How to Downgrade Your WordPress Website (And Why)
WordPress is the most popular content management system for building websites. The team releases updates regularly to fix known security issues. They also prompt users to update their software. However, there are times when you will need to downgrade your WordPress website.
Although this is not advisable, it may be the last resort when troubleshooting your website. In this guide, we will show you how to downgrade WordPress to an earlier version.
Before that, we’ll also consider a few reasons why you may need to downgrade your WordPress site.
- Why Download WordPress?
- How to Downgrade WordPress
- Downgrading PHP version
Why Download WordPress?
Keeping your website up-to-date is essential for any WordPress site. Your theme and plugins should also be updated regularly.
New releases often include security patches and upgrades to improve the security and performance of your website.
For this reason, we do not recommend downgrading your WordPress website unless it is absolutely necessary. The downgrade should be a temporary action. Ensure you upgrade to the latest version once the issue is resolved.
The main reason for downgrading WordPress is plugin or theme compatibility issues. If you enabled auto-update on your website, the upgrade might conflict with some of the files on your website.
Your website may break if there is a compatibility issue between your plugins and the latest version of WordPress. If this occurs, you can downgrade to a stable version of the software. In the meantime, your users will be able to access your website while you work to resolve the problem.
The theme you are using may also not be compatible with the latest version if it has not been updated for a while.
Furthermore, if your PHP version is not compatible with WordPress core, you may run into issues. You may not need to downgrade WordPress in this case. Rather, you should downgrade (or upgrade, as the case may be) PHP to an older version to fix your website.
How to Downgrade WordPress
Essentially, there are two ways you can downgrade your WordPress website – manually or using a WordPress plugin. We will show you how to implement both in this guide.
Before proceeding, we recommend backing up your WordPress website. If anything goes wrong, you can easily revert your changes. It is also possible to downgrade WordPress using backups. Later on in this guide, we’ll explain how it works.
Side note: If you are having difficulties accessing your website, you can hire a professional to help you troubleshoot your site. It’s much safer than downgrading your website.
Using a WordPress Downgrade Plugin
Users who are not tech savvy can make changes to their websites by using WordPress plugins. There are many plugins you can use for this purpose. However, we will use the WP Downgrade plugin to downgrade our version of WordPress.
To install this plugin, login to your WordPress dashboard and go to Plugins >> Add New. On the search box, enter “wp downgrade”.
After that, click on the Install Now button to download and install the plugin. Click Activate once the installation completes.
To access the plugins setting page, go to Settings >> WP Downgrade. Here you need to enter the version of WordPress you wish to downgrade to. We recommend targeting one prior to the latest release since your site worked well with that version.
You can click the WP Release link if you want to review the list of WordPress releases. After selecting the version you wish to downgrade to, click the Save Changes button.
Now you need to reinstall this version of WordPress to your website to complete the downgrade. For this, click the Update Core link to access the WordPress update page.
On the updates page, you will see a button to reinstall the version you selected in the previous step. Click on this button to download the necessary files.
After the downgrade completes, you will see the welcome screen for the version you selected.
If you enabled automatic updates on your website, you need to turn it off for now. Otherwise, WordPress will install the latest version of the software on your website. We have a detailed guide on how to disable auto-update in WordPress.
As we mentioned, this should be a temporary action. As soon as you resolve the issue that prompted you to downgrade WordPress, you need to install the latest version of the software.
Upgrading WordPress Core Back to the Latest Version
If you want to reinstall the latest version, simply head to the plugins settings page and enter the latest version in the box. After that click on the Save Changes button. Similarly, you need to go to the updates page and install the new version on your website.
Manually Downgrade WordPress
The plugin method is easy and straightforward, but it may not work in all cases. It may not work especially if the error is preventing you from accessing your admin dashboard.
If that is the case, you can manually downgrade your WordPress version from your web server.
Before using this method, you need to deactivate all the plugins on your website.
Deactivate all Plugins
If you can access your dashboard, follow these steps:
Login to your admin dashboard and then go to Plugins >> Installed Plugins.
Here, tick the box to select all plugins. After that click on the Bulk Action dropdown and select Deactivate. Finally, click on Apply to deactivate your plugins.
If you are unable to access your WordPress site, then you can deactivate your plugins via FTP using this detailed guide.
After deactivating plugins, we can proceed with the downgrade. To manually downgrade to a specific core version, you need to download the version you intend to use and then replace your existing core files with it.
WordPress has a Release Archive page with information about previous versions of the software. You can download the WordPress version you need from this page.
Once you find the version you want to install, click on the zip link to download the software. After downloading it, extract the files from the zip file into your computer.
The files need to be uploaded to your WordPress hosting account. You can use cPanel or FTP to access your site files and upload the files to your server. We will use FTP for this guide. In case you are not familiar with FTP, follow this link to learn how to use FTP.
