Updating WordPress – Carefully

WordPress updates - do it carefully!  Learn more on biz.leoraw.com
Last week there was an update to WordPress from 4.2.4 to 4.3. A good deal of sites had some issues – did any of yours? This post will review ways to deal with upgrades so you are less likely to have major issues in the future.

About WordPress Updates in General

There are different kinds of updates. There are minor ones, often bug fixes but sometimes security fixes – those are the ones that go from say WordPress 4.11 to 4.12. By default, since WordPress 3.7, these are automatically done in the background to your WordPress site unless you turn background updates off. Then there are the more major ones, like from WP 4.2.4 to WP 4.3. If you see an upgrade like that coming along, do some reading before you do your updates. Learn a little about the issues.

About WordPress 4.3 – Why There are Issues

With WordPress 4.3 there was some code that was deprecated. Say what, you say? How in the world would this effect me? Well, if you are using someone’s plugin, they may have code with old constructors. And with 4.3, the plugin may fail. All of a sudden, you start having errors! Wouldn’t you prefer this done quietly on your local computer instead of in public where everyone can see?

Prepare a Staging/Dev/Local Site for Testing!

Got a few hours? Set up a test site for your WordPress site. I can’t say this is the easiest thing to do, but if you want, you can always pay someone with experience to do this for you. Test sites can be set up in a subdirectory on your hosting, or you can set up one with WAMP or MAMP on your Windows computer or your Mac. For sites that I do a lot of background work, I have both. So when I read about WordPress 4.3 coming, I actually set it up to give me the updated WordPress core code on my local machine a month before it was released to the public.

Truth is, I don’t set up test sites for all of my sites. If the site is simple with mostly pages, posts and common plugins, I take my chances and just read about the upgrades in advance, do my backups and upgrade a few days after I feel educated on the update issues.

Backup, backup, and backup

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of backups. I wrote about backups in this past post. It is a good idea to backup both the database and the files. If an update doesn’t go well, a backup can help you out (basically, it can help your site go live until you figure out the issue).

WordPress 4.3 – How can I fix my problems?

What if you already upgraded to WordPress 4.3 and discovered to your horror that you do indeed have issues? I would suggest looking through these forum posts on WordPress 4.3. You will discover there are kind people out there who can help you! You can also try posting a new post on the WordPress forum yourself. Often, it is just one particular plugin that is causing the problem. If you can figure out which plugin and deactivate it, your site should work again. Perhaps the plugin author will come out with a fix in the future, or maybe you can substitute a plugin that does work. And don’t rule out problems with a theme – people are often advised to switch to WordPress Twenty Fifteen temporarily. Good luck!

Your Update and Backup Experience

If you have any update or backup experiences that helped you learned to make better choices, please share in the comments. What is your process for updating WordPress?

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33 thoughts on “Updating WordPress – Carefully

  1. I used to have a web designer, but I had to fire him when he started making lots of mistakes and being very inconsistent. I’ve done well keeping up my site on my own. But when I think of things like this, I start to miss the days when I could just have someone else take care of it. So far so good at this point, but I always look for some sort of help forum when things go south. Thank you for the tips. This type of information is very helpful.
    Erica recently posted…Sugar and Hidden Body Fat DangersMy Profile

  2. I read your blog with interest. I have not updated my WordPress account but there are several technical savvy bloggers who give useful advice as and when requested.

  3. This is good information. I used to do this myself, but finally hired someone to do it for me. So far so good! But I think it’s so important to have those back-ups! That really came in handy for me with my last provider, who reallly messed up my site! I would have been toast if I hadn’t had back-ups.
    Jacqueline Gum recently posted…Equality… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  4. Thanks for Sharing this info Leora, I am a bit scared when it comes to updating on WordPress. I recently migrated from Overblog to WordPress so wordpress is new to me. I will have to read your previous posts on WordPress as i have no clue.
    I noticed the wordpress update on my dashboard but i havent clicked on it yet LOL

    1. Read up on backups first. If you have never done an update at all, you can do it the super safe method and deactivate all your plugins before doing the update. Then you can activate them again, one by one, after the update. If there is a problem, you will know exactly which plugin is the culprit.
      Leora Wenger recently posted…New Website: Coming Soon Page?My Profile

  5. Hi Leora, I did the WordPress update and fortunately everything seemed to work ok – which is a good thing because I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.
    I need to get better at backing things up, something I seem to forget until after the fact. May post a neon note on my computer to remind me to do that first.
    Lenie recently posted…Avon Skin So Soft: Multi-Tasker 2My Profile

  6. Good and intelligent suggestions on how to update WordPress, Leora. Updated my sites last week and have not had any problems (touch wood!).

    Years ago my visual editor disappeared but I installed another editor and managed that way. Was a bit worried though until I had sorted it out.

  7. Excellent advice Leora. I normally wait a week to do a major update and always run a complete backup before any updates so I’m pretty confident in that regard. I checked out the forum and didn’t see issues with any plug-ins I use and so far – knock on wood – everything is working as it should. Still, always better to be aware since we invest so much time and resources in our blogs!
    Marquita Herald recently posted…Why It’s So Easy to Skip Self-CareMy Profile

  8. Leora — good advice about having a test site. My webmaster tests new updates and plugins on his test site before updating his clients’ sites. He usually waits a couple of weeks to install new WP updates because WP invariably will come out with “fixes” to the new update when users report having problems. I used to update WP and my plugins myself but I prefer to have my webmaster do it because updates can be so tricky.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…You’re Never Too Old to Go for the GoldMy Profile

  9. I’ve only experienced the white screen of death once, and one other time all of my files disappeared but the blog theme was in place. A quick call to BlueHost and they were able to restore the site, though I never really understood what went wrong. I think the recent update went okay for me, but I did notice a message from my backup plugin: zip I/O error: No such file or directory zip error: Could not create output file (was replacing the original zip file) Is that something that could be related to the recent update or could it have something to do with changing my hosting package?
    Jeri recently posted…#AuthorInterview: Jacqueline GumMy Profile

    1. Jeri, the white screen of the death is the worst, but sometimes with an update the issues might not be not noticed right away. For example, in this last update there were changes to passwords. Membership plugins experienced some issues. The better plugins resolved the problems (or will soon do so).

      Regarding your backup plugin issue: I suspect it is a problem with the plugin and the host. You will probably want to contact the backup people first, and ask your question.
      Leora Wenger recently posted…Updating WordPress – CarefullyMy Profile

  10. Hello Leora,

    How are you?

    I always update WordPress carefully. I don’t use update option from the WordPress dashboard rather I first download the latest version from wordpress.org and then upload the file through FTP keeping wp-content intact. This works well for me.

    Keeping the backup is indeed the first thing we all need to do.

    Thanks for this nice post Leora.
    Atish Ranjan recently posted…Don’t Make These Blogging Mistakes!My Profile

  11. A few years ago I had significant problems with WordPress updates, some of which just wouldn’t work at all on my computer, and I had to roll back to a previous version. Lucky I was using a host who didn’t insist on updates at that time (I heard that another host did, which would have been unworkable for me).

    These days, updates happen automatically and I’ve not had any problems at all. I do use a backup Plugin, as well as making a copy of the Wp-Content folder for my more important sites, but personally, I’ve not had any problems at all with it, recently

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