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Do you realize just how much of an impact WordPress updates can have on your blog?
Updating WordPress is a crucial part of your WordPress maintenance routine. That you should be doing to keep your WordPress blog running smoothly. It is also a huge factor in keeping your blog safe and secure.
Well, in this WordPress guide I’m going to show you exactly why it is a huge aspect of your blog’s maintenance. As well as how to update a WordPress website in 6 simple steps. Because updating your blog shouldn’t be difficult. Although it might seem so at first.
This process should only take you a brief amount of time to complete. (Think 15-20mins and often much less once you are familiar with the routine.)
Why Knowing How To Update A WordPress Website Is Crucial?
So, why should you care about doing WordPress updates for your website at all?
It probably seems like an inconvenience to do WordPress updates. Because everything is running exactly how you want it.
Why would you want to upset that? By throwing in some WordPress updates. Especially when it is a possibility that it could break your website or blog.
Well, here are some of the main reasons you should care about:
The #1 reason to keep up with your WordPress updates is for security. As no platform is 100% secure. There is just no such thing, sadly.
WordPress is no different in this respect. Meaning there are potentially vulnerable plugins, themes and WordPress’ core files. Even right now.
This is where WordPress updates try to help to balance this. As they always fix the latest known exploits in an attempt to always stay one step ahead of hackers.
Imagine it from this perspective. Not keeping WordPress updated is one of the major culprits for blogs getting hacked.
So by knowing how to update a WordPress website. You can reduce the chances of getting hacked.
BONUS TIP: Not sure what version of WordPress you are running? You should be able to see this from within the Dashboard menu when you log in to your WordPress blog.
If you do not see it by default you may need to click the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of the page. And then tick ‘At a Glance’.
Blog Stability & Reliability
Almost every update includes bug fixes. Meaning the latest update always tries to improve upon the previous version’s issues. Whilst sometimes new updates can introduce new issues (mostly big updates such as 4.0, 5.0, etc.). More often than not smaller updates will make your WordPress website more stable.
While you shouldn’t expect each update to drop your WordPress blog’s speed by a massive amount. Updates will often contain fixes and optimizations. To help squeeze a bit more performance out of your blog.
Sometimes this just involves reducing the resources a certain feature takes up. Or sometimes it can be something more significant.
Such as including support for the latest internet technologies. For example adding support for the latest PHP version (7.3). As it is known to be much faster than previous versions.
BONUS TIP: If you are curious about what version of PHP you are using. This information isn’t by default shown in an easy to find place. In fact, you’ll probably have to do some digging into your web host’s cpanel.
However, with the plugin Display PHP Version. You can easily add this extra information to your Dashboard menu screen. Where it will show near the same place as your WordPress version.
New Features & Tools
The latest version of WordPress can also bring new features and tools. That can help you with the day-to-day tasks of blogging.
For example, the WordPress Gutenberg editor was a completely new tool. That was brought in for WordPress 5.0. To replace the Classical editor with something more user-friendly and updated.
Consider Using A Staging Site First For WordPress Updates
Learning how to update a WordPress website on the live version of your blog. Might seem like a normal practice. But shouldn’t be as it has the inherent risk of breaking your blog.
So, if keeping your blog up and reducing the amount of downtime it has is important to you. Then why not use a staging site to create a test version of your blog. You might be surprised to find you have access to one.
The benefits of a staging site means you can test and put in place all the updates mentioned below. And once everything is checked and working. You can copy all those changes back to your live blog.
The result? You won’t accidentally break your live site. And you’ll have plenty of time to test. Without interrupting your visitors’ browsing experience.
What Order Should You Update WordPress Plugins, Themes or WordPress Core?
When it comes to how to update a WordPress website. There is no perfect order to updating your WordPress files. That can 100% prevent updates from breaking your website. However, to reduce the risk. Consider updating your WordPress plugins, themes and then your WordPress version last.
Why? Because when new versions of plugins are created. They are usually designed around the latest beta version of WordPress.
These updated plugins should work on your current WordPress version. (Because of backward compatibility.) But also any new version of WordPress you have waiting to be installed.
However, if you consider doing it in the opposite order. Updating your WordPress core files first could result in your website or blog going down.
As the old versions of your plugins, which were only tested on the old version of WordPress. Are much more likely to cause conflicts when you update to the new WordPress version.
Because they were never tested or intended for that environment. (Afterall, it wasn’t released back then.)
Step-By-Step How To Update A WordPress Website
Doing WordPress updates can seem a bit intimidating at first. As they might seem complicated and technical. Especially when the mention of updates potentially breaking your website is pointed out.
However, updating your WordPress to the latest version can be a quick and painless task. When done with the right method.
So, if you want to know how to update a WordPress website safely with minimal fuss. Then keep on reading. As I will go through the steps below.
1. Before Updating WordPress Always Backup Your Blog
Backing up your blog is something you should always do. When making any kind of changes to the structure of your blog. Whether that is installing new plugins, changing your theme or editing your blog’s core code.
When updating WordPress the importance of backing up your blog is no different. Because as I mentioned. Updates can break your website.
By backing up you’ll help protect yourself in case this issue does ever happen for your blog. Since every blog is different because of all the different customized parts. Like themes, plugins, hosting, and more. Each WordPress update can affect your blog differently to someone else’s.
For an easy to use backup plugin that won’t cost you anything to get started with. UpdraftPlus is one of the best backup plugins you will find. But just in case, it isn’t your cup of tea. You can always choose a backup plugin from these here.
