Updating WordPress Guide 2017 – Core, Themes & Plugins

I’ll start by saying updating WordPress can be simple. In this guide, I will walk through each step to ensure a safe WordPress updates process. If you feel you would rather have a professional WordPress developer make these updates for you, contact us now! For those of you confident to keep moving, here we go!

Steps to update WordPress correctly:

Step 1: Completely Backup your WordPress Site

In order to backup your website, you will need an understanding of which WordPress files need to be backed up. WordPress is a large platform but your personal assets files are all located in the wp-content folder. Outside of your assets files such as images, videos, plugins and themes, your website also has a database. The database backup is as critical as the content in most cases. Both are required to perform a safe update. So lets begin the backup process.

Backing up your WordPress Content folder

You have two options for backing up your content. Either FTP or from your hosting controls panel. We find the file manager inside of the hosting control panel to be fastest and most efficient. If you have FTP experience, simply connect to your host and pull your entire wp-content folder. Once complete, zip/compress the folder to ensure its safety as its the only emergency backup.

updating wordpress

For newbies, File manager inside your hosting account is easiest. Most all hosting providers such as Bluehost, Godaddy, MediaShrinx and others have file managers. File Mangers are useful for gaining access to files on your server. Once you get in your file manager, select your wp-content folder and choose compress. If it ask for file type, just choose zip.

Our file manager allows you to right-click on the folder and press compress. Once the new zip file appears inside your file list, select the zip and download. This file could be fairly large depending on the amount of content your website consist of. Once your have a downloaded copy of the wp-content folder let start on the WordPress database.

Backing up your WordPress Database

WordPress uses MySQL Databases which makes this really easy. This has to be done logged into your hosting provider. Once your inside your account you will need to locate account databases. Every hosting provider has a link to access these in different ways. If your account is running cPanel, you access it through PHPMyAdmin. That’s the interface for controlling the databases with ease. Once inside the databases, if you have more than one database you may need to verify the correct database.


You can start by selecting a database and viewing its tables. Opening the “_options” table and inside will be the Site URL. Looking at that value should give you an idea of which site it belongs to. Another way is access your file manager again. Open the wp-config file as it is the file connecting to the database.

Those that have located the correct database, choose export from that table. The next window will ask for file type and you can choose SQL. Then just press download and tada!

That’s the hard stuff

[adrotate banner=”3″]

Hooray! You have downloaded a copy of your WordPress content and database to begin the WordPress updates. Place these files some place safe to ensure you do not loose these before you finish updating WordPress. If all goes well, that was the hardest part of making the update process safe.

Time to Update WordPress, themes & plugins

Login to your WordPress website by accessing the WordPress admin. Usually located at yourdomain.com/wp-admin, fill in your username & password and make it to the WordPress dashboard. If you hover dashboard in the main menu on left side, a popup should appear with an updates link. Click that and we will now be at the update window for WordPress. This will inform you as to what kind of updates are available for your site. This is where you need to check a few things before pressing update. There are 3 types of updates.

  • 1. WordPress Core Updates
  • 2. WordPress Theme Updates
  • 3. WordPress Plugin Updates


Each of the updates come from different developers in different locations in the world. However everybody tries to follow the WordPress Core updates as quickly as possible. A good rule before updating is check your theme change-log to see if its compatible. Check if its ready for the latest version of WordPress. Assuming your theme is update-ready. You should now be able to press the core update button from your WordPress dashboard. Now, if all goes well you will get a WordPress Welcome screen, welcoming you to the new version of WordPress. If not, be thankful you made a backup and read our article on restoring WordPress website from backup (coming soon).

Updating WordPress Themes

updating-wordpress-themesUpdating WordPress themes happens two ways. Either your theme has a license for updates and provides a download link on updates page. Else, you got your theme from a website where the automatic update license doesn’t work for us. If you pay for updates, press update and let it do the work for you. If not, we will need to replace our outdated theme with the new updated WordPress theme. We prefer to use file manager inside the hosting account. Inside file manager lets locate wp-content, then themes.

Find the current theme your site uses and create a backup by simply compressing the folder. You can leave that zip on where it is. Upload the new updated theme to the same folder in file manager. Once ready, quickly delete current theme and extract the new zip to this location. All in all, 6 seconds of downtime during updating the WordPress theme. Now go take a look at the front of your website. If all went well then pat yourself on the back else be thankful you made a backup. If you need our assistance contact us now and we can finish updating WordPress for you!

Updating WordPress Plugins

updating-wordpress-pluginsUpdating plugins frequently can determine the difference between getting hacked and staying safe. Be sure you have followed our backing up process to ensure the old site was backed up.

Let’s get started on updating our WordPress plugins. From the WordPress Admin dashboard, find plugins in the left menu. This is where you add, remove,update and disable plugins inside WordPress. If all your plugins are from the WordPress plugin repository, you are in luck! Navigate down the page looking for alerts under the plugin details. If a plugin has an updates it will appear right below the plugins information. Press on update for each of the updates available. Its good to update one while let it finish completely then update the next.

Updating Premium WordPress Plugins

Maybe you have premium plugins. Those could have alternative methods for updating the plugins. You may have the simple auto-update option. Meanwhile some plugins may require manually install via file manager. Using the same steps as updating themes accept rather than themes folder you access the plugins folder. Both folders reside inside the wp-content folder.

Clear your WordPress site cache

Finally, clear your cache for an accurate front-end result. Most our clients use W3 Total cache and we find that it works great! If your running w3tc on your site, look at the admin bar in the top of your site. Find the performance tab & hover it. Press Purge All Caches & that’s it!

Wrapping up our updating WordPress guide

Hopefully this guide to updating WordPress core and its components helps you keep your site up to date! If you would like us to manage your updates for you contact us today! We have monthly maintenance packages available for any size site. Starting low as $60/month and guarantee your website remains fast, consistent, secure & up-to-date!





If you are looking to buy domain names or purchase quality web hosting, EnsureDomains is our favorite host!


About the Author:

Newsletter Signup