How do I update WordPress manually?

Sometimes when you open the WordPress admin interface you will notice an update message. A new version of Word press is available with a link to update automatically. Quite easy isn’t it? But maybe not.

Make a back up before you update

Automatic updates are easy and handy to get your site up-to-date. This is important because every WordPress update contains some bug fixes to improve the security of your site. The WordPress Codex also recommends updating to the most recent stable version. However an automatic update will run a script. Have you ever asked yourself what happens when this script fails? Of course this won’t happen most of the time but you never know.

Make sure you always have a backup of your WordPress database and files: These contain your complete site including posts and images.

There are lots of backup plugins available. Also your hosting company may make backups for you or you can do it manually using phpMyAdmin.

Updating WordPress manually

It is also possible to update your WordPress site manually. This involves a number of steps that are well explained in the WordPress codex. Here we go:

  • I assume you have a backup of database and files
  • Download the latest version of WordPress in your language
  • Unpack the zip file
  • Some plugins may cause your update to fail. Therefore, turn off all your plugins.
  • Remove the following two folders on your FTP: wp-admin and wp-includes. For a multilingual site don’t remove the subfolder wp-includes/languages.
  • Upload the folders wp-admin and wp-includes from the fresh download (step 2)

Next steps

So far, the explanation in the WordPress Codex is quite easy to follow. However, the following steps are a bit blurry in my opinion. Luckily for us, there is an extended manual for updating your WordPress site manually. We proceed with that around step 7:

  • On your FTP remove all files and folders except for wp-admin en wp-includes (those you just uploaded), wp-config.php, wp-content, wp-images, .htaccess and robots.txt
  • Inside wp-content do remove subfolders cache and plugins/widgets
  • Now upload these same files and folders from the fresh download
  • Now we are getting excited: try to log in on the WordPress backend. WordPress will ‘see’ the new version of the files and probably asks you to update the database. Since we have a back up: go ahead!
  • Update your general settings and the permalinks to get rid of remaining inconsistencies in your database.
  • Turn your plugins on one-by-one and take some time to check if they are all up-to-date and compatible with your new WordPress version.

Congratulations you have done it. I know it was some hard work but you achieved updating your WordPress site manually.

Please note that following these steps may lead to a non functioning website. Be sure to make a backup at any time and check the WordPress Codex before starting.


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Pim Hooghiemstra Webdeveloper and founder of PLint-sites. Loves to build complex webapplications using React! Latest post
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