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WordPress offers a great User Experience (UX) when it comes to carrying out updates. The platform has evolved to now offer automatic updates for minor and security-based core releases, and some plugins and themes too. Though, it’s not a foolproof system. There are times when you’ll come up against the WordPress Update Failed error.

Much like lots of other WordPress issues, there are some simple steps to fix it. Most of them will need you to dig into your server through Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). As such, if you have these skills before you begin, you’ll be in a good position to tackle the error head on.

In this post, we’ll show you three ways to fix the WordPress Update Failed error. By the end, you’ll know what to do in the event of a crisis, and can get back to running your site.

What You’ll Need to Fix the WordPress Update Failed Error

It’s a good idea to get all of the tools you’ll need in one place. What’s more, you may need to brush up on the techniques you need too.

Before you begin, you’ll want to have the following in place:

Once you have these, you’re ready. The good news about the WordPress Update Failed error is that you don’t need expert-level knowledge to fix it.

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How to Fix the WordPress Update Failed Error (In 3 Ways)

Over the next few sections, we’ll show you three ways to rid your site of the WordPress Update Failed error.

The methods are ordered based on how easy they are to implement. As such, the first involves removing a file.

1. Remove an Old .maintenance File

For the unaware, WordPress uses configuration files to carry out automated tasks. Maintaining your site involves the .maintenance file. This has a few uses, but in this case it can stop updates from running after being stopped.

In other words, the .maintenance file is stopped in one state, but your site expects another. The result is the WordPress Update Failed error. The solution is to delete the .maintenance file.

To do this, you’ll need to log into your server. Once you’re in you’ll see the top-level files that make up your WordPress site:

wordpress directory

Within, you may find the .maintenance file. If not, you can skip this step and try some of the other solutions. Though, if you find it, right-click and delete the file:

delete maintenance

At this point, check your site and try to carry out the update. If you still get the issue, check out our other methods.

2. Alter the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) Settings In wp-config.php

While you’re in the top level of your WordPress site, you can make a quick change to the wp-config.php file. This stores configuration settings for your site, and an issue here can cause the WordPress Update Failed error.

As with the first method, you’ll want to find the wp-config.php file within the root directory of your site. Here, right-click and choose to open the file:

edit config

When the file is open, look for the /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */ line. Above this, paste in the following:

define(‘FS_METHOD’, ‘ftpext’);

define(‘FTP_HOST’, <hostname>);

define(‘FTP_USER’, <username>);

define(‘FTP_PASS’, <password>);

Of course, you’ll want to replace the values with those relating to your site. Also, check that these aren’t already defined within wp-config.php.

Once you’re ready, save your changes and upload the file to your server again if necessary. From here, check your site, and move onto the next method if you still get the error.

3. Adjust Your File Permissions

A more complex task involves your file permissions. Every file and folder has a collection of users that can make changes. If file permissions aren’t set in the right way, you won’t be able to carry out tasks such as updates.

To change file permissions, you’ll want to right-click and choose the option to set permissions on the file or folder. In FileZilla, the option is explicit (File Permissions). In Cyberduck, choose Info:

info option

You’ll want to make sure the following folders are set with the 755 permissions:

  • wp-content
  • wp-admin
  • wp-includes

When you’ve done this, head inside the wp-content folder, and look for the upgrade directory:

upgrades

Again, choose 755 as your file permission here. At this point, check your site again. If you still get the error, head back to the upgrade file, and change the permissions to 777. This is more ‘open’, so it’s only something to do on a temporary basis.

Check out your site one final time and see if the WordPress Update Failed error still occurs. If so, you may want to carry out a manual WordPress update. The steps aren’t too technical, and the good news is that you’ll only need to do this once. When it’s complete, your site should be back to normal.

Wrapping Up

WordPress offers automatic updating functionality for themes, plugins, and minor core releases. Because of this, you can take more of a hands-off approach here than ever before. Though, if you come across the WordPress Update Failed error, you’ll have to break open the toolkit until the issue is resolved.

In this post, we’ve offered three ways to fix the WordPress Update Failed error. Let’s recap:

  1. Delete the .maintenance file from your server.
  2. Change the SFTP settings within the wp-config.php file.
  3. Make sure your file permissions are set.

Have you ever come across the WordPress Update Failed error, and if so, will this article help you tackle it better next time? Let us know in the comments section below!

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