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Update WordPress Core

Why update WordPress, plugins, and themes?

WordPress and its plugins and themes are like any other software installed on your computer, or like any other application on your devices.

You should always update WordPress to the latest version. With each new release, WordPress developers fix bugs, add new features, improve performance, and enhance existing features to stay up to date with new industry standards.

When you do not update your WordPress site, you are risking your website security and missing out on new features and improvements.

There is not a sensible reason to not update since the final result is likely to be destroying of your website either by getting your domain suspended for spam and malware, or deleting from the search engine index or cancelling your hosting account for breaking the terms of use.

For the purpose of this tutorial we installed an old version 4.6 from WordPress Release Archive.

Are Updates Available?

If a new version of WordPress is available you will see a message at the top of every page of your administration panel as well as an update link Get Version 4.8 in the bottom right corner:

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Clicking on Updates link will open WordPress Updates screen where you can see all available updates for WordPress core, Plugins and Themes:

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Backup WordPress before Update

NOTE: Backup your website before you start updating. This means if there are any issues you can restore your website to its current state. The upgrade process will affect all files and folders included in the main WordPress installation. This includes all the core files used to run WordPress. If you have made any modifications to those files, your changes will be lost if you miss to back up the current state of the site. Read about how to create WordPress Backups.

Updating WordPress with a Single Click

Modern versions of WordPress let you update with the click of a button. You can launch the update by clicking the link in the new version banner or by going to the Dashboard > Updates screen.

Once you are on the Update WordPress page, click the button Update Now to start the process off. You shouldn't need to do anything else and, once it's finished, you will be up-to-date.

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Automatically Updating WordPress

Although enabling automatic updates can solve most of our updating problems at once it is not a good idea to do so. What if a certain automatic update fails and your site is displaying an error or just a blank page for a few days until it gets discovered?

We recommend you to ensure that the whole updating process is being supervised by you or your site administrator. Thus you do not risk site downtime and consequences like loss of clients and sales.

You can read more on how to configure automatic background updates.

Updating WordPress Manually

If you see a failed update message, delete the file .maintenance from your WordPress directory using FTP.

If the one-click upgrade doesn't work for you, try a manual update.

Update via SSH

The complete update process is in the screenshot, the execution of all commands takes about a minute. All used SSH commands are explained below:

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Replace WordPress files

Get the latest WordPress zip (or tar.gz) file:

wget https://wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz

Unpack the zip file that you downloaded (new directory named wordpress will appear):

tar -xzf latest.tar.gz

Deactivate all plugins.

Delete the old wp-admin and wp-includes directories on your web host:

rm -rf wp-admin/ wp-includes/

Upload the new wp-includes and wp-admin directories to your web host, in place of the previously deleted directories:

cp -a wordpress/wp-admin/ .

cp -a wordpress/wp-includes/ .

Upload the contents of the new wp-content folder to your existing wp-content folder, overwriting existing files and folders. Do NOT delete your existing wp-content folder:

cp -a wordpress/wp-content/* wp-content/

Upload all .php files from the root directory of the new version to your existing WordPress root directory:

cp wordpress/*.php .

Don't worry about your wp-config.php - new WordPress contains only wp-config-sample.php file so wp-config.php will be conserved.

If you have customized the default or classic themes without renaming them, make sure not to overwrite those files, otherwise you will lose your changes.

Lastly you should take a look at the wp-config-sample.php file, to see if any new settings have been introduced that you might want to add to your own wp-config.php.

Update via FTP

We are going to repeat the same above described process but this time using FTP connection to the server.

Download the latest WordPress version and unzip the archive on your computer.

Open your FTP program and navigate in your left (local) pane to the just unzipped archive directory named WordPress.

In the right (server) pane navigate to your WordPress site directory.

Delete wp-admin and wp-includes directories on the server:

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Upload wp-admin and wp-include directories from your computer to the server:

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Enter wp-content folder on local computer and on the server by double click on it. Select and upload all directory content on the server.

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Choose the option to overwrite existing files:

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Return to the root folder on computer and on the server by double click the top most folder. Select and upload only .php files from computer to the server:

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Now load the site URL in the browser:

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Click Update WordPress Database button:

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Click Continue button and login administration panel:

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Upgrading Across Multiple Versions

If you plan on upgrading across more than two major releases, you should consider upgrading incrementally to avoid potential conflicts and minimize the risks of database damage.

For example, if you plan on upgrading from 2.5 to 4.8, upgrade to 2.7 first, followed by 2.9, then 3.1, and so on. Essentially, it's okay to skip one release, but never skip TWO when upgrading.

Older versions of WordPress can be downloaded from the release archive.

Please note that WordPress 3.7 introduced an easy to use one-button updater which will take you directly to 4.8. This update step is safe, and it is possible to one-click update from 3.7 to any later version.

If anything goes wrong, please check Upgrading WordPress - Extended Instructions.

Conclusion

Running the latest version of any software is important and now you know how to update your WordPress.

You should always opt for the one click update method as it is simpler, quicker and less likely to be a source of errors. However, updating manually is still an option and, sometimes, it is the only one, so it is also important to know how to do this.

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