As a WordPress site owner, you’ll likely notice regular update alerts within the admin interface. At the top of the page, a number will often appear next to the site title and next to “Updates” in the Dashboard submenu. This number indicates how many WordPress.org, theme, and plugin releases are available.
Maintaining the latest version of WordPress ensures your site incorporates security enhancements, such as the cross-site scripting fix with version 3.3.1 and the editor-level access issue addressed with version 3.1.4. You can take advantage of new admin interface functionality, for example, the Media drag-and-drop uploader introduced with version 3.3. Plugin and theme updates likewise can include bug fixes, WordPress version compatibility updates, and new features.
Unless a WordPress theme developer manages your site’s updating process, you should make upgrading a habit. If you don’t login in periodically, you may wish to start doing so to check for alerts. You can also sign up for release notifications straight from WordPress.org. On the WordPress download page, submit your email address under “Release Notification” on the right side of the page.
Before Getting Started: Back Up
Before updating your WordPress version, remember to backup your site files and database. Regularly backing up is an excellent year-round practice and an important step in the updating process. Luckily, a plugin can handle the backup workload for you.
My backup plugin of choice is currently BackUpWordPress, which stores copies of your site files and database on your server. After installing the plugin, you can choose the schedule and the number of backups to store.
To perform an immediate backup before updating WordPress, click “Tools” in the left navigation and then “Backups” in the submenu. Now click the “Back Up Now” button at the top. The new backup will be stored on your server. If an error occurs during or after the WordPress update, you can always revert your site to a previous version. Phew!
After Updating: Check Compatibility
Once you’ve followed the admin prompts and completed the WordPress version update, double-check your site. Is everything working correctly?
On rare occasions, an update will include code changes that conflict with the plugins installed on your site or with your theme. You can deactivate your plugins and then activate them one-by-one to discover which is the culprit. If no update to that plugin is available, you can search for an alternative plugin which provides the same functionality. If your theme is causing the problem, you should contact the author for an update.
Keeping WordPress running smoothly means keeping it updated. With its persistent reminders, automated update process, and tools like BackUpWordPress, this process is fortunately painless.
May all your updates be fast and error free!