How to Update WordPress Core, Themes & Plugins

Keeping a website up-to-date is one of the most important aspects of website maintenance.

Here’s why:

  • Better speed: Updated WordPress versions often contain features and enhancements that can improve website loading speed
  • Enhanced functionality: An update usually adds more features and options that you can use to upgrade your website and its user experience
  • Improved security: Most importantly, an updated website ensures that bugs and security vulnerabilities from older versions are fixed. Ignoring updates can thus lead to serious security issues as hackers can easily exploit known vulnerabilities in outdated versions.

Website owners often hesitate to update for the fear of breaking the site and losing critical data. But with the right tools and proper procedure, updating a WordPress website can be a fairly safe and easy process. In this article, we discuss how you can update your WordPress website completely – without any hassles or risks. 
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First things first – what is a WordPress update? It usually consists of updating the WordPress core, themes, and plugins installed on the site. You can carry out these updates manually or you can automate the process. 

Manual updates: In this case, the website admin updates the core, theme or plugin from the WordPress dashboard. 

Automated updates: This involved using an automated process that enables plugins, themes, and the core to update on their own. Anyone who has administrator access to the WordPress website can update the core, themes, and plugins. But before making any updates, we suggest creating a staging website. 

What’s a staging site? Why do you need one?

A staging website is an exact replica of your WordPress website. A staging site is often used by a WordPress website design company. On the staging site, you can test your updates to check if they might break your website or cause any other issues. After this, you can go ahead and update the core, themes, and plugins on your original website. 

There are many staging services to opt for – from staging plugins to Web host services that offer staging facilities. But most staging services can have a negative impact on your original website. Why? Most plugins create a staging site on the same server as your original website. This staging site consumes bandwidth meant for the original website, causing the site to slow down. 

We would recommend using a WordPress staging plugin to create a staging environment. Plugins like BlogVault offer staging on their own servers and also offers the staging function in-built, at no extra cost. You just need to sign up on BlogVault, add your site to the dashboard, and click on “Add Staging site” to create your staging environment. 

How to manually update a WordPress site

After the staging site is ready, here are the steps to manually update a WordPress website. The steps remain the same – for your live site or your staging site. Just to reiterate, updates consist of WordPress core, plugins and themes. We’ll tackle them one by one.

Manually update the WordPress core: 

Step 1: On the WordPress dashboard of your website, navigate to the top of the page. Here, you can see a prompt from WordPress to update to the latest version. 

Click on “Please update now”.

Wordpress Update Image

This will take you to the WordPress Updates page. 

Step 2: On the WordPress Updates page, you’ll know if an update is available. If you see that ‘An updated version of WordPress is available’, click on “Update Now”.

Wordpress Updates

This will update your WordPress core. You now have the latest core version powering your website!

An alternate way to update the WordPress core:

An alternate way to update the core is to use the dashboard of the website. In the dashboard, navigate to the “Updates” option from the sidebar. This takes you to the same WordPress Updates page. 

Wordpress Updates dashboard

Manually update WordPress plugins: 

Step 1: On the WordPress dashboard of the website, navigate to Plugins and click on “Installed plugins”.

Installed Plugins

It takes you to the Plugins page where you can see all the plugins installed on your website.

Step 2: On the Plugins page, WordPress tells you if any plugin needs to be updated. For example, in the image below, you can see that there is a new version available for the Bluehost plugin. 

Plugin Update

Step 3: To update a plugin, click on “Update now”.

Plugin Update Image

An alternate way to update WordPress plugins:

There’s another way to update plugins. 

On the WordPress dashboard, navigate to an option called “Updates” from the menu. This takes you to the WordPress Updates page.

WP Dashboard

In the WordPress Update page, there is a list of plugins that you need to update. Choose the option “Select All” and then click on “Update Plugins”.

Similarly, there is also a list of themes that have updates available.  Click on “Select All” and then click on “Update Themes”. That’ll update all the themes on the page!

Wordpress Plugins

Manually update WordPress themes: 

Step 1: On the dashboard of the staging website, navigate to “Appearance” and click on “Themes”. This will show you the list of all the themes installed on your website. 

Wordpress Appearance

Step 2: WordPress tells you if a theme requires updating. Click on“Update now” to update the theme.

Wordpress Themes

And that’s how you can manually update your WordPress Site.

How to automate updates of a WordPress site

Automating updates ensure that your site is up-to-date all the time. But there’s a catch. Updates can cause issues. For instance, if you enable automated updates and there’s a compatibility issue, the update can break your website. 

