Providing support to WordPress websites can be a tedious task particularly when you need to visit your website every month and go for WordPress, plugins and themes updates and not knowing why you even need them this frequently. There are four major reasons why you should have everything about your website updated which include:

1. Security

2. New Features

3. Bug Fixes

4. Compatibility

1. For Security Reasons

WordPress is used by millions of people around the world and even if one security loophole is found, it can affect a number of websites. Fortunately, WordPress is an Open Source CMS and security bugs may be detected and resolved efficiently. However, to remain safe, you need to update your WP installation by installing these updates which are issued regularly.

2. To Have Access to New Goodies

With frequent updates you get access to newly introduced features. For instance, recent WordPress releases have incorporated some good bunch of improvements to the admin UX screens and made some accessibility improvements. Plugins may also do this, meaning that updated things give you access to the latest perks.

3. To Have Bugs Fixed

Apart from security updates, a good reason for WordPress releases is to fix bugs. The X.X version is a major release while X.X.X version is a minor release. Major releases are quite stable and may have some major changes while smaller version releases are made to update some minor bugs. For instance an update 2.8.2 was released to fix an issue with a feature like “Quick Draft” whose link was broken in the major release.

4. To Improve Compatibility

Once a major WordPress release is made, number of plugins also get an update to make sure they are compatible with the new version or upgrade themselves to use the newly launched features. At times a plugin may not need any update as it may remain unaffected by the updates in wordpress however a developer must check that it is compatible and have its compatibility information updated which is available in plugins repository.

At times, you may even see that a plugin becomes incompatible with another plugin after the updates. This is why you must have your website backup made before the installation. You may also use plugins for authentic sources and if possible try using from one source so that you don’t get compatibility issues with other plugins.

How to Keep Your Site Updated?

There are three things that need to be updated from the WordPress backend that include:

  • WordPress
  • Plugins
  • Themes

and to update them you can go with three different approaches which include:

1. Manual Updates

2. Automatic Updates

3. Using a Plugin to Update

1. Manual Updates

The manual updates for WordPress and Plugins isn’t practiced much or opted very less now since they are difficult, consume time and there is a margin of error compared to automatic updates. But, if there are some changes done in themes files then it has to be updated manually otherwise with the new update all your customized theme code will be lost. You can follow the steps below for each of the different kinds of updates:

WordPress Core Update

  • Take complete website backup and download latest WordPress version from WordPress.org
  • Unzip your folder on a separate directory or a local machine and deactivate all your plugins.
  • Now delete “wp-admin” and “wp-includes” directories using SSH or sFTP.
  • Upload (or copy on) the new wp-admin and wp-includes directories from the new version you unzipped or replace the deleted directories.
  • Don’t delete wp-content directory or any other files in that directory. Copy the files from the old wp-content directory to new version of WordPress. This way you would overwrite any files with same name and other files will remain intact.
  • Copy everything from your root of new version to your website root directory. You will overwrite existing files and new files would be copied. The wp-config.php won’t be affected as this file never gets disturbed.
  • Examine wp-config-sample.php to see if any new settings are added that you want to modify or use.
  • Visit the WordPress /wp-admin page and it may ask for a sign-in again. Also, you may need to upgrade your database and might get prompted if required. If you are unable to sign in, clear your cookies.
  • Activate your plugins which were deactivated earlies.
  • Clear your cache and now you will see the new WordPress version.

WordPress Plugin Update

  • Take a backup of your Website.
  • Download your upgraded plugin ZIP file which can be found at plugin repository
  • Unzip it in your machine or make a directory having “plugin-name” and unzip all files under it.
  • Delete current plugin directory using sFTP from the wp-content/plugins/ directory.
  • Replace the deleted directory with the new files and now the directory would look like wp-content/plugins/plugin-name.
  • Sign In to your site and go to the plugins tab to verify that your plugin is updated.

WordPress Themes Update

If your developer has made customizations in your theme code then work with your developer to integrate changes. But if you have made some minor changes and you know you can do them again then follow these steps:

  • Create your Website backup
  • Download your theme zip file and unzip on your local machine.
  • Use sFTP for deleting your current theme directory from wp-content/themes/directory.
  • Now replace this directory with your unzipped themes file. You will now have a structure like this wp-content/themes/theme-name
  • Sign In to your site and go to the themes tab to verify that your theme is updated.

2. Automatic Updates

With version 3.7 and onwards you can manage your automatic updates from your main dashboard after you login to backend. But before the automatic updates do take the complete backup of your site as any major update can cause issues in terms of compatibility, or you may accidently update some customized plugin, theme etc. On the main dashboard you would see all the available updates for your WordPress, plugin or theme. You can update them by clicking the update button from there.

Similarly, you will see the plugins and themes updates as shown below on the dashboard.

3. Using a Plugin

You can make use of a plugin to make automatic updates to your WordPress version, themes and plugins. There are different plugins available some of them notify you for the updates while some make the updates automatically for you. All you need is to install and activate the plugin like the other plugins of WordPress. Some of these include:

  • Updates by BestWebSoft
  • Advanced Automatic Updates
  • Easy Updates Manager