How to update WordPress

Are you seeing a message at the top of your WordPress dashboard, telling you that a new version of WordPress is available?

Complete with a command to “Please update now.”? The “please” softens it a bit, but it’s still a command.

This is WordPress’s way of helpfully notifying you that a new version is available. In this post, I’ll illustrate how easy it is to update WordPress, right from your dashboard.

You can also download my free 10-step WordPress Update Checklist for more pre- and post-update maintenance tasks that will keep your site in tip-top condition, or join my Peace of Mind Program to have me take care of all your WordPress updates for you.

Step 1: Back up your stuff.

Before you go clicking on the update link, it’s a really good idea to have a backup. Fortunately, plugins like BackupBuddy (paid, and that’s an affiliate link because I use BackupBuddy on every single site I manage and recommend it highly) or UpdraftPlus (free) make creating a backup straightforward and easy. Go back up your entire site before you read further. I’ll wait.

Step 2: Prepare your safety net.

That backup you just made? Download a copy to your computer. It won’t do you any good if it’s stashed on the same web server as your WordPress site and that site becomes inaccessible.

Also, have your FTP login credentials on hand. If you don’t know this info, you should log into your web hosting control panel to retrieve it.

You probably won’t need either of these, but a safety net is there for that once-in-a-blue-moon time that you do need them.

Ready to proceed? Good. Now you can click that handy “update” link.

Step 3: Click “Please update now.” at the top of your screen

You can also click on “Updates” in the left navigation menu.

Either way, you’ll be taken to a screen labeled “WordPress Updates”. There’s a note here about how it’s important to back up your database and files. Don’t you feel smart for already having that part taken care of?

Step 4: Click the button labeled “Update Now”.

I won’t bore you too much with old-fogy tales of how, back in the pre-WordPress 2.7 days, we file-wranglers had to download the new version files manually, unzip them, and use FTP to install them (you young whippersnappers don’t appreciate the troubles we faced in those days… we walked five miles to school in the snow! Uphill! Both ways!).

Let’s just say a big group Thank You to WordPress for giving us the magic “Update Now” button. Yes, it’s truly automatic. One click does it all.

Step 5: Wait until you see “WordPress upgraded successfully” and are redirected to the credits page.

This may take a moment or two. Don’t click on anything until you see “Welcome to WordPress” message at the top of your screen. That’s it! You’re now free to move about your dashboard (Ding! In just a few moments our flight attendants will be coming through the cabin with a complimentary beverage service.).

Just because an update becomes available, should I install it?

In general, yes. WordPress publishes updates for a reason, usually improved features, improved security, or both. And you probably want these things.

However, if you are using a lot of plugins, you may want to wait a few days to give the plugin developers time to test their plugins with the new WordPress release, and if needed, release plugin updates. Then, after you update WordPress, you’ll want to update any plugins that have new versions available.

Another reason to update (fairly) promptly is that you want to install each update as it’s available, instead of waiting through several versions and installing them all at once. If you do installations one step at a time, there are fewer chances for things to go wrong. Yes, you can wait and batch-upgrade, and I’ve seen it work just fine in the vast majority of cases. But why tempt fate?

Download my free 10-step WordPress Update Checklist for tips on pre- and post-update maintenance tasks that will keep your site in tip-top condition, or join my Peace of Mind Program to have me take care of all your WordPress updates for you.