WordPress is constantly changing to adapt to security and browser issues and your installation should be upgraded as often as possible to ensure your site is safe and error free.
Why Should You Upgrade?
- It Keeps Your Website secure and working. WordPress is open source. Like all open source software, when an upgrade comes out, the details of that upgrade are made public. If one of them is a security fix, then someone with malicious intent could use that information to their advantage – potentially hacking into any WordPress website that has not been upgraded in the meantime.
- It Helps Ensure Compatibility with Plugins. If you are running an older version of WordPress and install a brand new plugin, it may require the latest version of WordPress to work correctly. In such a case, you would somehow have to find an older version of that plugin that is compatible with your version of WordPress, and that version might be missing some important features and bug fixes that were introduced in the newer version.
- You Get to Use the Newest Features. The WordPress 3.0 upgrade introduced multi-site installations and custom navigation menus, while the 3.1 upgrade improved internal linking and added the Admin Bar to easily navigate between sites. If you are using an older version of WordPress, you might be doing many things the long way.
Problems with upgrading WordPress
- There is a risk that your site will not work correctly after an upgrade. There is a variety of third-party themes and plugins used to power your website. It is possible that after an upgrade, a particular theme or plugin will no longer work properly and could cause errors.
- If you do your own updating, you run the risk of breaking your site therefore its usually better to have your developer do this for you.
How to Upgrade a WordPress Installation
WordPress makes it very easy to update your plugins and version from your dashboard, they will even clearly notify the admin that updates are ready. However its a mistake to think that by clicking the “Upgrade” button your WordPress installation, themes, and/or plugins will successfully upgrade with no issues. There are things that could go wrong, and you could “break” your website. The proper way to upgrade your WordPress installation is much more complicated.
Before performing upgrades, you should have working knowledge of the following:
If you are not comfortable with these, you should have your web developer do your updates. If something goes wrong with the upgrade, you will need to be able to immediately fix the problem or restore an earlier version of your website. If your website gets a significant amount of traffic, you may want to wait until after business hours, or even a weekend before starting an upgrade.
The Upgrade Process
- You should always backup your database and files first.
- If you modified any source files, you must make notes to make those exact same changes after you upgrade. When you upgrade, all of the relevant core, theme, and plugin files will be overwritten. You should keep your modifications saved in a text file, with notes on which files to apply them to and where they need to be applied.
- Check the changelogs for all upgrades to see a summary of what is being changed. If you are upgrading public themes or plugins, check the theme/plugin page and forum posts for reported compatibility issues. If other users report major issues with upgrading, you may want to wait for the theme/plugin author to put out a new release before you upgrade.
- Consider installing, activating, and turning on the Maintenance Mode plugin so visitors who are not logged in will see a maintenance message instead of your website. If something goes wrong with your website, they should (hopefully) just continue to see the maintenance message instead of any other errors that arise.
- Click to upgrade the necessary software, themes, and/or plugins.
- Once the upgrade is complete, thoroughly check your website(s) for errors. If you are using a caching plugin, you may need to clear the cache, or temporarily deactivate it, in order to check everything properly. If you run into any errors, you will want to work quickly to find fixes. In the worst case scenario, if you can’t fix it, you can restore your entire website from your database and file backups.