How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard.

How To Update Your ThemesIf you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our overview of WordPress themes. This comprehensive article explains what themes are and how using themes can save online business owners significant time and money.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to upgrade themes with just a few clicks inside your dashboard.

Upgrading Themes – Best Practices

Updating WordPress Themes - Best Practices Checklist

We recommend going through the handy checklist below before attempting the upgrade process, to make sure that your upgrades go smoothly.

1. Make A Complete Backup

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

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 fully 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 have installed, there may be a changelog file included with an update listing new features, improvements, bug fixes or any other changes in the new version.

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

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 the theme, track any bugs and verify that all plugins are working fine with the new theme before applying it to a live site.

If you’re managing 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 website.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to search online and 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 offer this for premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).

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

If you have made extensive changes to your existing 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 the parent theme. When you update the “parent theme”, your customizations are preserved through the “child theme.”

If you plan to customize your theme files, then we recommend becoming familiar with 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 official WordPress child theme page here:

Useful 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! What can feel slightly bothersome is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.

Many people don’t upgrade their themes regularly, while many 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 solely your responsibility as a website owner to protect your digital assets.

Upgrading Your WP Themes – Tutorial

Updating your theme from your admin dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

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

Theme Management: How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress

Updating WordPress themes from the dashboard is quite simple and easy. You can update your site’s theme from the “Themes” feature, or the “Updates” section.

Updating WordPress Themes Using The “Themes” Section

You can see which themes require updating by going to your Themes page.

Select Appearance > Themes from your WP admin menu …

Theme Management: Upgrading Your WordPress Themes

This brings you to the “Themes” page …

Updating Your Theme

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

Updating A Theme In WordPress

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

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

Updating A Theme In WordPress

WordPress will automatically update your theme …

How To Upgrade Themes In WordPress

Your WordPress theme is now up-to-date …

Updating Your WordPress Themes

Repeat the above process to update all of your remaining themes, or use the method described below to bulk update multiple themes at once.

Updating Your Site’s Theme Using The “Updates” Page

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

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

Updating Your Theme

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

How To Update Themes In WordPress

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

How To Update Your Themes

WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Themes In WordPress

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

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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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 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.