Your WordPress site needs regular updates for improved functionality and enhanced security. Here is your handy guide on how to update WordPress websites.
Your WordPress website is not only an online representative of your business but also a powerful tool to generate revenue. It is, therefore, necessary to keep it up and running all the time. You can do so simply by applying updates as they are released.
Let’s discuss in detail how to update WordPress websites safely in this article.
One of the big reasons for the growing popularity of WordPress CMS is the platform keeps on updating regularly. If you want to access the latest features, increase security, and keep your website functioning well, you need to apply WordPress updates as soon as they are released. And, do you know updating your existing website is not rocket science?
Read on to believe.
How to Update WordPress – All You Need to Know
Talking about the updates, the WordPress website needs to be updated in three main parts- the core software, WordPress plugins, and WordPress themes. Translation file updates are also necessary, but the platform does it automatically once you start upgrading your website.
The core software updates consist of major releases and minor releases.
Major Releases: Denoted as Version number X.X, major releases contain new user-facing features and APIs for developers.
Minor Releases: They are written as Version number X.X.X and include security fixes or minor bug fixes and enhancements.
It is always better to apply all the updates as they get released because many WordPress updates have important patches for security or bug fixes, and your website can remain vulnerable to cyberattacks if you do not apply such updates soon. However, the urgency of the update depends on its type. For example, major releases mostly bring new features and you can wait for some time to apply them. Not updating major releases may not put the safety of your website at stake. However, you cannot get access to the latest features.
Minor releases mostly contain security patches or bug fixes, therefore, you need to apply them ASAP to keep your website secure. There are many premium WordPress themes and WordPress plugins are available these days. However, there is no unified system to differentiate between features and security-related updates for themes and plugins as they are built by a number of WordPress developers worldwide. But, many developers follow the same pattern as the core updates.
Can WordPress Site Update Automatically?
Since the release of WordPress 3.7, the default behavior for the platform remains to apply updates for minor core releases automatically. In other words, WordPress will update your website for minor releases automatically. As minor releases only contain small fixes for security and bugs, the WordPress developers’ team considers that these updates should be done automatically for security benefits.
But, major core releases, themes, and plugins are not updated automatically. However, you can turn on automatic updates for major core releases, plugins, and themes. But, it is not advisable because bigger releases could bring compatibility issues. You may now raise the question- How to update WordPress then?
Let’s find the answer to this question.
How to Prepare Your WordPress Website for Update?
Though usually, you can update a WordPress website, themes, and plugins without having much difficulty or issues, it is possible that making changes to the underlying software on the website can go wrong. We use plugins on the website for desired features and functionality. But, updating the core WordPress update may cause a compatibility issue with any of the plugins.
You can have this possibility 1% only, but it is, therefore, essential to protect your website from any issues. You need to back up your WordPress website before applying any updates.
For mission-critical or highly complex websites, it is advisable to test updates on a staging server before applying them on the live website. It enables you to find out any potential issues before people come to visit your site. These days, many managed WordPress hosts facilitate customers to create staging sites.
We have now enough information about how to prepare our website for the updates. Let’s go through a step-by-step guide on how to update WordPress. We will start with the WordPress core software.
1. How to Update Your WordPress Website’s Core Software
Tip- Just remember to back up your website before updating the core WordPress software with major releases.
You can update WordPress by using two means-
1. Through the dashboard: It is the simplest and highly popular method. Even non-technical owners of WordPress websites can also use this method easily.
2. Via FTP: If you are unable to use the dashboard-based update feature for some reason, you can update the website using FTP.
You can hire WordPress developers to update your WordPress website using WP-CLI method.
For every core update, WordPress notifies the users with a non-dismissable prompt at the top of every page in the dashboard. You can simply go to Dashboard >> Updates. For any new release, a prompt to Update Now is seen.
Your WordPress website will get updated by clicking the ‘Update Now’ button and during the update, WordPress will automatically put the site into maintenance mode. Once the update is finished, WordPress will make your website live again automatically. As the update only takes a few seconds, normally, your website’s visitors will not notice the change.
2. WP-CLI Method
It is a command-line interface for WordPress that enables developers to perform various actions including applying updates. If your host supports WP-CLI and you can work from the command line, then you can upgrade WordPress with this method.
How to Update WordPress Plugins and Themes?
As you did in the core software update, it is better to back up your website before updating the existing WordPress themes or plugins.
If you have installed themes and plugins from WordPress.org, then updates for them are by default. For premium themes or plugins, you need to activate your extension using an active license key for applying updates from your dashboard. For example, you can automatically receive update notifications for the free version of Blog Designer from WordPress.org, but if you want to upgrade Blog Designer Pro, you need an active license key.
If you cannot apply updates from the dashboard for some reason, you can update plugins and themes using FTP.
Just like core software, you can update WordPress plugins and themes from the dashboard itself. You will see a list of all plugins and themes with available updates on checking updates on the dashboard. You can use the check-boxes to select which plugins you want to update. Also, you can update available plugins from the Plugins area of the dashboard. All you need to use the Update Available tab, to filter out all plugins with available updates.
From here, you have two options for updating your plugins:
- You can either update a single plugin by clicking the Update now link given in the plugin’s description.
- Or you can select the checkboxes and set the dropdown to Update for bulk update of plugins.
For the theme update, you can go to Appearance >> Themes. If your theme has an update available, you will see the notification along with an option to Update now.
WordPress developers use WP-CLI for updating plugins and themes by using the commands:
Example: wp plugin update-all command will update all the plugins of your site. Developers can also update a specific extension using WP-CLI.
5. Receive Email Notifications for Plugin Updates Available
When you are logged into the WordPress dashboard, you can see plugin update notifications there. But, if you do not log into the dashboard, you might miss new updates. To resolve this issue, WordPress.org has brought the free Mail On Update plugin. On installing this plugin on your WordPress website, you can receive email notifications as and when new plugin updates are available.
If you have a WordPress website, you should apply updates as soon as they are released to keep your site secure and running. Mostly, you can apply updates straight from your WP dashboard. However, it is better to hire WordPress developers to keep your website updated using the WP-CLI method without affecting the website’s performance or functionality.
Solwin Infotech is a leading web development company. We have developed many websites in WordPress and Magento for our global corporate clientele to date. If you want to know more about the scope of WordPress CMS for your business or wish to hire dedicated WordPress developers for your upcoming web project, simply drop us a line at email@example.com and we will get back to you soon.