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Clicking the update button in the backend of your site can intimidate the best of us but let’s chat about how to update WordPress safely.

Nervous woman holding hands to her face peeking one eye through fingers looking at screen indicating WordPress update is available.

Why update my website? What happens if I don’t update WordPress?

WordPress Updates are core updates. You are actually updating the operating system of your website. Like any operating system, it needs to be updated frequently for a variety of reasons:

Security

WordPress is popular, powerful, and versatile but also comes with vulnerability. WordPress updates provide bug fixes and patches to lessen the risk of malicious attacks. This alone is reason enough to stay current with updates.

Function

Each time WordPress releases an update, additional features and functions are part of the package. There could be fun new options or just improvements to what was already there. Updating WordPress means the back end gets better for you and the front end gets better for your visitors.

Speed

Website speed is everyone’s goal. We are impatient creatures. Each update means new optimizations for improved site speed.

Compatibility

The WordPress operating system works with other technology. We are well aware of how fast technology changes so it’s important to stay up to date so you don’t get left behind. Modern themes and plugins need an up-to-date core to work properly.

What will happen when I update WordPress? Will my site break if I update WordPress?

During an update, WordPress puts your site in maintenance mode. It’s still visible but you can’t make changes during the process. There is always a chance of something going wrong when making changes.

If you have a lot of plugins and themes installed, the risks increase because they all need to be compatible. If you missed a few updates, there is a greater chance of risk because your site has more changes to accommodate. It’s important to stay current and have a plan to reduce this risk.

How to Update WordPress Safely

Back Up

Who doesn’t love an undo button? That is essentially what a complete backup provides. If you have a copy of all your content stored safely, you can always restore your site to the version just before you attempted the update. This might be the most important step of how to Update WordPress safely.

Turning caching off

Many sites install a caching plugin to help improve speed and performance. It’s a good idea to turn this off while you make changes to be safe.

Update themes and plugins

Remember when we talked about compatibility? Your themes and plugins often get update releases too. If you are updating the core operating system, you need to make sure all the extras are up to date too.

Complete core update

Now it’s time to click the scary button. Don’t worry. You have an update and you’ve prepared the extras plugged into your site for the big moment.

Turn caching back on

Reactivate your caching plugin to continue reaping the benefits of better speed and performance. Your visitors have gotten used to this luxury.

Test

Browse around your site and make sure everything still works the way you expect it to. Do your pages and post display properly? Buttons and links still working?

Repeat Backup

If all goes well then back up your newly updated site so you have the most up-to-date version available.

Is there a way to practice updating WordPress?

Website clone in sandbox with bugs

If you are performing a large update on a complicated site, you may prefer to complete updates in a Sandbox with a cloned site. This will allow you to see how your site, plugins, and themes react without affecting your live site. This is really a good idea if you have a lot of customizations on your site.

Another option of how to update WordPress safely is to enlist the help of a developer. PressHero provides WordPress security services for just this reason. We can audit your site for risks and reduce the stress of clicking that update button yourself. With unlimited support services, help and advice are only a ticket away.

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