How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard.

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

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to easily upgrade themes to the latest version inside the admin area.

Updating A WordPress Theme – Best Practices

Upgrading Themes - Best Practices

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

1. Back Up Your Site Fully

Backing up your site before making any updates to your site is essential. If something goes wrong, you can always restore your website to its former state.

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 backup process 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 accompanying an update listing any new features, improvements, security fixes or important information pertaining to the new version.

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

3. Test The Theme

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

Useful Tip

Typically, web service providers will set up a test site where they can test the latest version of an installed theme, track any bugs and check to see if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before applying it to a live site.

If you manage your own website, you can set up a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain name using the same plugins and configuration settings and play with the new theme versions on your test site before applying it to your main site.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to do a quick search online and see if other theme users have reported any issues 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 paid themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Is Your Theme Heavily Customized? Use A Child Theme

If you have made extensive customizations to your existing WordPress 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 the use of child themes, especially if you 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! The bit of the updating process that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.

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

How To Update Themes In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

Updating your theme from your dashboard is simple.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading WordPress Theme From Your Dashboard

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

How To Update A Theme In WordPress

Updating a theme in the dashboard is very simple and easy. You can update your WordPress themes using the “Themes” section, or the “Updates” feature.

Updating Your Themes Via The “Themes” Screen

You can see which themes need to be updated by going to your Themes area.

Choose Appearance > Themes in your WP dashboard menu …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update Themes In WordPress

This brings you to the “Themes” page …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Themes In WordPress

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

WordPress Theme Management: How To Upgrade WordPress Themes From The WP Dashboard

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

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

Theme Management: Upgrading Your Themes

WordPress automatically updates the theme in seconds …

Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

Your WordPress theme is now up-to-date …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Theme

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

Updating WordPress Themes From The “Updates” Page

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

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

Updating WP Theme In Your Admin Dashboard

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

Theme Management: Upgrading Your WordPress Themes

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

Theme Management: How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

WordPress automatically updates all of your selected themes …

How To Upgrade Your Themes

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


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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. provides hundreds of FREE detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as How To Update WordPress Themes.