How to Update WordPress

If you are using a WordPress website and are looking to update it, you can do that either manually or automatically. In case of automatic updates, your WordPress site will inform you of all the updates that are being upgraded within the version. If you are looking to update WordPress manually, it is indeed possible to do the same. However, updating a WordPress website manually will involve upgrading the core, plugins and theme as a whole. Moreover, taking a backup of your earlier files before you get into the updating process is necessary. That being said, it is not difficult to update WordPress manually. In order to make things much easier, we have split its updating process into three stages, namely:

A) Update the core of WordPress

B) Update WordPress plugins

C) Update WordPress themes

With this article, you will know how to update WordPress website safely, stepwise. To start with the updating process, begin with the first stage, which is:

 A) Update the core of WordPress

Before you get into theme or plugin upgrades, it is preferred that you update the WordPress core first since most of the functional aspects of your WordPress website will be taken care of. As a result, you will not face any maintenance or upgrade issues later on.

To simplify this process, we have further divided the updating process into to parts. Installation phase and Transfer & Enabling phase. As the two titles suggest, both phases will talk about how to install and how to copy or transfer files to enable the updates to your WordPress website respectively.

Installation Phase

  1. Take a full backup of your website
  2. Download the latest version of WordPress from
  3. Unzip all the files in either a directory or on your machine within a separate directory of your website
  4. Make sure that you have deactivated all the plugins on your WordPress website before accessing the root directory
  5. After deactivating the plugins, access your website’s root directory to delete wp-include and admin directories (This could be done through the public_html folder or via sFTP or SSH).  
  6. Once you delete these directories, install and upload the new version of unzipped files which have the latest version of wp-include and wp-admin to replace the old files with new files on your wordpress hosting plan

Transfer and Enabling Phase

  1. A word of caution: while deleting the wp-include and admin directories, do not delete the WordPress content directory or any of the files included in that directory. Instead, we suggest you overwrite the existing files in the new WordPress content directory by copying the old files into the location of the latest version
  2. Transfer all the files from the ( / ) root directory of latest version of  WordPress to the root directory of your website (you may overwrite a few files, so do not worry about the configuration files since they will not get affected)
  3. In case the wp-config-sample.php file is distributed, you can inspect and analyze whether there are changes with respect to settings. If yes, then you can modify the same
  4. After making the modifications if any, remove the .maintenance file from your WordPress root directory in order to remove the failed update message  
  5. Go to the WordPress admin page ( /wp-admin ). Sign in if you are asked to and in case you can’t, try signing in again after clearing your cookies. You may be asked to upgrade your database if necessary with a prompt message
  6. Enable plugins, and clear your cache to make sure that all the changes are made at your end. Also, check the same for the front end with Varnish caching to see whether the same changes can be seen by your users/customers

With this, your WordPress core is upgraded.

B) Update WordPress plugins

The initial steps to update your WordPress plugins are pretty much the same. Just follow these five simple steps to finish upgrading:

  1. Get the entire backup of your WordPress website
  2. Download zip file of the plugin through the repository of plugins provided with the link provided to download the plugin
  3. Unzip the files on  your machine to create a directory ‘plugin name’ with all the files inside it
  4. Delete the existing plugin directory using sFTP and replace the deleted one with the new one by uploading the unzipped plugin to wp-content/plugins/ directory
  5. Sign in to your website and go to plugins section to see if the changes are updated

This will upgrade your WordPress plugins and you are good to go.

C) Update WordPress theme

Before you go ahead with these steps, please bear in mind that if you have a customized theme for your WordPress website, then you may have to work with a developer to integrate your custom theme. If not, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Take backup of your WordPress website
  2. Download the zip file of your theme
  3. Unzip that file on your desktop
  4. Delete existing theme theme directory from wp-content/themes/directory
  5. Replace this deleted directory with the new unzipped theme into wp-content/themes/directory (you will see wp-content/themes/theme-name/).  
  6. Log in to your WordPress website and go to to the appearance section and click on themes to verify whether the new version is uploaded

Updating WordPress is a simple though slightly laborious process. However, if you face any problems while following these steps or if have any doubts or queries about the same, feel free to comment.



Sagar Kulkarni

Sagar Kulkarni

Digital enthusiast and movie buff