After connecting your website to an FTP client such as FileZilla, you will see your website files on the right side of the app. On the left, you will see the files on your computer.
You need to navigate to the directory containing your website files on the right side of the FTP client. This is usually the public_html folder.
In this directory, you will see all your WordPress site files. Ensure you have created a backup of your website files before proceeding.
Replace the Files in the Directory
Now you need to replace all the files in this directory excluding the “wp-content” directory with the version of WordPress you downloaded.
For this, navigate to the directory containing the extracted WordPress files on the left side of FileZilla.
Select all the files and folders excluding the “wp-content” folder. After that, right-click on a file and then click on Upload. FileZilla will begin uploading the files to your WordPress server.
A popup will appear asking you to overwrite the existing files. Select the Overwrite option and tick the “Always use this action” checkbox. Finally, click Ok to continue.
After the upload completes, log in to your WordPress admin dashboard. You may receive a prompt to upgrade your WordPress database. Simply click on the Update WordPress Database button to continue.
After that, click on Continue to proceed to your admin dashboard. Your site will now use the WordPress version you uploaded via FTP.
At this point, you should reactivate your plugins while you work to fix the issue on your website. You can do this by going to Plugins >> Installed Plugins. Here, tick the box to select all plugins, and select “Activate” from the dropdown. Lastly, click Apply.
As we showed earlier, you also need to disable automatic updates while you are operating on an older version of WordPress. Otherwise, WordPress will automatically install core updates on your website.
How to Update a Manual WordPress Downgrade
If you want to update your website after resolving the compatibility issue, you need to download the latest version of WordPress. To do that, follow a similar process to upload the files to your WordPress server using FTP.
Alternatively, you can simply click on the Please update now notice WordPress displays on your admin dashboard.
On the updates page (Dashboard >> Update), click on the button to download the latest version of WordPress.
How to Downgrade WordPress Using Backups
If you take regular backups of your website, then you can restore your website to the version where everything works as it should.
The backups you take can help you restore your website to a stable state. So if you have a previous backup of your site before the compatibility issue started, you can restore your website to this backup.
Doing this will also restore the older version of WordPress core. Ensure the backup you are restoring contains all the necessary files and post data of your current website.
You don’t want to lose important posts simply because you want to downgrade your version of WordPress. This method is ideal for sites whose content is not updated regularly.
If you run a dynamic website that updates regularly, we recommend using the manual or plugin method we discussed above.
To learn more about backups, check our guide on performing regular backups in WordPress.
Downgrading WordPress Plugins
It is possible the issue you are experiencing on your website is plugin related. In this case, you do not need to downgrade your WordPress software. You can simply downgrade the plugin to a stable version.
There are two ways to downgrade a plugin; manually or by using a WordPress plugin. The manual method works well for free plugins. But if you want to repeat the process for premium plugins or your theme, it may be difficult.
We will show you how to downgrade your plugin and themes using a plugin.
How to Downgrade Plugins and Themes
The plugin we will use is the WP Rollback plugin.
The plugin does exactly what its name suggests. With it, you can easily rollback plugins and themes with the click of a button.
After installing and activating the plugin, a rollback button will be added to the plugins on your plugins page. To downgrade a plugin, simply click on Rollback below the plugin you wish to downgrade.
On the next page, choose the version you want to downgrade to and then click the Rollback button to continue.
To help protect your website, the plugin will remind you to backup your website files and database before making this change. Ensure you have a recent backup of your website.
Click the Rollback button to continue. The plugin will begin downloading the necessary files. Once the download is complete, click on Activate Plugin to activate this version of the plugin.
You can also rollback changes on your WordPress themes, simply go to Appearance >> Themes and then select Theme Details.
Next, click the Rollback button and select the version you want to target.
Note: Plugin and theme updates also include security patches for known vulnerabilities. So when you downgrade to an older version of a plugin, you expose your website to these threats. For this reason, we do not recommend permanently downgrading your plugins.
Downgrading PHP Version
If your version of PHP is conflicting with some of your WordPress plugins, you can temporarily downgrade PHP from your hosting account.
For this, log in to your hosting dashboard and then locate the “PHP Version Selector”. You can contact your hosting providers if you can’t find this option.
We are using cPanel, but the procedure should be similar regardless of your web host.
Clicking on the version dropdown will show all the PHP versions your web host supports. From the dropdown options, you can choose a version lower than the current version you are using.
Once done, click on Set as Current to update your setting. This will downgrade your PHP version to the one you selected.
Downgrading WordPress can be necessary when troubleshooting an error on your website. Just ensure you upgrade to the latest version of WordPress after fixing the issue for security reasons.
If you need to downgrade your WordPress website, we have shown you how to do so manually and using a downgrade plugin.
To protect your website from compatibility issues, you can create a staging environment to test core updates before pushing them to your live site.
If you encounter any issues while downgrading your website, kindly reach out to our team for further guidance.