What are WordPress Updates?
Keeping WordPress and its plugins and themes updated is a critical part of maintaining a secure and well-functioning website. Updates allow the developers behind WordPress, plugins, and themes to distribute bug fixes, security patches, and new features to users.
When a new version of WordPress core, a plugin, or a theme is released, WordPress has the ability to check for these updates and notify administrators that they are available. This alert system ensures website owners can keep their sites up-to-date and take advantage of improvements as they become available.
How WordPress Checks for Updates
The main place to view available updates is on the Updates screen, accessed from the Dashboard menu in the WordPress admin area. Any updates to WordPress core, plugins, or themes will be shown here.
The updates are divided into categories – WordPress updates, plugin updates, and theme updates. The number of total updates waiting is displayed next to each section title.
By default, WordPress performs these update checks automatically on a regular basis. It contacts the WordPress.org server API to compare the currently installed versions with the newest versions available in the repository.
Any versions found to be outdated will appear as updates ready to install on the Updates screen. This allows site administrators to easily see at a glance what needs upgrading.
Updating WordPress Core
To apply an update to WordPress core and upgrade to the latest version, simply click the “Update Now” button. This will kick off the update process.
Updating the core is a one-click installation. WordPress will automatically download the new files, replace the existing files, and make any necessary changes to the database.
It is recommended to first back up the site before applying a core update as a precaution. The update process should only take a few minutes to complete.
Once finished, the admin area will refresh and confirm the update was successful. The newly updated WordPress version number will also be displayed at the bottom of the Dashboard screen.
Updating Plugins and Themes
Updating plugins and themes follows a similar one-click process. On the Updates screen, each plugin and theme with an update available will be listed.
Clicking the “Update” button next to the plugin or theme name will install the new version, just as with core updates.
One difference is that some plugin and theme updates may require manual changes after updating. Be sure to read any release notes or instructions provided by the developer.
For plugins and themes not hosted in the WordPress.org repository, manual updates are required. These updates will need to be downloaded from the source and uploaded to the site via FTP.
Why Updates Are Important
While updating WordPress and its extensions may seem tedious, staying updated provides significant security and performance benefits. Here are some key reasons to apply updates promptly:
- Security patches – Many updates fix security issues that could otherwise leave a site vulnerable to attacks. Hackers are constantly finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in web software. Promptly installing security updates helps block these holes.
- Bug fixes – Updates routinely fix bugs and errors that may be causing problems on a site. Bugs can lead to degraded performance, breakage of features, or other unintended behaviors. Updates restore things to working order.
- New features and improvements – Updates often add helpful new features, optimizations, and redesigns that improve the user experience for both administrators and visitors. Keeping updated allows access to these improvements.
- Compatibility – Over time, new browser versions, PHP versions, WordPress features, and other software components are released. Updates help ensure compatibility as the web ecosystem evolves.
- Technical support – The developers behind WordPress software only provide support for the latest versions. Running outdated versions often means losing access to support resources.
Applying WordPress updates is typically a quick and painless process. The benefits far outweigh the minor inconvenience. For a well-running and secure site, staying on top of the latest releases is a best practice for any website owner.