When I first started blogging, every time WordPress came out with an update, I had to download it to my computer’s hard drive, unzip it, and then use an FTP program to upload it to my website.
You can still do it that way if you want, but since the release of Wordress 2.7, we are able to automatically update to the newest release right from within the WordPress Dashboard.
Nevertheless, the automatic update is not without risks. Some bloggers have been known to lose entire portions of their blog, or even to get locked out of their blog for hours, and sometimes even days, after a WordPress update went wrong.
So this post explains some steps you can take to properly update WordPress with the minimum amount of risk.
Is there a WordPress Update?
First, of course, you need to know that there is an update. How do you know? Because WordPress tells you. Whenever you log in, you will see a little notice at the top of your dashboard telling you than an update is available. Simple, right?
As you can see, I need to update to WordPress 3.2.1.
The RISKY Way to Update WordPress
I like a little adventure in my life, and so far, on all my blogs, I always choose the risky way to update WordPress. Whenever I see an update come through, I follow absolutely none of the steps below, and simply click “Please Update Now” and so far, everything has worked great. There have been no problems.
However, a friend of mine recently did that, and he has a much wider readership on his blog than I do, and his blog crashed during the update, and was down for most of the day as he worked with his host to try to get the blog back up and running and recover some of his lost posts.
I am not sure what went wrong, but ever since then, I see the wisdom in taking the Safe way to update WordPress.
The SAFE Way to Update WordPress
WordPress has a great guide for safely updating WordPress, and I will simply summarize here what they say there.
1. Backup Your Database
There are numerous ways of doing this, but my preferred method is with the WordPress Plugin called “WP-DB Backup.”
After the plugin in downloaded and installed, you can have it back up your Database right now and save the file to your hard drive, or you can have the plugin send the files to you email inbox.
While you are here, you might as well schedule a weekly backup as well. I have mine sent to my email inbox.
2. Backup All your Files
Really, this step is unnecessary 99.99% of the time. But occasionally, this step helps if something goes terribly, terribly wrong. In this step, you backup everything else on your website.
Either use an FTP program to download absolutely every file on your server to your hard drive, (this could take a while, up to an hour or more), or use a plugin (such as WordPress Backup by BTE) to backup all your images, plugin files, and Theme Files.
Again, I have never done this, and probably never will, but I know some people who prefer to be extra cautious and religiously do a full backup every week or two. Of course, they do this not only so they have the files if a WordPress update goes wrong, but also in case their site gets hacked, or their web host falls into the ocean, or something like that.
3. Deactivate All Your Plugins
Again, this is another step I never perform when updating WordPress, but the WordPress codex recommends doing it. The plugin files shouldn’t really interfere with the update process, but some plugins do not work with the newer version of WordPress, and you will only find this out if you deactivated it, and then after the upgrade, try to reactivate, and the plugin has problems reactivating.
I don’t do this, because I tend to only use plugins that are frequently updated and which have tens of thousands of users. So if something goes wrong with one of my plugins and a new version of WordPress, the plugin will probably get fixed real fast, and if not, I will be able to find someone out there who knows how I can fix it myself.
4. Update WordPress
Once these first three steps are completed (or the ones you want to complete anyway), go ahead and click the “Update Automatically” button, and watch WordPress do it’s magic.
After you update, WordPress will get to work. This update only took about fifteen seconds.
And that is all there is to it.
You will get to do this every couple months, and you will get good at updating your blog in this fashion.
So have you updated your blog recently? Did you run into any problems? If so, what happened and how did you fix it?