When should you edit Core WordPress Files?
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When should you edit Core WordPress Files?

In typical scenarios, users don’t need to change core files in WordPress. However, you should edit core WordPress files when inserting specific functionalities in the WordPress backend.

In this article, you’re going to learn about WordPress core files. You will also know when you should change core files in WordPress.

Introduction to Core Files in WordPress

The default files supplied with the WordPress package are called core files in WordPress. The purpose of core files in WordPress is to maintain WordPress functionality properly.

For example, once you’ve downloaded and extracted the WordPress package from its official resource, the files, directories, or media you see under the “WordPress” folder fall under the WordPress core files, such as the wp-content directory or wp-config.php file.

When should you edit Core WordPress Files

Note: Take your site’s backup before editing the WordPress core files. To proceed, you don’t need to use additional code editors. The WordPress default file editor in the dashboard is enough for the said purpose.

To keep WordPress running smoothly, it is always recommended that users keep WordPress core files the same. However, you can change the WordPress core files in the following scenarios if you have no option.

Do minor changes without WordPress plugins

WordPress core files are sensitive to code scripts, such as the wp-config.php holds information about your site’s database, usernames, and passwords to login.

You can change WordPress core files if you don’t prefer separate plugins for minor tasks, such as forcing SSL admin and HTTP redirects. This falls under minor changes to WordPress files, and this shows when you should edit WordPress core files. However, changing WordPress core files is sensitive—take necessary measures, such as site backups.

Let’s describe an example of the WordPress core files in this case. Placing the define(‘FORCE_SSL_ADMIN’, true); in wp-config.php will set the WordPress Admin dashboard load with HTTPS.

Keep changes after WordPress updates

Now, as you keep making changes for minor tweaks in WordPress, you’ll need to make changes again if you’ve updated the WordPress package from the dashboard. This happens when a new update for the WordPress core package rolls out.

In this case, updating WordPress removes custom edits from the core files. In this scenario, you’ll need to change the WordPress core files again and keep small changes as you used them before the WordPress update.

Here, the following lines show what you need to proceed:

  • You should have taken a backup copy of the previous file. In this case, whenever you change a WordPress core file, you should back up the particular file. For example, back up the WordPress core file you changed for redirects, such as HTaccess. If you don’t take backups, the previous changes will be lost when a new update is rolled out in WordPress. So, taking a particular file backup for a historical record of changes is mandatory.
  • You can also make changes to a file via FTP. An FTP connection helps users change WordPress files without logging into the web file manager. However, once you change a file, you will need to upload the file to the web hosting directory again. Also, to use FTP, ensure you have created an FTP account. Log into Hosting cPanel and use the “FTP create new account” option.

Improvements in WordPress default functionality

Editing core files in WordPress to increase WordPress performance is often referred to as WordPress Tweaks and is performed by placing, editing, or changing code snippets in the core files.

For example, placing define(‘WP_POST_REVISIONS,’ 10 ); in wp-config.php limits post revisions for pages and posts. Post revisions are “record entries” made in the database after users update a post or page in the WordPress editor.

Similarly, you’re curious to increase WordPress performance without plugins. In that case, you can add more snippets to core files in WordPress, such as post-auto-save intervals, error log management, and setting up a cookie domain.

Note: There is a difference between WordPress Tweaks and minor changes. WordPress Tweaks addresses significant concepts by editing the WP core files, such as post revisions, auto-save posts, or changing the login page’s URL. On the other hand, minor changes usually deal with small wins, such as HTTPS redirects or making changes to specific directories in WordPress. The whole process of tweaking WordPress falls under “WordPress core file changes.” This shows when you should edit WordPress standard files in the core.

Website performance, security, and recovery

In WordPress, plugins’ installation, removal, and management affect the WordPress default, base, or core files.

For example, WordFence – a plug-in for WordPress security, must change the htaccess file to configure its web application firewall. If you’ve planned to migrate your site to a new host, change your site’s DNS information, or re-install WordPress from scratch, you must also handle core files in WordPress.

