How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard …

Theme Management: How To Update Your WordPress ThemesIf you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our overview of WordPress themes. It explains what themes are and how themes can save small business website owners time and money.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to easily upgrade your theme inside the dashboard.

Updating Themes – Best Practices

Updating Themes - Best Practices Checklist

Before updating any WordPress themes, we recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below to ensure that your update goes smoothly.

1. Back Up Your Website Fully

Backing up your website before making any updates to your site is vital. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are a number of plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups here:

2. Check The Theme Update Notes

Changes made to the WordPress software can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you are using, there may be some release notes included with an update which provides an overview of new features, improvements, bug fixes or any other changes in the new theme version.

If the theme changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should update.

3. Test The Theme

If you can, it’s a good idea to check the theme before installing it on your site.

Practical Tip

Typically, web service providers will set up a test site where they can test the latest version of a theme, track bugs and check to see if the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before installing and activating it on a live site.

If you’re managing your own website, you can set up a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain name with the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) and test new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your live site.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to do a quick search online and see if anyone has reported any serious problems with the new theme version.

You can enter the theme name and version into Google, and search the theme developer’s support forum (many developers offer this for premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Is Your Theme Customized? Use A Child Theme

If you have made extensive customizations to your existing theme files, upgrading your theme may result in your custom modifications being overwritten. To prevent losing your theme modifications, therefore, we recommend you learn how to create “child themes”.

A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme, and allows you to modify, or add to, the functionality of the parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, all customizations get preserved through the “child theme.”

If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with child themes, especially if you plan to use a theme that gets regularly updated. You can learn more about child themes by searching online, or visit the WordPress Codex child theme page here:

Practical Tip

As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is not complicated at all … a few simple clicks and you’re done! What can feel slightly bothersome is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.

Some people don’t upgrade their WordPress themes regularly, while many upgrade without going through some or all of the steps listed in the section above. As mentioned earlier, the above are recommended “best practice” methods to help you avoid problems. Ultimately, it is the website owner’s responsibility to protect their online assets.

Upgrading Your Theme – Tutorial

Updating your WP themes in your admin dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

Depending on what theme(s) are installed on your site, you may receive occasional alerts in your dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …

Upgrading Your WP Theme

Updating WordPress themes from your WP dashboard is easy. You can update your theme using the “Themes” area, or the “Updates” feature.

Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Themes” Area

You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes page.

Choose Appearance > Themes from your WordPress dashboard menu …

Upgrading Themes In WordPress

This brings you to the “Themes” screen …

Theme Management: Upgrading WP Themes In The WP Dashboard

WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over the theme’s thumbnail image …

Theme Management: Upgrading Your WP Theme

Locate the theme you want to update and click on the “Update Available” alert.

When the theme details window opens up, click on update now

Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

WordPress will automatically update your theme in seconds …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update Themes In WordPress

Your WordPress theme is now updated …

Updating Themes In WordPress

Repeat the above to update all of your outdated themes, or use the method below to bulk update multiple themes at once.

Updating Your Site’s Theme From The “Updates” Screen

Update your WordPress theme from the “Updates” screen as shown below:

To view all themes on your website that need updating, click on Dashboard > Updates

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading WordPress Theme In Your Admin Dashboard

This opens up the Updates screen. Scroll down to the Themes section …

Theme Management: Updating Themes In WordPress

Select all the themes you want to update and click on Update Themes to complete the bulk update process …

Updating WordPress Theme In Your Admin Dashboard

WordPress will automatically update all of the selected themes …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update WordPress Themes In The WP Dashboard

Congratulations! Now you know how to update your WordPress themes from your dashboard.


"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)