Update WordPress without screwing it up

The WordPress upgrade system is vastly improved. However, there are still some steps you can take to ensure that your upgrades go smoothly.

First and foremost, upgrades and updates should be done in a staging environment to ensure that nothing breaks your production site.    A push to production should occur during a off-peak hours. Usually this is at night, but it depends on your particular site visitor traffic patterns.   You can check Google Analytics to find your traffic pattern.

The key here is to execute your update first on a copy of your active site.  NOT on a site in production.   And then only during a time of low activity.

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[icon_list_item type=”check”]Make updates on a STAGING server (a separate site that mimics your production site.) [/icon_list_item][/icon_list]

Depending on what you need to update, some of these steps may need to be omitted, but here is the proper sequence of update events:

1 Backup Your Site

Backups ensure that you have a recovery method should something go wrong (other than screaming “son of a biscuit” and spilling your beer).

  • Back up the database of your site. You can do this via PHPMyAdmin very easily.
  • Back up your themes and plugins in the /wp-content directory to an alternate location.

It is worth noting that backing up the uploads folder (inside /wp-content), which can often take a long time, is not necessary before upgrading. Nothing in a WordPress update is going to affect your uploads.

2 Deactivate Caching

In most cases this will be W3 Total Cache, Super Cache, or Quick Cache.   If you don’t use site caching, but use compression PHP caching – no worries. .

3 Update Your Plugins and Theme

Often, WordPress updates are accompanied by plugin and theme updates. Developers usually have a head’s up regarding WordPress updates and are often update their plugins to be compatible when updates are released.

Update all of your plugins and themes before upgrading WordPress.

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[icon_list_item type=”check”]Turn off WordPress automatic updates to ensure that you update your plugins and theme before applying a WordPress update.[/icon_list_item][/icon_list]

4 Update WordPress

Now it is time to update WordPress itself! Just click the upgrade button and let WordPress do its thing.

Sometimes it can take a handful of seconds to complete, so don’t get impatient if you see a momentary blank section within the dashboard.

Be sure to run the database update script after applying WordPress updates if/when instructed to do so.

5 Reactivate Caching

Don’t forget to clear  and purge the cache.

If you are using W3 Total Cache and don’t have a customized configuration, now is a great time to update your W3TC settings.

6 Check Your Site

Take a minute to look over your site and visit a few pages and posts. If something isn’t working properly, it is best to catch it now instead of later.

If your site is golden, then follow the same steps and deploy to your production site.    If something goes sour, you have your backups and you can go through each update to find the culprit and decide to defer upgrading and let the developers know of the failure.     Now would be a good time to know how to do a debug trace so you can share it with the plugin/theme developers.


Bottom line:
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[icon_list_item type=”coffee”]Don’t blame Envato if your client site breaks when you don’t encourage or follow this process. [/icon_list_item]

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