” link.

4.3. Testing Plugin Functionality

After updating plugins, ensure they function correctly:

  • Test Functionality: Use the features provided by each plugin to ensure they work as intended.
  • Check Integration: Verify that the updated plugins do not cause conflicts or compatibility issues with other plugins or themes.
  • Review Configuration: Ensure any plugin settings or configurations remain intact and operate as expected.

5. Best Practices for Safely Updating WordPress

To ensure safe updates for your WordPress site, consider implementing the following best practices:

  • Create Regular Backups: Regularly back up your website’s files and database to restore them if any issues arise during the update process.
  • Testing in Staging Environments: Utilize staging environments to test updates before applying them to your live site, minimizing potential disruptions.
  • Monitoring Compatibility and Security: Stay informed about plugin and theme compatibility with WordPress updates, and keep track of any security vulnerabilities reported.
  • Evaluating Plugin and Theme Support: Prioritize using plugins and themes from reputable developers who actively maintain and update their products to ensure long-term compatibility and security.

Conclusion

As a WordPress website owner you have the benefit of receiving all those updates for free – updates that would cost tens of thousands of dollars if you needed to hire a developer to do them. Safely updating WordPress is something that is easy to do and by following our WordPress developer’s tips, your will avoid the disaster of a crashed website. We maintain and update WordPress and WooCommerce websites for clients across Australia but we have also taught plenty of clients how easy safely updating WordPress can be.

By safely updating WordPress themes, plugins and the WordPress core on your website your website will maintain its health, longevity and security.

FAQs

Can I skip updating WordPress if everything is working fine?

While it may be tempting to avoid updates when your website appears to be working perfectly, it’s highly recommended to keep WordPress updated. Updates often address security vulnerabilities, improve performance, and provide new features.

How often should I update my themes and plugins?

To maintain compatibility and security, it’s best to update your themes and plugins as soon as new updates become available. Regularly checking for updates and applying them promptly is a good practice.

What if updating WordPress causes compatibility issues with my website?

In the event that an update causes compatibility issues, consider reaching out to the plugin or theme developer’s support team for assistance. They may provide guidance or updates to resolve the compatibility problems.

Are there any tools to help automate updates?

Yes, several plugins are available that can automate updates for WordPress core, themes, and plugins. Research and choose a reliable update management plugin that suits your needs and preferences.

What should I do if my website experiences issues after an update?

If your website experiences issues after an update, the first step is to restore from a recent backup. This will revert your website to its previous state. You can then troubleshoot the issue by disabling plugins, reverting theme changes, or seeking assistance from professionals if necessary.

Are there any risks involved in updating WordPress core, themes, and plugins?

While updates are crucial for security and functionality, there can be some risks involved in updating WordPress. In rare cases, updating WordPress may introduce compatibility issues or conflicts with other elements of your website. That’s why it’s important to follow best practices such as backing up your site before updating and testing updates in a staging environment.

Can I roll back updates if something goes wrong when updating WordPress?

If you encounter issues after updating, having a recent backup allows you to roll back your website to its previous state. This is why regular backups are strongly recommended before performing any updates. By restoring a backup, you can revert to a stable version of your site while you investigate and resolve the update-related issues.

How can I ensure the security of my website when updating WordPress?

To maintain security during updates, consider implementing the following measures:

  • Keep WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date to benefit from security patches.
  • Backup your website regularly to have a restore point in case of any unforeseen issues.
  • Verify the reliability and security track record of the themes and plugins you install.
  • Monitor for security vulnerabilities and apply updates promptly.

Can I update WordPress core without affecting my website’s design and customizations?

When updating WordPress core, the changes primarily affect the underlying functionality and security. However, it’s important to test your website thoroughly after the update to ensure that design elements and customizations remain intact. In some cases, customizations made directly to core files may require adjustments to maintain compatibility with the updated version.

Is it necessary to update inactive themes and plugins?

Even if a theme or plugin is inactive, it’s still recommended to keep them updated. Inactive themes and plugins can pose security risks if they contain vulnerabilities. Attackers often target outdated and vulnerable code, so it’s best to update or remove any unused themes or plugins to minimize potential risks to your website’s security.

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