Either way, go ahead and get your WordPress backup plugin setup using one of these guides. You should then make a complete backup of your blog. This should include backing up your database, files, settings, plugins, and themes.
2. How To Update Your WordPress Plugins
If you have any WordPress plugin updates, you’ll want to start with these first. You can tell if you have any plugin updates by the notifications in your WordPress dashboard.
As usually there will be two arrows making a circle on the top toolbar with a number next to it. Which indicates how many WordPress updates there are waiting for you.
Click on this icon and you should be taken to a page with the list of WordPress plugins to be updated. (If there are any.) On this screen tick the Select All option and then click Update Plugins.
WordPress will go ahead and download all the needed files to update. Before then applying everything.
Once the process is complete. You should check over your blog to ensure everything is working and there are no errors.
If everything looks to be working fine. Then you can either use the Return to WordPress Updates Page shortcut. That is at the bottom of the update results screen.
Or click on the update icon again from your top toolbar. You should notice that the number next to the icon will have reduced. Depending on the number of plugins you just updated.
3. Update Your WordPress Theme
Next, you’ll want to update your WordPress theme if you have any available. Once you’ve gone back to your WordPress updates page. Scroll down to the section for WordPress themes.
Tick the box next to the theme you want to update. Then click on Update Themes. The process will run in a similar way to updating plugins.
Again, once the process has completed. You’ll want to give your blog a check over to make sure the update hasn’t caused any issues.
If for any reason it does. This is where the backup comes in and you can roll back the changes. Which will give you a chance to contact the provider of the update that caused the error. So you can get support on what to do directly to solve the issue.
4. How To Update A WordPress Website To The Latest Version
The last updates you should do are for the WordPress core. This will update the files that make up the structure of your blog. As well as update your WordPress version to the latest one in your WordPress dashboard.
You’ll find the updates for this on the same page as your plugin and theme updates. So, navigate back to this page through the icon on your top toolbar.
You can then scroll down to the section labeled, ‘An updated version of WordPress is available.’
As you can see from my screen. I have two slightly different WordPress versions. Though there isn’t much difference. As they are different English language versions with minor differences in spelling. I can choose a specific version to update to.
If you get this option, then update using the version that has the blue Update Now button.
The process will take a few minutes. Afterward, you’ll then be taken to an introduction screen. That is for the WordPress version you just updated to.
I wouldn’t worry about the information here too much. As it is only there to give you details on what changes were made, credits and privacy disclaimers.
5. Final WordPress Update Checks To Ensure Everything Is Working
Finally, once you’ve got to this stage. You’ll want to give your blog one more check over to ensure everything is working. It’s also a good idea to clear any cache plugins you have set up so that all changes are applied.
6. Backup Everything Again!
Okay, so if you’ve updated all your plugins, themes and installed the latest version of WordPress. And everything is working the way you would expect it to. The next important step is to do another backup.
As you wouldn’t want to make a change to your blog, say tomorrow. Only for something to suddenly break. Resulting in all the work you’ve done with updating your WordPress files to be lost.
So, go do that backup now!
Automatic WordPress Updates & How To Change Them
The above how to update a WordPress website guide. Gives you all the information you need to do your WordPress updates manually. Without the need for using your FTP. Or dealing with complicated files.
However, it is worth noting that you might find that some updates happen automatically. As automatic updates have been an option since WordPress 3.7.
This automatic update feature is enabled by default in new WordPress installations. And it works with all minor version updates of WordPress like for example 5.0.1, 5.0.3.
It won’t process major updates like 5.1, 5.2, etc. As these are usually more likely to cause conflicts with plugins and themes. Since there are more significant changes.
If you find that you would like more control over your updates. Then the easiest way to do this is with the Easy Updates Manager plugin.
This plugin will let you disable or enable automatic updates with a single click. (No need to edit any code.) As well as customize exactly which plugins can be updated automatically.
In fact, the plugin does have some advanced features in their premium version. Which will let you integrate the Easy Updates Manager plugin with UpdraftPlus.
So, you can set up things like automatic backups of your blog. Before any updates are installed. Meaning you can have your WordPress maintenance even more hands-off.
How To Handle Major WordPress Version Updates
When it comes to major WordPress updates. These are often the most likely to break your website.
However, not keeping WordPress updated is a major contributor to hacked websites. So always try to get your updates installed as soon as possible. Even if you think it might break your blog.
If it does happen to break your blog. Remember, you can always roll back the updates by restoring your blog from a backup. While you consider whether to either troubleshoot the issue. Or to wait for a minor update that will likely fix your errors.
Recap Of How To Update A WordPress Website
WordPress updates are a vital part of any WordPress maintenance routine. If you care about any of the following:
- New Features & Tools
- Stability & Reliability
Don’t let the idea that updates can sometimes break your blog scare you. As by making sure you take a backup before updating WordPress. It should make rolling back any updates an easy solution. If you do come across any problems.
In fact, if you follow this how to update a WordPress website guide. It will help you avoid many common mistakes when updating WordPress. Keeping the risk of issues down to a minimum. Better yet you’ll end up with a better and more powerful blog!
Also if you have trouble with automatic updates and want more control. Then the Easy Updates Manager WordPress plugin is the best place to start. With easy settings you can customize. Without the need to edit code in your functions.php or any other WordPress files.
So, do you have any updates that have been sitting in your WordPress dashboard for ‘awhile’? Will knowing how to update a WordPress website with this guide, help you update your blog with more confidence?
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