Whenever a new WordPress update is released, we receive several emails from users asking if it is safe to update their WordPress site. Are you wondering if you should update your WordPress to the latest version? Want to know the pros and cons of updating WordPress and its plugins and themes? In this article, we’ll explain why it’s essential that you are always using the latest version of WordPress and show you how to properly update WordPress.
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WordPress is free and it is developed by a community of developers. With each new release, they fix bugs, add new features, improve performance, and improve existing features to stay up to date with new industry standards.
So in other words, when you don’t update your WordPress site, you risk your website security and miss out on new features or improvements.
Security is arguably the most important reason you need to keep your WordPress website up to date.
WordPress currently powers 63.6% of all websites worldwide ( source ). Due to its immense popularity, WordPress is a popular target for hackers, malicious code distributors, data thieves, and those who want to become hackers.
Since WordPress is “ open source, ” anyone can study the source code to learn and improve it. However, it also means that hackers can study it too and find ways to break into websites.
Now the good part is, not all hackers are bad. There are many more good hackers than bad ones, which means security experts around the world can study the code and properly report bugs / security fixes. Whenever a security vulnerability is reported, the core WordPress team works diligently to release an update that fixes the issue.
This means that if you are not using the latest version of WordPress, you are using software with known security vulnerabilities. Hackers can search for websites running the old version and you could fall victim to a sophisticated attack.
Not only WordPress itself, but plugins and themes can also be exploited by hackers. You need to make sure that all of your WordPress plugins, themes, and the core itself are always up to date.
- New cool features
Each major version of WordPress includes new features and software changes. For example, WordPress 5.0 came with a new and improved code editor named Gutenberg, 5.1 introduced the WordPress Site Health feature, and 5.2 to 5.5 came with improvements to the new code editor.
Now, if you were using an older version of WordPress, your WordPress experience would be very different than someone using the latest version.
You will have a hard time finding WordPress help online because you are using an older version. WordPress Support Forum users will assume that you are using the latest version of WordPress.
New releases can often come with the ability to improve your website speed. Speed is a big factor in SEO and improving page load times can play a big role in lowering bounce rates and keeping your visitors loyal. Keeping WordPress, its plugins, and the theme up to date will ensure you get peak performance.
wordpress website update bug fixes
- Bug fixes
Despite rigorous testing of major versions of WordPress, bugs can sometimes slip through the cracks. This is why there are minor versions of WordPress (the ones with XXX) to accommodate this. For example, the latest update to WordPress 5.5.1 fixed 39 bugs in version 5.5 ( source ).
Now if you go to the WordPress support forums to ask for help, the first tip you will get is to update WordPress as that may fix the issue. If you insist on not updating WordPress, you will not be able to receive help.
- Compatibility (or NOT)
Often, plugin and theme developers coordinate their updates with major versions of WordPress to ensure that they take advantage of new features and enhancements available.
However, in some cases, an update can break your existing WordPress plugins if they don’t meet best practices and coding standards.
This is why it is essential to keep regular WordPress backups.
To sum up, the only downside is that in rare cases your site will break. However, the advantage is that you have:
Improved WordPress security
New WordPress Features
Faster WordPress experience
A WordPress site without bugs
Now that you know why it’s important to keep your WordPress site up to date, let’s take a look at how to update WordPress.
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How to keep your WordPress site up to date
Updating your WordPress core, plugins, and themes whenever there is a new update for them is pretty easy. WordPress comes with a built-in update notification system. It highlights the number of updates available when you log into your WordPress dashboard.
do wordpress updatesAll you need to do is visit the Dashboard »Updates page and install these updates. This is a one click process.
However, since many website owners don’t log into their WordPress dashboard on a daily basis, they may not even know that an update is available for days, weeks or even months. Fortunately, you have a few options.
If you are using WordPress 3.7 or newer, automatic updates are enabled for minor versions (for security and bug fixes only). You can enable automatic updates for major versions, extensions as well as themes.
Alternatively, you can receive email notifications when there is a new update for your WordPress site.
Receive email notifications for updates in WordPress
When you’re busy running your business, logging into your site to check for updates is usually the last thing on your mind. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could receive an email notification whenever there are updates on your WordPress sites?
Well, it is possible.
The first thing to do is to install and activate the WP Updates Notifier extension . Upon activation, visit Settings »Updates notification to configure the extension settings.
This plugin uses WordPress scheduled recurring tasks to check your site for updates every hour. You can change this once or twice a day. When a new update is available, this extension will send you an email notification.
By default, it checks for major WordPress updates, plugin updates, and theme updates. All you have to do is click save settings with the test email button.
Automatically install WordPress updates
You can automate the process even more. WordPress lets you turn on automatic updates for major versions, plugins, and themes.
This option is risky if you are not using specialized WordPress hosting or a WordPress monitoring plan . These services allow you to either have backup copies if the updates break your site or even do the updates and checks for you.
If you turn automatic updates on, there is a slight risk that your site will not work and you will not be online to fix it right away. That said, if you want to enable automatic updates, there are two ways to do it (extension method and code method).
Let’s take a look at the extension method first.
You must first install and activate the Easy Updates Manager plugin . Upon activation, you need to visit the Dashboard »Update Options page to configure the extension.
You should now scroll down to the automatic updates section where you can enable automatic updates for the kernel, extensions, themes, and translation files. Once you’re done, just save your settings.