WordPress Updates – DIY Guide
Welcome to our DIY guide to WordPress updates. This guide was created to assist you, the WordPress website owner with performing your own basic website maintenance. There are a few key steps to performing updates which we will cover in this guide. The main steps are as follows:
- Perform a backup and download it to your computer
- Assess your current update requirements
- Update your WordPress plugins
- Update your WordPress themes
- Update your WordPress version if required
- Check things are working as intended
- What to do if things go wrong
At the completion of this tutorial, you will be able to back up your website using the Duplicator plugin by Snap Creek and perform basic updates on your website.
Perform a backup and download it to your computer
The first step in performing any maintenance on your website is to make sure that you complete a physical backup of the website. When it comes to performing backups of your website there are many options available to you including backups via your cPanel, and plugin based backups of just your website and database. For website only maintenance then you simply need to make sure you complete a website and database backup.
When completing this type of backup we use and recommend the Duplicator plug in from a company called snap creek. For the purpose of this tutorial the free version of the plugin should be all that is required. In some circumstances you may need to either purchase the pro version or look at an alternative option.
Once you have installed the Duplicator plugin you will need to navigate to the duplicator menu item on the left sidebar of your WordPress dashboard, from this item click the link to packages that appears below it. You will see the following screen.
Once you have reached the above screen you will need to click the create new button. Once you click the create new button you will be presented with the following screen which is part of the backup wizard process.
On this screen you simply need to select the next button at the bottom corner. Once you click the next button you will be presented with the next stage of the wizard process the scan stage. The scan stage screen is shown below.
Once the scan has completed you should see a checklist as shown in the image above. As long as all of the items there are listed as Good then you can proceed to the next stage by clicking the Build button. If you have any warnings or other status items appear in this stage then I suggest you check with your website developer first before proceeding. Any of these items that are not listed as good may cause your backup to fail. Once you have moved to the build stage you will see the following screen.
The build stage is often the longest stage of performing a backup as this is where the actual archive of your site and database are made. The length of time it will take is dependent on a few key items including size of the website and speed of your website host. Please note that on some shared and budget hosting providers this process may fail due to lack of server resources. If this happens contact your website host for suggestions on fixing this issue. Once your backup package is built you will see the following screen.
Once the package has been created you will see two blue buttons on the screen one says installer and one says archive. You will need to click these items one at a time and the files will download to your computer. IMPORTANT: you must keep these two files together as they are useless without each other. I recommend keeping these files in a safe place and in fact you should perform a backup like this at least monthly.
Congratulations you now have a complete backup of your website and the database. Should anything go wrong with your website you can access this backup in order to restore your data.
Performing your WordPress website backups
Now that you have a complete backup it’s time to look at the updates for your website. The first stage here is to visit your WordPress website dashboard and see if there are any updates required. Your dashboard should look similar to the image below.
In the image above you will see that there is a small icon at the op of the screen that looks like two arrows forming a circle with a number next to it. Additionally you will see a menu item on the left that says updates and has a number next to it in a coloured circle. To access the update screen you can simply click either of these two items and you will be taken to a screen similar to the one below.
On the above screen you can see that there are several sections visible, and for the purpose of this tutorial we purposely installed some out of date plugin items. From here we can see what the update process looks like. The next part of this process is to update any outdated plugins. We have shown the plugin section below.
The first step is to update your plugins and the first step is to click the select all button under the plugins heading. Once you have selected all of the plugins you wish to update you will need to click the update plugins button. Once clicked you will see a screen similar to the following screen.
If a plugin fails to update please contact your website developer for assistance as there may be a licensing issue. Once you have completed this round of updates it is time to go back and update your themes if required. To achieve this you will need to select the return to WordPress Updates page button.
You will be taken back to the updates screen where we will now focus on the theme updates if required by selecting all relevant themes as per the screen below.
The process to update your themes is identical to the process for plugins, and after selecting what you wish to update, you will need to click on the update themes button to move to the following screen.
The next stage and final stage of updates comes with a warning. This stage is updating the WordPress core framework and whilst this is as straight forward to perform as themes and plugins it has risks involved. Sometimes WordPress core updates can fail and if this happens your website could be destroyed so be prepared with a backup. I do not recommend that you update the WordPress core yourself unless you have consulted with your website developer first. The WordPress core items are shown in the screenshot below however the site this tutorial was created on did not require any core updates.
If your WordPress installation requires core updates they will appear in the are shown above. Once you have completed all updates on your website the updates screen should look like the following.
Congratulations you have now updated your WordPress website but we need to check a few things to make sure the site is functioning correctly. The first step in this is to visit your website and make sure that nothing looks broken. Be certain to check every page of your site and even try out your contact forms and links to make sure they continue to function as intended.
If all is working well then it is recommended to perform a second backup. This way should anything break in the near future you have a valid up to date backup to restore from.
What to do if things go wrong?
Things will go wrong it is not a matter of if they go wrong but when they go wrong. Sometimes plugin’s break and sometimes WordPress breaks and it is important to make sure you know what to do to recover from this.
Firstly you should have a good backup because now that you know how to create a backup you are going to make sure you take regular backups.
The next step is to make sure those backups are kept in a safe place and not on your website hosting account. This way it wont get damaged or corrupted by online viruses and hacks. Yes your backup is a way to protect yourself from these malicious items as well.
At this point you have multiple options you can either follow the excellent tutorial on restoring your backup with duplicator, or you can contact your website developer and provide them with your backup and have them restore it for you.
Restoring your backup can be a complicated procedure so my advice is to always seek assistance from an industry professional.
I do hope that you have found this tutorial helpful and that you continue to maintain your website into the future. This tutorial is of intermediate difficulty because there is inherent risk involved with updating your own website. If you are uncertain or afraid of breaking your website there are many companies out there who will do this for you each month for a small fee. Protecting your website with updates is protecting your investment in your online business.
Martin is an experienced WordPress website consultant and lead generation specialist for small business. With over 20 years of experience in the website design and development industry, his experience leads to your online business success. Martin founded Conceptual Creative to assist Australian business owners to succeed online through quality online platforms, effective lead generation, and educational content.