How To Update WordPress Manually

How To Update WordPress Manually

Since version 3.7, minor WordPress updates have been automatic. This means you don’t have to do anything when such updates are released; your site is automatically updated. For major updates, you get notified through your dashboard. You can then use the very easy, 1-click process to update your WordPress website. However, there are times when you may need to update WordPress manually.

This could be because you cannot access your dashboard, your site has gone down, a previous automatic update failed, etc.

One easy way to do this is with an FTP client. Using this method, you can download the new WordPress version, upload it to your server, and perform the update. Let’s show you how to update WordPress manually. This will help you avoid failed updates and can be done easily.


Why you should update your site

When managing a WordPress site, the concept of regular updates cannot be overstated in its importance. Unlike mere suggestions, updates serve as crucial components that ensure your website’s security, performance, and access to the latest features.

The WordPress community, a global consortium of developers and contributors, continuously works to improve and refine the platform. Through their efforts, new versions are regularly released, addressing various aspects critical to your website’s health and functionality.

Security: The Forefront of Updates

Security is arguably the most compelling reason to keep your WordPress site updated. With cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated, the proactive patching of vulnerabilities is vital.

Each WordPress release often includes security fixes that protect your site from potential exploits. An outdated WordPress core is akin to an unlocked door for hackers, making it imperative to update as soon as a new version becomes available.

Enhanced Performance and Speed

Performance optimization is a continuous goal for the WordPress core development team. New releases frequently contain improvements that make WordPress run faster and more efficiently.

These enhancements can significantly impact your site’s loading times, affecting user experience and search engine rankings. By updating regularly, you’re ensuring that your website benefits from the latest advancements in performance technology.

Feature Enhancements and New Functionalities

WordPress updates also introduce new features and functionalities that can enrich your site-building and management experience. From enhancements in the block editor to new customization options in themes and widgets, each version aims to provide users with tools that make website design and management both intuitive and robust.

By staying current with updates, you’re able to leverage these innovations, potentially streamlining your workflows and offering a more dynamic experience to your visitors.

Backup Your Site Before Updating

Before embarking on the journey to update your WordPress site, it’s crucial to lay the groundwork to ensure a smooth transition to the new version. Proper preparation not only mitigates risks but also ensures that your website remains stable and functional post-update.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to the essential steps you should undertake before clicking that update button.

Backup Your Site

The first and non-negotiable step is to create a complete backup of your website. This safety net allows you to restore your site to its pre-update state in case anything goes awry during the update process.

Ensure that your backup includes your website’s database, files, themes, plugins, and any custom code. There are numerous reliable WordPress backup solutions available that can automate this process for you.

Verify Theme and Plugin Compatibility

An often-overlooked aspect of updates is the compatibility of your current themes and plugins with the new WordPress version. Incompatible themes or plugins can lead to functionality issues or even render your site inaccessible.

Before updating, check the developers’ notes for each plugin and theme to ensure they are compatible with the new WordPress version. If updates are available for them, plan to update these extensions immediately after updating WordPress.

Ensure Server Requirements Are Met

WordPress updates often come with changes in server requirements to support new features and improvements. Before proceeding with an update, verify that your hosting environment meets the minimum requirements needed by the new version.

This includes PHP version, MySQL/MariaDB version, and other server configurations. Most hosting providers offer this information through their support channels or knowledge base.

Test Updates in a Staging Environment

One of the best practices in website management is to test updates in a staging environment before applying them to your live site. A staging site is a clone of your live website where you can perform updates and make changes without affecting your live site.

This step allows you to identify and address any issues that arise from the update in a controlled environment. If you encounter problems, you can troubleshoot and resolve them before updating your live site, ensuring a seamless transition for your users.

Now that you know how crucial updates are and how important is to backup your site before updating, let’s move on to how to update WordPress safely.

Steps to Upgrade WordPress Manually

Manual WordPress update involves 3 simple steps:

1) Download the latest WP version.

2) Unzip the file.

3) Upload it to your server using FTP.

In some cases, there is a 4th step, which is updating your database to make it compatible with the new WP version.

For a manual WordPress update, download a copy of the most recent WordPress version from download page.

When you have downloaded WordPress, Unzip the file to get your WordPress folder.

Now connect to your server using FileZilla FTP client. If you do not know how to do this, watch our video tutorial: How To Use FTP.

When connected, double-click the folder containing your WordPress files to open it. This is usually public_html folder.

On the left side of the screen, open the folder containing your new WordPress version.

local wordpress update files

Next, select all the files in this folder and click upload.

Upload WordPress

When the “Target file already exists” dialog box pops up, select “Overwrite”, tick “Always use this action” and “Apply to current queue only”, and click OK.

copy wordpress files to update manually

Note: Do not worry about losing your wp-config file and the data in wp-content. For wp-config, the new version doesn’t come with this file. Instead, it comes with wp-config-sample, so nothing gets overwritten. For wp-content folder, the content you have in there will remain as it is.

When the upload completes, your WordPress has been manually updated.

WordPress Database Update

In some cases, you would need to update your WordPress database to make it compatible with the new version. To perform the update, go to your WordPress dashboard. If the update is needed, WordPress will prompt you with a “Database update required” notice.

Click Update WordPress Database. When the update completes, you are done. Go on and use your new version!

