How to Upgrade WordPress Manually or Automatically

upgrade-wordpressThere are many reasons why you want to keep your WordPress website up to date. The most important of all reasons is website security. Keeping your WordPress installation up to date will ensure that you have plugged the latest security holes in your website. Knowing how to upgrade WordPress is an important skill that you will need to have if you want to keep your WordPress website up to date.

WordPress upgrades can also include new features and enhancements, or even new templates. This is why it is important to take advantage of the latest version of WordPress as soon as possible after it has been released. By doing this you will stay on the cutting edge of WordPress technology. But before you start any upgrade, there are some important steps you must take to make sure your website theme and plugins are compatible with the latest version of WordPress to avoid any risk of website crashes, errors or data loss.

Before You Upgrade

Note that using plugins or themes that have not been approved to work with the latest version of WordPress is not recommended. It is possible to proceed with the upgrade anyway, but this may result in an unstable WordPress installation. If any of your plugins or theme are not compatible with the latest version of WordPress, you will either have to wait to perform the upgrade until the plugins and theme are also upgraded to work with the new WordPress version, or you will have to forgo using the incompatible plugins and/or theme. There are a few other factors that must be taken under consideration as well before you proceed.

  1. Check the requirements for the latest version of WordPress to make sure your host is running the required versions of PHP and MySQL.
  2. Make sure your plugins and theme support the latest version of WordPress.
  3. Make a backup of your database to ensure you don’t lose any of your website content or configurations if something goes wrong.
  4. Disable your plugins immediately prior to beginning the upgrade process by using the Bulk Action to deactivate all your plugins at once.

Manually Upgrade WordPress

You might wonder why anyone would want to manually upgrade WordPress anyway when an automatic update process is available. The main benefit would be that you have more control and can more precisely make a backup of the site while doing the manual upgrade. To manually upgrade WordPress, follow these steps:

  1. To upgrade WordPress manually you will need to download the latest WordPress version from the wordpress.org/download.
  2. Unzip (or extract) the archive you downloaded to your local hard drive. The contents of the archive will include folder called wordpress.
  3. Now you will need to open up an FTP program and log into the host server for your site.
  4. Locate the directory where WordPress is installed on your server. Whether it is in your root folder or whether you have installed it in another folder such as domain.com/blog.
  5. If you like, you can download a back up copy of the entire WordPress sites files to your local hard drive for safe keeping before proceeding with the upgrade. This is optional, but in some cases recommended. Especially for large or complex sites. Just note that this process can be time consuming and resource intensive for larger sites.
  6. Now that you have located your WordPress installation folder for your web site on the host server, you will want to go back to the WordPress files you unzipped on your local hard drive in Step 2.
  7. You will then need to upload the upgraded WordPress files and folders from your hard drive to overwrite the corresponding files and folders on the host server, with the exception of the wp-content folder.
  8. Use some discretion before attempting to upload the wp-content folder. All your plugins, themes and the uploads in the media library reside in the wp-content folder. You don’t want to erase or unintentionally overwrite anything in this folder unless you are sure about what you are doing. If you have any doubts about how to handle this folder, download a backup of this folders contents before you upload or overwrite anything in there. But if you downloaded a backup copy of your WordPress site in Step 5, creating another back up of the wp-content folder is not necessary.
  9. After you have uploaded all your WordPress files, you will want to go back to your browser and log into the WordPress administration dashboard for your site.
  10. If your database needs to be updated also then WordPress will display a link to update your database that you can click on and follow directions. This typically doesn’t happen with every upgrade.
  11. At this point you will want to check and make sure everything is working properly as well as check the WordPress version that appears in the administration dashboard to make sure you uploaded everything correctly and your WordPress upgrade took effect. You can now enable all your plugins again too. If everything looks good and functions as expected, your manual upgrade is complete.

Automatically Upgrade WordPress

If you prefer to take the simpler route, you will want to let the software do all the work for you by using the automated upgrade feature that is built-in with WordPress.

  1. To begin you need to login to the administration dashboard of your WordPress site .
  2. Once you are logged in, you need to navigate to the WordPress Updates section in the sites administration interface. There are a few ways to get there. You can click the Update link under Dashboard in the sidebar menu on the left. You can click the update icon that appears next to the site name in the admin bar at top of the screen. You should also see a notification message with a link that appears towards the top of the screen stating you need to update WordPress if you have an out of date installation. Use any of these.
  3. Once you are on the WordPress Updates page, you will see your version of WordPress displayed with a message indicating that “An updated version of WordPress is available”. Click the Update Now button that appears immediately below that message.
  4. WordPress will then ask you for your connection information and proceed to update once you have entered this information. This doesn’t happen with every WordPress installation. So depending on how your hosting and permissions are setup for your site, you may not see this prompt at all.
  5. WordPress will now automatically download and install the latest version of WordPress for you. You will see a message once this process is complete.
  6. After the upgrade has finished, you can enable your plugins again. Then go check to make sure everything is working correctly on the site. If everything looks good, your automatic WordPress update is complete.

Be aware that if you customized the default or classic theme at all, then you will need to back up these files before performing the upgrade. This is because all the default files get overwritten during the upgrade. If this is an issue for your site, it is probably better to do the manual upgrade instead.

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