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WordPress Update: When To Do It Immediately, and When Not To

Steven 10 responses WordPress
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If you’ve been using WordPress for any length of time then you’ve probably seen that little message on your dashboard telling you there’s an update available. Should you click it or not? Should you do it now or should you wait? Is it safe? Is it complicated? And what happens when you do?

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What does a WordPress update do?

Behind that pretty WordPress theme is a program. And that program has to be designed to interact with lots of other programs, for example the plug ins you install on your blog and the various Web browsers. Because technology is constantly changing and improving all web browsers update regularly to make allowances for these changes and the people who design plug ins update, too, when they have new features to add.

As a result of all this updating going on all around your blog, your WordPress blog needs to be updated, too, so it can work in sync with all of these other programs.

One of the most important aspects of a WordPress update is the new adjustments the designers make to make your site more secure. Hackers are constantly looking for weak access points so the designers have to stay a step ahead.

How does it affect your blog?

Clicking to install the WordPress update typically makes your site more secure and removes old coding or cleans up existing coding to make your blog run more efficiently.

However, while it doesn’t happen often, sometimes that update can cause havoc with your plug ins causing them to stop working. In most cases all you’ll have to do is re-install the plug in and everything’s fine.

In extreme cases, blogs have been known to crash when new updates are installed. That’s why it’s always best that you backup your blog’s database and save it to your drive before you install an update. It rarely happens these days, but if your blog should crash it’s easy enough to use your backup files to restore your blog in just a few minutes.

Should you update or not?

If it’s a minor update, such as going from WordPress 2.9 to WordPress 2.9.1, then it’s usually just a minor code correction that WordPress wants to take care of and it’s safe to go ahead and install as soon as you see the notification link.

In the past, though, when it was a major update, say from WordPress 2.9 to WordPress 3.0 many bloggers would choose to wait a few weeks and make sure WordPress had ironed out all the bugs. Again, this doesn’t seem to be a major concern these days and most bloggers install the update as soon as they see the notification. However, just to be on the safe side, always back up your database before you update your WordPress blog.

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10 Comments

  1. I now wait. I’ve had a blog crash due to plug-ins with an upgrade. I read first what others have gone through before I update. Each theme reacts different too I found. And I backup often.

    1. Hey Lisa, if you don’t have any coding abilities, it’s definitely wiser to wait for a while before updating your plugins. As per backup, mine is done in real time whenever there is a change to my blog, so I don’t worry too much about it :)

  2. Sidney Peck

    Excellent article, thank you for this information. I have a question though. How does one do the backup?? Do you have to download a copy of each page and entry separately? Thanks in advance for answering :)

    1. There are several ways to do a backup… You can have your webhost company set a daily/weekly/monthly backup of all your data. You can use a WordPress plugin… I am using both, but it’s probably an overkill.

      If you really want to be safe, I wound advise you to use a premium WordPress plugin called VaultPress. It’s developed by the same team that works on WordPress itself, so you can be pretty much sure that they know what they are doing ;)

  3. Good article. WP 3.5 is scheduled to come out early December and they are changing how media is handled. Although they do try to make it backwards compatible there are always some plugins that don’t work.

    @Sidney there are a couple different plugins that can do backups. Just go to WordPress.org and search for database backup.

    1. When there are some big changes in the WordPress code, sometimes there are a few plugins that stop working, but that’s really rare. Moreover, when it happens, they are usually updated very fast by the developers so I really don’t worry too much about that.

  4. Hi Steven, I back up my site and disable all plugins before I do a major update to WordPress. I also wait a few days to make sure there aren’t issues. Let others be the early adopters and learn from their experience!

    1. Hey Carolyn, sounds like you are extremely cautious! FYI, there is not really much need for deactivating all plugins every time you update WordPress.

  5. Cat

    Question: I have an old site with an old WP install AND an old version of a premium WP theme. I want to upgrade my WP and swap to a new premium theme. My site is pretty simple. After I back up, and deactivate my plugins…which should I try upgrading first WordPress or the theme? The old theme used to need to be FTPed to update, the new version doesn’t. But I want to switch to a new theme. Any ideas? Thanks

    1. You should upgrade WordPress first since the new theme is probably designed to work with the latest versions of WordPress.