Every so often, WordPress releases an upgrade. You may wonder each time whether it’s actually important to upgrade your WordPress site, and the answer is simple: yes.


3 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade WordPress

The two main reasons someone might hesitate to upgrade WordPress is because it takes time and you risk losing functionality of a plugin that’s not yet compatible with the new version.

While those concerns are understandable, the benefits of upgrading WordPress outweigh the potential risks. And any plugin that doesn’t work with a new WordPress version today, will likely have its team of developers working hard to get it working ASAP, so in most cases you won’t lose functionality for long.

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1. Security

Because of how popular WordPress is—over a quarter of all sites online use it—it’s a common target for hackers. People with hacking skills and good intentions often work with WordPress to find any vulnerabilities in the code that bad hackers could use to target websites on WordPress. When the company is alerted to these vulnerabilities, they work hard to fix them.

One of the most common reasons WordPress releases upgrades is to fix known vulnerabilities. Anyone who sticks with the old version is breaking one of the cardinal rules of website security and opening themselves up to unnecessary risks.


2. Improvements

While improved security is the most important reason to upgrade WordPress, often the updates come with added features, improvements to the interface, or increased speed for your website. The only way to take advantage of these improvements is to make sure you always upgrade.


3. Bug Fixes

For coding as complicated as that behind WordPress, minor bugs are basically inevitable. Every time the company recognizes a bug, they work to fix it. Those fixes take effect when you upgrade to the new version.

In short, for your WordPress site to consistently work properly and stay secure, making sure you stick with the latest version at all times is important.


4 Different Methods to Upgrade WordPress

There are four main ways to upgrade your WordPress site.


1. Set up WordPress auto-updates.

The easiest option is to set up your site to update automatically every time WordPress releases a new version. That way, not only do you usually not have to do anything to take advantage of new upgrades, but you also ensure that your website gets the benefits of the new update the moment it’s available.

WordPress actually defaults to automatic updates for minor maintenance and security upgrades, but you can update your settings to enable automatic updates for larger upgrades as well. To do that, you’ll need to access your wp-config.php file through your FTP program or the file manager provided by your hosting provider. Often, the file will be in the root folder of your website, but if you don’t see it there you may need to do a search to figure out where it is.

Open the file and look for the WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE portion of the code. To enable all auto updates, you want to set this section to true, which looks like:

define( ‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, true );

Reload the updated file to your website, and you’re all set.


2. The One-Click Upgrade

WordPress makes it very easy to upgrade to the newest version once it’s available. When you’re logged into your WordPress account, look for Updates in the menu. If you see an orange circle next to the word with a number next to it, click on it.

navigate to updates in wordpress dashboard

If WordPress is out of date, you’ll see a message telling you about the new version and a button you can press to make the upgrade.

how to update wordpress

While you’re on this page, you can also quickly upgrade all your plugins and themes that are out of date as well. It’s a quick and easy way to make your website more secure.


3. Upgrade WordPress manually with your FTP.

In rare cases, the easy update options fail and you still need to go through the process manually. Luckily, it’s not that difficult to do.

To start, make sure your backup your website before you make any changes to be safe.

Download the current version of WordPress at: https://wordpress.org/download/

Go into your FTP (or file manager) to find and delete all the old WordPress files. Specifically, look for:

  • wp-admin
  • wp-includes
  • All other files in your root folder that start with wp, EXCEPT for wp-config.php and the wp-content directory

Now you want to replace all of the deleted files with new files from the WordPress upgrade you downloaded. Upload them all (again, except for wp-config.php and the wp-content directory which has your templates and plugins).

When all the files are loaded, navigate to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php (obviously filling in your own domain address) and follow the instructions there.


4. Upgrade WordPress core with manual WP-CLI.

Your final option is to do a manual upgrade using the WP-CLI tool. WP-CLI is a free tool that allows you to make updates to WordPress using a command line interface (CLI). For people with coding skills that prefer more direct access to WordPress files and functions, this can be a preferable option. (For WordPress users that prefer an intuitive interface for most of their WordPress use, this probably isn’t the tool for you).

If you use WP-CLI, you can upgrade WordPress using the command: [user@server]$ wp core update.

That’s it.


Upgrade WordPress to the Latest Version

Now you know four different ways to get your WordPress up to date—so no more excuses. Keep your website protected and working seamlessly by keeping your WordPress version current. It’s relatively quick, easy, and well worth the time.  

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.