“Why would I update my WordPress site? I like it the way it is now!” – you’re thinking.
Well, your site might be safe for now … but there are lots of monsters under the bed just waiting to attack it in the future. That’s why updating your WordPress site safely should be one of the 10 WordPress commandments for everyone.
“Why should I update my site?”
There are a couple of items that make this list, which will probably help you understand why updating really matters:
Security. The WordPress platform faces lots of bugs, vulnerabilities, and hacks daily. Each one can be more or less dangerous. It depends whether you’re having good or bad luck. However, with each WordPress update, a number of bugs are always fixed and a number of security holes are patched, effectively making it harder for anyone to break into your site.
New features and functionalities are added to each newly released version. Whether it’s completely new stuff, or just making the old stuff work better, those updates bring a lot of improvements. They will not only ease your work as a website owner, but will also improve your visitors’ experience.
Speed. Each new release comes with optimizations geared at making your website faster. Who wants a slow site anyway?
Compatibility with modern tools and technology. Technology evolves so fast that it’s hard to keep up … but WordPress somehow does. And some modern plugins require you to be on the newest version of the WordPress core in order to use them.
If you’re still not convinced that the update is essential, this resource will give you even more reasons why you shouldn’t wait any longer.
“How to update my WordPress site safely?”
Okay, updating your site is easy, it takes 5 or 10 minutes tops.
Here are the steps you should follow:
1. Back up your site
By backing up your site, you will make sure that your content is stored somewhere safe, so it won’t be affected by the update. And in case anything goes wrong, you can always restore the old version of your site from the backup.
There are lots of WordPress backup plugins out here that will handle things for you on autopilot. So right now, proceed to install your plugin of choice, and then back up your files, database, themes, plugins, and uploads.
Let’s take BlogVault as an example to illustrate how backing up is done.
After installing the main BlogVault plugin, go to the plugin’s section in the wp-admin, sign up to the service, and you’ll have the BlogVault dashboard on the screen right away.
Add your site by clicking this button:
After adding the site, click on “Backup Now”:
Once the backup is done, click on “History” from the same menu to see all your backups.
You can download the backup to your computer or upload it to an off-site storage (I like to use Dropbox for that).
2. Turn caching off
If you have any caching plugins enabled, turn them off during the update.
Caching modifies the way your website works on the back-end, which will have an impact on its performance, and who knows what else.
3. Update your themes and plugins
Just like WordPress itself gets frequent updates, plugins do too (even more frequently). So first, update your themes and plugins.
Let’s start with the plugins.
Go to your wp-admin and click on the button recommending you to update WordPress:
There, you’ll see a list of all your plugins that need an update too. Select them all and click on “Update Plugins”:
Return to that same WordPress update page, and do the same for themes. (By the way, make sure your plugins have been updated successfully. You should see an appropriate message when you come back.)
Here’s the panel for updating themes:
Note. There’s also a second way of updating your plugins and themes.
Go to your wp-admin dashboard and click on Plugins (the sidebar menu). There, you’ll see a list of all your plugins. Those that are out of date will come with a message notifying you of the update available:
Click on “update now” for each plugin that’s outdated.
Do the same for themes. Go to Appearance » Themes (the sidebar menu again), and the themes list will appear. Check if your current theme is updated. If not, you’ll see something like this:
Click on “Update Available” and then on “update now”:
4. Update the WordPress core
It’s funny how updating WordPress itself is actually the easiest and quickest step in the whole process.
So, to update the WordPress core safely, you just need to click one single button. Which is:
At this point, your site is using the latest WordPress version!
5. Turn the caching back on
Since you disabled the caching mechanism before the upgrade, it’s time to reactivate it.
6. Check if everything is okay
Now your site is updated, but it’s a good idea to browse around and make sure that things are in order.
Go through your pages and posts to see if they are displayed properly. You don’t really need to check every small detail, just take a general look.
7. Back up your site again
If everything went well, you can back up your site again, just to have the most up-to-date version saved somewhere safe.
It’s very important to keep any major changes to your site’s structure under control and always have the most recent image of the site backed up. If you’re using Jetpack for backups, for example, you get a 30-day archive of all your backups, so reverting back to a previous one will not be a problem if anything should go wrong.
So this is how you can update your WordPress site safely. At first, it might seem a bit difficult to go through all those steps, but the second time around you’ll be able to do it in less than 5 minutes. Be honest, when was the last time you updated your WordPress site, your plugins and themes?
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