How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update Your ThemesIf you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. It explains what themes are and how using a theme can save website owners time and money.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to easily update WP themes with just a few clicks inside your admin area.

Upgrading Themes – Best Practices

Upgrading Your WordPress Theme - Best Practices

Before updating any themes, we recommend going through the handy checklist below.

1. Back Up Your Site Files And Data

Backing up your site before making any changes to your site is essential. This way, if things don’t go as planned, you can always restore things back to their former settings.

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

2. Check The Changelog

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 which provides an overview of new features, improvements, bug fixes or important changes in the new version.

If the 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 a theme, track bugs and verify that the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before installing and activating 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 main website.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to search online to see if other theme users have 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 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 that parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, all customizations are 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 use a theme that gets regularly updated. You can learn more about child themes by searching online, or just 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 easy. The bit of the upgrading process 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 others upgrade without going through 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 digital properties.

Upgrading Your Themes – Tutorial

Updating your themes in your admin dashboard is simple.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

How To Upgrade Your WP Themes

Depending on which theme(s) are installed on your website, you may receive an occasional alert in your WP Dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

Updating a WordPress theme in your WP dashboard is easy. You can update your site’s theme via the “Themes” section, or the “Updates” screen.

Updating WordPress Themes Using The “Themes” Area

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

Select Appearance > Themes in your WordPress admin menu …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update Your Themes

This opens up the “Themes” page …

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading Your WordPress Themes

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

WordPress Theme Management: How To Upgrade WordPress Themes From Your Dashboard

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

How To Update Themes In WordPress

WordPress automatically updates the theme …

Theme Management: How To Update Themes In WordPress

Your WordPress theme is now updated …

Upgrading Your Theme

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

Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Updates” Screen

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

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

Updating Your WP Themes

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

Updating Themes In WordPress

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

Updating Themes In WordPress

WordPress will automatically update all of the selected themes …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your themes from your admin dashboard.


"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

Originally published as How To Update WordPress Themes.