The Proper Way to Upgrade Your WordPress

It is always a good practice to keep your WordPress updated. Whenever a new version of WordPress is available, the message “WordPress X.X is available! Please update now” will appear in your WordPress main screen where X.X refers to the latest released version. There are two ways to upgrade your WordPress, i.e. one-click update and manual. This tutorial will focus on the one-click update.

But wait! Before you even begin clicking that update link, there are at least two essential steps you need to perform. Then, after the upgrade, there are a couple more things to do just to make sure everything is in place. Here are the six main (highly recommended) steps that you should take in order to upgrade your WordPress, as illustrated below:


Now that you get the entire picture, let’s look at the following steps in detail.


Step 1: Backup files and database

You should never begin updating anything without backing up your files and database beforehand! This is the most important step that you cannot, CANNOT skip! If the upgrading process gets interrupted halfway through, or something goes hay wired after the upgrade, you can always restore your site to the previous working state with your backups. Refer to this post “4 Ways to Backup Your WordPress Site” on how you can backup your WordPress with a method of your choice.


Step 2: Deactivate plugins

After you have backed up your files and database, the next thing you should do is to deactivate all the plugins. This step will help to reduce the risk of running into complications when you upgrade your site. Some plugins may not be compatible or work well with the latest version of WordPress. To deactivate, follow these simple steps:


1.  From your WordPress Dashboard, click Plugins and check the All check box to select all plugins.


2.  Select Deactivate from the Bulk Actions drop down list and click the Apply button.


3.  All of the selected active plugins are now deactivated.



Step 3: Upgrade WordPress

Yes! You are ready to proceed with the upgrade!

1.  Click the Please update now link at the top of your WordPress Dashboard screen.


2.  You will be directed to a WordPress Updates page where you have two methods of upgrading to choose from. Since this tutorial focuses on the one-click update, click the Update Now button to upgrade your WordPress instantly!


3.  As soon as the upgrade process is complete, you are automatically logged out of WordPress with a successful message as shown below:



Step 4: Verify that everything is in order

Before you log back into WordPress, go to your main site to randomly test several functions and see if they work correctly. If your site acts really weird, like out-of-place widgets, page loading problems or misalignment of some sort, then it is very likely that there are compatibility issues with the theme…which brings us to the next step!


Step 5: Check theme and plugins compatibility

Let’s recall, that in Step 2, all active plugins have already been deactivated. So this will eliminate the plugins as the potential suspect to issues after upgrade. Now, log into your WordPress and start checking your existing theme’s compatibility with the latest version of WordPress.


If you are using a default theme hosted by WordPress (such as Twenty Twelve), you can usually see if there is a latest version for update in the alert banner of the theme. But, if you are using a theme that is developed by an external party, you have to check with the theme developer on the latest available version by visiting their support forum (or their main site).

Next, check the compatibility of all the plugins you have installed for your site. Usually, you will be notified of any newer version of the plugins at the Plugins page.



Step 6: Proceed to update theme and plugins

Now that you have done your homework on the compatibility for both theme and plugins, it’s time to update them! For a WordPress hosted default theme (such as Twenty Twelve), you could easily update it through your Dashboard.  Navigate to Appearance > Themes > Twenty Twelve > Update Now

For a theme developed by third party, you can follow the instructions found in their support forum (or main site) to update your theme. Some theme developers have easy one-click update link whereas some require you to delete the old version first and install the latest theme. After you have updated your theme, go back to your main site again and check for any abnormalities. If all is in order, then proceed to update the plugins and reactivate them one by one. Similarly, check for any abnormalities each time you reactivate a plugin. This way, you can narrow down which plugin that could be the culprit if your site hits unexpected errors.


Wrapping It Up…

Always remember to do your due diligence before and after upgrading WordPress. Pre-activity upgrade works include performing backup and deactivating all plugins whereas post activity works require verification checkpoints to be conducted prior to updating themes and plugins. Each of us has unique site configuration, so it is always a good idea to do a little bit of research to understand how things work and which method works best for you so that you can minimise the risk of running into errors when upgrading.

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