core updates are essential
leaving your version of WordPress outdated not only puts you at greater risk of being hacked, but it also means you are missing out on improvements that have been made to either make your life easier, your site perform better or the experience of your site visitors better. none of these is worth missing out on!
when talking about core updates we aren’t talking about plugins or themes. the word core implies WordPress files only — not things that have been added on. (looking to run your plugin updates? those steps are mapped out here.)
the best way to run your core WordPress updates is to use your staging site as the guinea pig. if the update goes smoothly on that site, you have a green light to update your live site.
don’t have a staging site? no worries! you can still run your WordPress updates securely following these steps.
step 1 — run a backup
before running your WordPress update, whether you are one version behind or dozens, it’s in your best interest to run a full backup of your WordPress site. because if something goes screwy, you’ll have a working copy of your site to go back to in a matter of minutes.
step 2 — research your updates
after the full backup finishes, go to Dashboard > Updates to see what version you are running compared to the number you are updating to.
right away, you’ll see a link for the latest version that links you to a codex article about all of the changes. it can make for pretty nerdy reading, but even skimming the content will help you catch important to you items.
for example, version 4.6 has some great improvements to the plugin install + update screen. and version 4.5 added live responsive previews to the theme customizer. if plugin installation has been a headache for you, or responsive testing is high on your priority list, you’ll catch these things by reviewing the update notes + be able to use them right away!
step 3 — run your updates
unlike plugin updates, the core updates are simply a matter of clicking the Update Now button that appears on the Updates page. when you’ve researched the update, click that button so that WordPress can do it’s thing.
these updates are like plugin + theme updates because they trigger your site’s maintenance mode. don’t panic if you try to browse your site while the update is running, that white screen will go away as soon as the update is done.
wait until the update screen says it’s complete before moving on, it likely will be less than 2 minutes.
step 4 — check your website functionality
since you updated the core WordPress files, it’s important to spend some time browsing your site as though you were a customer or visitor. this way you can catch any changes that may have happened because of the update.
head to your homepage, click your browser’s refresh button + start moving from page to page.
you do not need to review every single blog post or page in existence, but it’s worth taking your time to look through 5-10 different areas of your site to make sure the updates went smoothly.
step 5 — address any issues
if you are only updating a version or two, issues are pretty rare. but jumping through a number of version updates at one time can cause trouble with your plugins (if they are outdated) or your theme (if it was built years ago / hasn’t been updated for the new core files).
plugin issues can usually be solved by running their updates to the latest version. a more drastic fix is by replacing them with a plugin that does a similar function but has been updated more recently.
theme issues may require your developer to help out. if the issue is pretty drastic + going to impact your business negatively, it’s best to use the backup you made in step 1 + wait until you can get some help with the problems.
step 6 — run another backup
is your site working as it should? high five! now go run another backup.
this way you have a copy of your up-to-date website instead of going to step 1 + needing to complete those steps again if something shitty happens to your site or server in a few days or weeks.
routine WordPress maintenance
we recommend monthly updates for core WordPress versions because that gives plugin + theme developers time to release updates to match the functionality. it also keeps you from having to add “run site updates” to your to do list every single day.
if the thought of even one monthly to do item around updates has you stressed, we can take care of those so you don’t have to! not only do we do monthly maintenance, we fix those pesky update issues that pop up.