How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard …

Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPressIf you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our overview of WordPress themes. It explains what WP themes are and how using themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for business website owners.

This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to update your WordPress theme in the admin area.

Updating Themes – Best Practices

Updating WordPress Themes - Best Practices Checklist

Before updating your themes, we recommend going through the handy checklist below to prevent any problems occuring during the upgrade process.

1. Back Up Everything

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

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many WordPress plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully 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 some release notes included with an update which provides an overview of new features, improvements, security fixes or any other changes in the new theme version.

If the theme changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, it’s best to update.

3. Test Your 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 an installed theme, track bugs and make sure that the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before applying it to 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 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 do a quick search online and see if anyone has reported any serious problems 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 offer this for paid WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized Themes

If you have made extensive changes to your existing theme files, upgrading your theme could 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 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 official WordPress child theme page here:

Practical Tip

As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is easy. The bit that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.

Many people don’t upgrade their 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 for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to protect your online assets.

Updating Your WordPress Theme – Tutorial

Updating your theme in your dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area …

Upgrading Themes In WordPress

Depending on which theme(s) are installed on your site, you may receive an occasional notification in your dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …

Updating Your Themes

Updating themes in your dashboard is easy. You can update your theme from the “Themes” screen, or the “Updates” section.

Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Themes” Area

To see which themes require updating, go to your Themes page.

Select Appearance > Themes from your WP admin menu …

Upgrading Your Themes

This opens up the “Themes” page …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress

WordPress Themes with new versions display an “Update Available” message over their thumbnail image …

How To Update WordPress Theme From Your Dashboard

Locate the theme that needs to be updated and click on the “Update Available” alert.

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

Theme Management: How To Upgrade Your Theme

WordPress automatically updates your theme in seconds …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update WP Themes From Your Dashboard

Your WordPress theme is now updated …

How To Upgrade Your Theme

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

Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Updates” Area

Update your theme using the “Updates” screen as follows:

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

How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

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

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update Your WordPress Theme

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

Updating Your WordPress Themes

WordPress will automatically update all of your selected themes …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Themes In WordPress

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

Originally published as How To Update WordPress Themes.