If you were facing an issue before performing the manual update of your WordPress site, that should be resolved at this point. Also, you can confirm that you are on the latest version by clicking on the Updates menu in your dashboard.

Remember to keep WordPress updated to the most recent version. Updating your website regularly is essential for WordPress security. Ideally, this should be automatic or done using 1-click from your dashboard.

Only use the manual process when you are having problems with automatic or 1-click updates, or require a manual update for some other reason.

If you found our beginners’ guide useful, feel free to share it with others. Also, let us know how you update your WordPress sites in the comments below.

Vital Post-update Actions for Your WordPress Site

Congratulations on successfully updating your WordPress site! While it might seem like the major task is done, a few critical post-update actions are essential to ensure your website continues to run smoothly and leverages the full potential of the new WordPress version.

Let’s walk through these steps to solidify your update process.

Test Site Functionality Thoroughly

The first order of business after an update is to thoroughly test your website for functionality. This means checking your site’s front end for any visible issues and navigating through pages, posts, and any custom features to ensure everything works as expected.

Pay special attention to forms, checkout processes, and any interactive elements. If you encounter any problems, you might need to troubleshoot by deactivating plugins one by one to find the culprit or consulting with theme and plugin developers for compatibility issues.

Update Themes and Plugins

With your WordPress core updated, it’s time to bring your themes and plugins up to speed. Developers often release updates to their products to ensure compatibility with the latest WordPress version or to introduce enhancements and security fixes.

Navigate to the Dashboard > Updates section of your WordPress admin to check for available updates for your themes and plugins. Updating these ensures you benefit from the latest features and security improvements, maintaining the integrity and performance of your website.

Review New WordPress Features

Each major WordPress update usually comes with new features, improvements, and sometimes a new default theme. Take the time to review the release notes or welcome screen after your update to familiarize yourself with what’s new.

Exploring these features can offer fresh ways to enhance your site’s functionality and user experience. Whether it’s a new block editor feature, customizer options, or performance improvements, leveraging these new capabilities can significantly benefit your site.

Check and Optimize Site Performance

An update is a great opportunity to evaluate and optimize your site’s performance. New WordPress versions may affect your site’s speed and efficiency, so consider running performance tests using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.

Based on the results, you may need to implement performance optimizations, such as caching, image compression, or using a content delivery network (CDN) to ensure your site loads quickly for all users.

Backup Your Updated Site

Now that your site is updated and running smoothly, it’s a good practice to create a new backup. This backup serves as a new baseline for your website, incorporating all the updates and changes you’ve made.

Having a current backup is crucial for disaster recovery and peace of mind, ensuring you can quickly restore your site to its updated state if needed.

FAQ for the WordPress Manual Update

How often does WordPress release new updates?

WordPress frequently releases updates, including major releases, minor security and maintenance updates, and occasional translation file updates.

Major updates are typically released three to four times a year, while minor updates are more frequent and may occur as needed to address security and performance issues.

Can I skip a WordPress update?

While it’s technically possible to skip an update, it’s not recommended. Skipping updates can leave your site vulnerable to security threats and bugs that the updates aim to fix. Additionally, skipping updates might make future updates more complicated due to compatibility issues.

Will updating WordPress affect my site’s themes and plugins?

Updates aim to be compatible with themes and plugins, but there’s always a risk that certain themes or plugins may not function as expected with the new version. That’s why it’s crucial to check theme and plugin compatibility before updating and ensure all your themes and plugins are up to date.

What should I do if my site breaks after an update?

If your site experiences issues after an update, first, try to identify the source of the problem, such as a specific plugin or theme. You can deactivate all plugins and switch to a default theme to see if the issue persists.

If the problem is resolved, reactivate them one by one to identify the culprit. If you can’t resolve the issue, consider restoring your site from a backup and seeking professional help.

How can I ensure a smooth update process?

To ensure a smooth update process, always start by creating a complete backup of your site. Then, check the compatibility of your themes and plugins with the new WordPress version.

Consider conducting the update on a staging site first to test for any issues. Follow the update instructions carefully, and don’t forget to perform post-update checks and optimizations.

Can I revert to an older version of WordPress if I encounter issues with the new update?

Yes, it’s possible to revert to an older version of WordPress, but it should be considered a last resort due to the potential security vulnerabilities of older versions.

If you must revert, use a recent backup made before the update. Keep in mind that restoring to an older version may not fix the issue and could lead to data loss or other complications.

How do I update WordPress if I don’t have access to the admin dashboard?

If you can’t access the admin dashboard, you can still update WordPress manually using FTP or cPanel. Download the latest WordPress version from the official website, then use an FTP client or cPanel’s File Manager to upload and replace the WordPress core files on your server. Detailed instructions for this process are available in this article.

Are WordPress updates free?

Yes, WordPress updates are free. The WordPress core software is open-source, and updates are made available to all users at no cost. This includes security, maintenance, and feature updates.

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 This post was written by Mesheal Fegor

Mesheal Fegor is a Web/WordPress Developer and technical writer. His WordPress help articles have been featured on Kinsta and other sites. Mesheal holds a master's degree in computer science. His writing focuses on technical WordPress issues, ranging from core WordPress problems, to issues with WooCommerce, and more.

Last edited by: FixRunner Team