Looking for the best & safe way to update WordPress?
Most of the people are afraid that an update may make their site unusable.
If you want to improve security and speed of your website then it is necessary to use the latest WordPress version.
In this article, I will help you to safely update WordPress without breaking your website.
Why Should You Update WordPress?
There are some points that can help you to understand why you should always use the latest WordPress version.
WordPress releases new versions frequently by fixing bugs and issues from the previous version. If you are running a website on an outdated WordPress core then there is a high chance of getting your site hacked.
WordPress developers add new features and functionalities to each newly released version. The WordPress team also makes the old features work better.
Such new features will not only make your work easier but will also improve user experience.
Each new release comes with some optimization features that improve speed of your site.
When WordPress releases a new version, theme & plugin developers also release a new version to ensure their theme & plugin are compatible with the latest WordPress version. In this way, all the security vulnerabilities and bugs in theme and plugins are also fixed.
Things To Do Before Upgrading WordPress
Before updating WordPress core, here are the few things that you need to follow.
Create Complete Backup Of Website
Before you begin updating WordPress core files, it is important to create a complete WordPress backup including content, images, database, and other many files.
This will allow you to restore website and content from backup in case something goes wrong while updating.
You can use one of the following backup plugins:
Let’s take UpdraftPlus as an example to show how to create a full backup.
After installing and activating the UpdraftPlus plugin, go to Settings >> UpdraftPlus Backups and click on the ‘Backup Now’ button.
Note: You can also configure the backup schedule, go to Settings >> UpdraftPlus Backups and click on the ‘Settings’’ tab. It will help you to create a backup based on the schedule you configured.
When you click on the ‘Backup Now’ button, a pop-up will open where you can select files/database backup. Make sure both file and database backup options are selected as shown in screenshot below.
Then, click on the ‘Backup Now’ button to continue.
Once the backup is done, you will be able to see the newly created backup file.
You can download the backup file to your computer or upload it to Google drive or Dropbox.
Update Themes and Plugins
WordPress recommends updating themes and plugins installed on your website. It is necessary because sometimes the older version of a theme or plugin may not be compatible with the latest WordPress release.
In such cases, an update may break your website or show errors while updating WordPress.
Let’s start updating plugins.
First, log in to the admin area of your website, and go to Plugins >> Installed Plugins section. There you can find out whether some plugins need an update.
Then, click on the ‘update now’ link for updating a plugin.
Here is the guide on updating themes.
Go to Appearance >> Themes, there you can find the themes that need an update.
Then, click on the ‘Update now’ link for updating a theme.
Note: You can also find themes and plugins with new versions available in Dashboard >> Updates section.
If you have any caching plugins, disable them during the update. Caching mechanism makes modification on your site on the basis of back-end, it may impact on performance.
Deactivating caching plugins also ensures that you are not caching maintenance or error pages during the update.
How to Update WordPress Version Automatically?
Once you fulfill the above prerequisites, it’s time to update WordPress to the latest version using the built-in system in one click.
First, log in to the admin area and go to Dashboard >> Updates or click Please update now link.
During the update, your website will be in maintenance mode where users can visit your site but you can’t make any changes on site.
Once the update process is completed, your website will start running on the latest WordPress version.
You’ll see a welcome screen like this.
You can configure a website in such a way to update WordPress core automatically in the background when WordPress developer releases a new version.
For that purpose, you need to add the following line of code in wp-config.php file.
How to Manually Update WordPress via FTP?
You can update WordPress core by manually uploading latest files & folders on your hosting server via FTP.
It is so risky to update WordPress manually because there is a high chance that you may delete themes & plugins. So follow every step carefully.
Step1: Download the Latest Version of WordPress
First, go to the official WordPress website and download the Zip file for the latest version of WordPress.
After the file is completely downloaded, unzip it, and extract the WordPress file on your computer using WinRAR.
Inside the WordPress folder, you will see different core files such as index.php, wp-login.php, wp-config-sample.php as well as subfolders such as wp-admin, wp-includes, and wp-content.
Step2: Access WordPress Root Directory Via FTP
Access the WordPress root directory via FTP. For this tutorial, I am running WordPress on my local server so I have direct access to the root directory.
Once you get access to the root directory, first delete wp-admin and wp-includes subfolders.
Note: Don’t make any changes to the wp-content folder because your plugins, themes, and media files are stored inside that folder.
Step3: Upload Latest Version Of WordPress Files & Folders
After deleting the older version of wp-admin and wp-includes folders, you need to upload the new folders.
For this, move to the WordPress root directory of your website and upload the new wp-admin and wp-includes folders from your PC.
After you upload the new folders, it’s time to upload the new files in the WordPress root directory of your website. In this case, you just need to overwrite all the files.
For this, move to WordPress root directory and upload all the files from your PC. It will overwrite the existing files.
Step4: Compare & Edit wp-config.php file
Next, you need to compare the new wp-config-sample.php file with your existing wp-config.php. If you find additional functions in the new wp-config-sample.php file then copy and paste the new lines to wp-config.php.
You need to complete this step without altering authentication keys and database name/ username/ password/ charset.
Once you complete uploading new files & folders, it’s time to check whether your website is working properly or not.
Step5: Upgrade Database
Sometimes a newer version of WordPress may require a database update too.
For that purpose, visit yoursite.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php/. In my case, the WordPress database is already up to date so I don’t need a database update.
If your site requires a WordPress database update then click Update WordPress Database button.
Things To Do After WordPress Update
If WordPress update is completed successfully without any error, then your website will start running on the latest WordPress version.
In case, your website breaks down, restore the backup file, and contact your hosting provider for support. If your website is generating database connection errors then check out the guide on how to fix database connection errors in WordPress.
Lastly, turn on the caching plugin and enjoy the new WordPress features & functionalities.
If this article has helped you to update WordPress, then check out another post on WordPress Security Plugins.