How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard.

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading Your WordPress ThemeIf you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. It explains what WordPress themes are and how they can be cost-effective and time-saving for online business owners.

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

Updating Themes – Best Practices

Updating WordPress Themes - Best Practices

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

1. Back Up Everything

Backing up your site before making any updates to your site is vital. This way, if things don’t go as planned, 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 have installed, there may be some release notes accompanying 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, 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.

Useful Tip

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

If you’re managing your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain name 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 site.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to do a quick search online to 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 WordPress Theme Heavily Customized? Use A Child Theme

If you have made extensive customizations to your existing WordPress theme files, updating 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”, your 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 official WordPress child theme page here:

Practical Tip

As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is fairly easy. The step in the upgrading 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 others 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 your responsibility as a website owner to protect your online assets.

How To Upgrade Your Themes – Tutorial

Upgrading your theme from the WP dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area …

Updating Your WP Theme

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

Upgrading Themes In WordPress

Updating themes in your WP dashboard is easy. You can update your WordPress themes via the “Themes” area, or the “Updates” page.

Updating Your Site’s Theme From The “Themes” Page

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

Choose Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard menu …

How To Upgrade WP Theme In The WP Dashboard

This opens up the “Themes” screen …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Themes

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

WordPress Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

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

Theme Management: How To Upgrade Your Themes

WordPress automatically updates your theme …

Theme Management: How To Update Themes In WordPress

Your WordPress theme is now up-to-date …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Themes

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 Site Themes From The “Updates” Section

Update your WordPress themes using the “Updates” page as shown below:

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

How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress

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

Theme Management: How To Update WordPress Theme From Your Dashboard

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

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update WordPress Theme From The WP Dashboard

WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …

Upgrading WordPress Theme From The WP Dashboard

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

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as How To Update WordPress Themes.