A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Update WordPress

how to update a Wordpress Website

WordPress is a popular content management system (CMS) used by millions of websites around the world. It offers a user-friendly interface, customisable themes, and a wide range of plugins to enhance website functionality. However, like any software, WordPress requires regular updates to ensure optimal performance and security.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of updating WordPress. We’ll also be including wordpress tips for a smooth and hassle-free experience.

Why Is Updating WordPress Important?

WordPress maintenance is crucial for a health and secure website. Updates are crucial within your maintenance schedule for several reasons:

  • Security: Outdated versions of WordPress are more vulnerable to cyber attacks, which can compromise your website and its data. Approximately 49% of hacked WordPress websites are vulnerable at the point of infection.
  • Bug fixes: Updates often include bug fixes that improve the overall functionality of your website.
  • New features: Updates may also introduce new features and improvements to the WordPress platform.
  • Compatibility: Updates ensure that your website is compatible with the latest versions of plugins and themes.

A more up-to-date website is also likely faster and will improve your SEO. Find out more about optimising your website here.

How Often Should You Update WordPress?

WordPress releases updates regularly, and it’s recommended to update your website as soon as a new version is available. This will ensure that your website is secure and functioning at its best.

Preparing for the Update

Before updating WordPress, it’s essential to take a few precautions to ensure a smooth process.

Backup Your Website

a computer screen with a bunch of text on it

Before making any changes to your website, it’s crucial to back up your website’s files and database. This will ensure that you have a copy of your website in case anything goes wrong during the update process.

You can use a plugin like UpdraftPlus or BackupBuddy to easily backup your website. Alternatively, you can manually backup your website by downloading the files and exporting the database.

Check for Compatibility

Before updating WordPress, it’s essential to check if your current theme and plugins are compatible with the latest version. You can do this by visiting the WordPress.org plugin and theme directories and checking the compatibility information.

If a plugin or theme is not compatible, you may need to update it or find an alternative before updating WordPress.

Disable Caching

If you have a caching plugin installed, it’s recommended to disable it before updating WordPress. This will ensure that you are viewing the most recent version of your website and not a cached version.

Updating WordPress

Now that you’ve prepared for the update, it’s time to update WordPress.

Automatic Updates

WordPress offers automatic updates for minor releases, which include security and bug fixes. By default, automatic updates are enabled for minor releases. However, you can disable them by adding the following code to your wp-config.php file:

define( ‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, false );

Manual Updates

For major releases, you will need to update WordPress manually. Here’s how:

  1. Download the Latest Version: Visit the WordPress.org website and download the latest version of WordPress.
  2. Deactivate Plugins: Before updating, it’s recommended to deactivate all plugins to avoid any conflicts during the update process. You can do this by going to the Plugins section in your WordPress dashboard and selecting “Deactivate” for each plugin.
  3. Replace WordPress Files: Using an FTP client, connect to your website and navigate to the root directory. Delete the wp-admin and wp-includes folders, and replace them with the new versions you downloaded in step 1.
  4. Update Database: When you visit your website after replacing the files, you will be prompted to update your database. Click “Update WordPress Database” to complete the update.
  5. Reactivate Plugins: Once the update is complete, you can reactivate your plugins. Do this one by one to ensure they are compatible with the new version of WordPress.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

While updating WordPress is usually a smooth process, there may be some issues that arise. Here are some common issues and how to troubleshoot them:

White Screen of Death

Person using WordPress on a laptop.

If you encounter a white screen after updating WordPress, it’s likely due to a plugin or theme conflict. To troubleshoot this issue, follow these steps:

  1. Disable Plugins: Using an FTP client, navigate to the wp-content folder and rename the plugins folder to “plugins_old”. This will disable all plugins on your website.
  2. Switch to a Default Theme: If disabling plugins doesn’t resolve the issue, switch to a default WordPress theme. Default themes are those similar to Twenty Twenty-One, Twenty Twenty-Two etc.
  3. Enable Plugins and Theme: The white screen may disappear after switching to a default theme. If so, you can enable your plugins and theme one by one to identify the culprit.

Error Establishing a Database Connection

Code on a laptop screen

If you encounter this error after updating WordPress, it’s likely due to incorrect database credentials. To troubleshoot this issue, follow these steps:

  1. Check Database Credentials: Using an FTP client, navigate to the wp-config.php file and ensure that the database credentials are correct.
  2. Check Database Server: If the credentials are correct, check if the database server is running. You can contact your hosting provider for assistance with this.
  3. Repair Database: If the database server is running, you can try repairing your database with code. Add the following code to your wp-config.php file:

define(‘WP_ALLOW_REPAIR’, true);

Visit your website with this code added, and you will see a page with options to repair your database.

Tips for a Smooth Update

Here are some additional tips to ensure a smooth update process:

  • Update Regularly: As mentioned earlier, it’s essential to update WordPress regularly to ensure optimal performance and security.
  • Update Plugins and Themes: In addition to updating WordPress, it’s crucial to update your plugins and themes. Do this regularly to ensure compatibility and security.
  • Test Updates on a Staging Site: use a staging site if you have one. It’s recommended to test updates on this site before updating your live website. This will allow you to identify any issues and troubleshoot them before updating your live site.
  • Keep a Record of Changes. It’s a good idea to keep a record of any changes you make to your website. This can include updates. This will help you identify any issues that may arise after an update and revert to a previous version if necessary.

Heres a useful record of all the ways WordPress have changed their version.


Updating WordPress is a crucial aspect of maintaining a secure and high-performing website. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free update process. Remember to always backup your website before updating and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. With regular updates, your WordPress website will continue to thrive and provide an excellent user experience for your visitors.

For more support around WordPress websites check out our website development page.