In such scenarios, we have personally experienced assistance from hosting customer support. In simple words, when making changes to core files depends on external agents, WordFence, in this case, you will need to re-change the WordPress core files and regain the previous performance – such as htaccess in the above example.

Editing the WordPress default files is also associated with website security. For example, you must change WordPress core files to hide your site’s login page from hackers. This helps you avoid brute force attacks, which involve trying out password combinations to find a good set of login credentials on the victim site. Similarly, banning random users from trying out invalid passwords is also possible. In this case, you must build a custom infrastructure to protect your site from random users. Also, once an existing user fails to log into WordPress, your changes to WordPress core files can help you protect your web application.

Third-party apps integration with WordPress

There are cases when you need to change your site’s core files. For example, if you aim to build a PaaS environment, you may need to change the WordPress core files.

Note: A product as a Service (PaaS) refers to a web application used for a specific purpose, such as file conversions or email marketing tools. If you are passionate about building one, you must change the core files in WordPress and integrate them with WordPress. A PaaS application is usually accessed through the web.

Similarly, you can’t assume your theme, plugin, or custom code will work without integration with core files in WordPress. The said case is experienced mainly by WordPress developers.

To be clear, let’s describe the example of editing core files with WordPress plugins.

Once you’ve installed a plugin for redirects, new redirect entries can be seen in the WordPress htaccess file. As a WordPress developer, this shows an example of how, when, and why you may need to change the WordPress essential files to adjust programming capabilities.

Similarly, WordPress core files must be changed for manual development and 3rd party app integration. For example, you can integrate Google Analytics and Search Console with a WordPress plugin called Monster Insights; however, editing WordPress core files (header.php) will make a difference with ease manually without using a plugin for Google integration.

WordPress website under development

Editing the WordPress (index.php) file will put your site in maintenance mode.

If you want to go offline for a moment, you can change the index file inside your site’s WordPress directory. Here, index.php is one of the most sensitive files of WordPress and is used to let browsers show a site’s home page in most cases.

You can make the whole place offline by renaming a WordPress site’s index.php file until you have made changes. Once done, you can rename the index.php file to the original.

Website maintenance mode is achievable by changing the WordPress core files without installing a separate plugin.

Custom case

A custom case involves changing a specific part of the WordPress interface, functionality, or behavior. This phase falls under the core development of WordPress by official contributors.

For example, the new WordPress versions use the Gutenberg Block Editor instead of the Classic Editor for posts and pages.

If changing the WordPress editor is the WordPress’ next version for developers, editing the core files in WordPress is the only option to proceed with WordPress core up-gradation.

Similarly, you may have noticed custom interfaces from users who prefer personal branding, such as placing custom logos on login pages, changing the admin’s dashboard colors, or redirecting to a page after a user has logged in successfully. Such maneuvers fall under the custom approach to editing the core files in WordPress for branding purposes.

Key Points

  • Users make changes to WordPress core files because WordPress is sensitive to core files. The changes you make are seriously taken and affect your website. So, if you know how to use WordPress standard files, you can make a lot of difference to WordPress.
  • Changing WordPress core files is never recommended for regular users. If you do something in the wrong direction, you will affect the WordPress site. Sometimes, this gap results in losing the whole site, sensitive data, complex infrastructure, and user engagement.

Final words

Editing WordPress’ core files indicates special conditions that need to be addressed to improve, change, or improve WordPress functionality.

However, if you’re skilled enough, you can change the core files. Otherwise, changing the WordPress default files may damage your site.

In this write-up, we addressed different scenarios when you will be editing your site’s core files in WordPress. Once you’re ready to proceed, remember to take your site’s backup first.

For more information on changing core files in WordPress, performance, or site migration and recovery, you can let us know your thoughts. We’d love to help you sort things out for improved performance, SEO rankings, or error handling in WordPress.

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