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How to Update WordPress – Manually or Automatically

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Read Time: 3 mins

Updating WordPress and keeping it up to date is an important part of running any WordPress website. In this video I’ll explain how to do it, manually and automatically!

How to Update WordPress

1. Backup WordPress Before Applying an Update

Before we begin, it’s important you understand that by updating your version of WordPress you’ll be impacting the files you have installed, and often the database too. For this reason, and to make sure you can restore your current version, it’s important to backup everything before updating.

Daily WordPress Backups With SiteGround

Automatic backups are often made to live WordPress websites if you use a managed WordPress hosting package such as the one offered by SiteGround (get up to 70% off their hosting through Themeforest). 

Even their most basic of WordPress hosting packages includes free daily backups of your whole installation, ready to be restored should something go amiss.

free daily backups from sitegroundfree daily backups from sitegroundfree daily backups from siteground
Free daily backups from Siteground

SiteGround is one of the few options endorsed on the WordPress website itself. I personally use it too, and definitely recommend it.

2. Update WordPress Automatically

Arguably the safest way to update WordPress is to let WordPress take care of it for you.

In your WordPress dashboard you’ll see a notification when a newer version is available, plus a couple of other areas where the required update is flagged:

wordpress updateswordpress updateswordpress updates

There’s also a link in the bottom right of the admin pages just in case you miss all of the above!

Follow any of these links and you’ll be taken to the updates page, where you can click the Update Now button. In doing so, the latest version of WordPress will be fetched from wordpress.org and installed behind the scenes.

Note: the updates page also informs you about plugin and theme updates which might need to be carried out, though we won’t be talking about them in this tutorial.

3. Update WordPress Manually

If you’d like a more hands-on approach, and don’t mind the potential risks involved, you might prefer to perform the update manually. It’s still advisable to backup your whole website before doing this.

FTP Access

To update WordPress manually you’ll need server access. In the video of this tutorial I’m running a local copy of WordPress on my own computer system, so I have direct access to the files. You’ll most likely be running a live WordPress install on a web server, in which case you’ll need FTP access.

Get the Latest Version of WordPress

Having gained access to the old files, you now need the new ones. Go to wordpress.org and click Get WordPress to download all the files you need.

Get the Latest Version of WordPressGet the Latest Version of WordPressGet the Latest Version of WordPress

Deactivate Plugins

Now you have the new files, as a precaution it’s recommended you deactivate all the plugins in your WordPress website (go to admin > plugins and click deactivate on each one).

Delete wp-includes and wp-admin Folders

In your WordPress install, you need to delete the folders wp-includes and wp-admin. Then, from the downloaded WordPress files, select the same two folders and upload them to the same place on your web server.

Edit wp-content Folder

Next, open the live wp-content folder on your server and in the downloaded new files, and copy across the contents, replacing where needed (existing unique files on your web server won’t be removed or overwritten, but existing files will be replaced with new versions). 

Replace All Other Files

Then take all the other files in the root of the new version and copy them into the root of the web server, replacing files when prompted.

Refresh WordPress and Update Database

With that done, refresh your WordPress in the browser, and you’ll likely be told the database needs an update.

Refresh WordPress and Update DatabaseRefresh WordPress and Update DatabaseRefresh WordPress and Update Database

Click Update WordPress Database to carry this out.

Lastly, reactivate any plugins which need to be reactivated.


There you have it; two ways to update WordPress. Be aware that mistakes can be made during this process so it’s always (always) advisable to back everything up before updating anything!

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