Hence, if you choose to enable automated updates, there is a real chance that something can go wrong. With that word of caution, let’s go ahead and see how you can automate all updates on your WordPress website. You can do this manually or by using a plugin.


Automating updates manually: Means using code snippets to instruct WordPress to update the core, plugins, and themes.

Automating updates using a plugin: Means using a plugin that instructs WordPress to update the core, plugins, and themes.

We’ll explore both these options one by one. Let’s start with a plugin because that’s much easier than the manual process.  

Automating updates using a plugin: 

For the purpose of this article, we’ll use the Easy Updates Manager plugin. There are a few reasons why we chose this plugin. It comes from the makers of UpdraftPlus, a popular backup plugin. It has over 20,000 active installs, is frequently updated, and has a 5-star rating from over 300 users. 

Let’s get started. 

Step 1: Log in to your WordPress dashboard. Navigate to Plugins on the sidebar and then click on “Add New”. 

Add new plugin

This will take you to the “Add Plugins” page. 

Step 2: Here, type Easy Updates Manager in the search bar. When the plugin appears, click on “Install Now” and then, “Activate”.

Add Plugins

Once activated, it’s time to configure the plugin. 

Step 3: From the WordPress dashboard, click on “Update Options”. The option wasn’t present before. It only appeared after installing Easy Updates Manager.

Wordpress Update Options

This takes you to the Easy Updates Manager page.

Step 4: On this page, select to enable the following options:

  • Core Updates 
  • Plugin Updates 
  • Theme Updates

Generally, the options are enabled by default when you install the plugin.

Wordpress Core Updates

And that’s it. Now every time there’s a new version of a plugin, theme or even the core, they will all be automatically updated. 

Automating updates manually using code snippets:

Here’s something to consider before you go ahead and use this manual method. This method involves making modifications to the website backend. The backend is made up of WordPress files and it’s not something users generally access because small missteps can lead to big issues. 

We recommend taking backups before handling the WordPress files. You can use a backup tool like BlogVault or UpdraftPlus to do this. This way, you can always undo the damage done by any modifications you have made to the WordPress files. 

Once you have taken a recent backup, you can go ahead and enable automatic updates for all three WordPress components – the core, plugins, and themes.

Manually enabling automatic core updates:

To manually enable automatic updates for the core, all you have to do is add a code to your wp-config.php file. Here’s how:

Step 1: You need to first access the wp-config.php file. Login to your Web Host account and click on File Manager. 

Wordpress File Manager

Step 2: In the File Manager, navigate to the “public_html” folder. The wp-config.php file is present in this folder.

WP Config Image

Step 3: Now right-click on the wp-config file and then click on Edit.

WP Edit Image

Step 4: When the wp-config file opens, place the following code snippet on the top of the page:

define( ‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, true );

Then click on “Save Changes”. 

WP Auto Core Update

And now the WordPress core will be updated automatically. 

Manually enabling automatic plugin and theme updates:

To manually enable automatic updates for all plugins and themes you have to do is add a code to the functions.php file of the active theme

For instance – On our website Westworld Fansite, we are using a theme called Personalblogily. To manually enable automatic updates, we’ll add a code snippet to the functions.php file. This file is part of the Personalblogily theme. Here’s how to go about it:

Step 1: Identify the active theme on your website. 

Step 2: Log in to your Web Host account and click on File Manager under the Advanced section. 

WP File Manager

Step 3: In the File Manager, navigate to the “public_html”. From here, navigate to wp-content>themes>personalblogily (the active theme).

WP Image

Step 4: In the “personalblogily” folder, you’ll find the function.php file as shown below.

functions php image

Step 5: Now right-click on the “functions.php” file and then click on Edit.

functions php edit

Step 6: Next add the below code snippets as shown in the image below to automatically install all plugin and theme updates.

For plugins:

add_filter( ‘auto_update_plugin’, ‘__return_true’ );

For themes:

add_filter( ‘auto_update_theme’, ‘__return_true’ );

Then click on “Save Changes”.

auto update

And that’s how you enable the automatic updates of plugins and themes, folks!

Over to you

Keeping your WordPress website up-to-date is one of the most critical components of your website maintenance journey. An updated WordPress website is the easiest way to ensure the best experience for your visitors and increased security for your site. 

We hope this article helps you pick the best way for you to update your WordPress website. Whether it is through manual or automated methods, we strongly recommend that you make WordPress updates a regular part of your website management strategy. While manual methods can be time-consuming and seem a little daunting, automated methods make the job much easier.  If you’re looking for a quick and simple way, WordPress security plugins are your best bet. They are designed to be used just like any other plugins and save you time, energy, and effort. 

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