How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard …

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading Your WP ThemeIf you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written a comprehensive article that explains what themes are and how using themes can save small business owners time and money.

This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to upgrade your theme inside the admin area.

Updating A WordPress Theme – Best Practices Checklist

Upgrading Themes - Best Practices

We recommend going through the handy checklist below before attempting the upgrade process.

1. Back Up Everything

Backing up your site before making any updates to your site is vital. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore.

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

2. Check The Theme Update Notes

When WordPress upgrades its software to a new version, this can affect the functionality of certain themes. Depending on the theme you are using, there may be a changelog file included with an update listing any new features, improvements, bug fixes or important changes in the new version.

If the theme changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it’s best to 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 the theme, track bugs and check if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before installing it on a live site.

If you manage your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain using the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) and play with the 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 search online to see if other theme users have reported any issues with the new theme version.

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

5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized WordPress Themes

If you have made extensive changes 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”, your modifications get preserved through the “child theme.”

If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with using child themes, especially if you plan on using 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 fairly simple. What can feel slightly bothersome is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.

Some people don’t upgrade their themes regularly, while others 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, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to protect your online assets.

How To Upgrade Your Theme – Tutorial

Upgrading your themes in the WP dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

Theme Management: Updating WP Theme From The WP Dashboard

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

How To Update Your Theme

Updating a theme from the dashboard is quite a simple process. You can update your theme from the “Themes” area, or the “Updates” feature.

Updating WordPress Themes Using The “Themes” Page

To see which themes need to be updated, go to your Themes page.

Select Appearance > Themes from your WP dashboard menu …

Upgrading WordPress Themes In Your Admin Dashboard

This opens up the “Themes” page …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Themes In WordPress

Themes that need updating display an “Update Available” message over the theme’s thumbnail image …

Updating Your Themes

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

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

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading Themes In WordPress

WordPress automatically updates your theme …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Themes

Your WordPress theme is now up-to-date …

Updating Your Theme

Repeat the process described above to update all of your out-of-date themes, or use the method described below to upgrade multiple themes.

Updating Your Themes From The “Updates” Page

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

To view all themes in your site that require updating, click on Dashboard > Updates

Theme Management: How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

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

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Theme

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

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading WP Themes From Your Admin Dashboard

WordPress automatically updates all of your selected themes …

How To Update A Theme In WordPress

Congratulations! Now you know how to update your theme in your admin dashboard.


"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now