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How To Update WordPress Themes

If you are new to WordPress, make sure you read our introduction to WordPress themes. It explains what themes are and how they can save website owners time and money.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to easily update your theme with just a few clicks inside the admin area.

Updating WordPress Themes – Best Practices Checklist

We recommend going through the handy checklist below before going through the upgrade process.

1. Back Up Your Website Fully

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 everything to its former settings.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many free and paid plugins you can use. Learn 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 have installed, there may be some release notes included with an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, bug fixes or any other changes in the new version.

If the 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.

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 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 with the same plugins and configuration settings 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 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 WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).

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

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

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 step that takes the most time and effort to complete is the precautionary work involved prior to upgrading.

Some 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 “best practice” methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, it is the website owner’s responsibility to protect their digital assets.

How To Update A Theme In WordPress – Tutorial

Updating your themes from the WP dashboard is simple.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

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

Updating themes from the WP dashboard is simple and easy. You can update your theme via the “Themes” screen, or the “Updates” screen.

Updating Your Themes Via The “Themes” Area

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

Select Appearance > Themes from your WP dashboard menu …

This brings you to the “Themes” screen …

Themes that need updating display an “Update Available” message over their thumbnail image …

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

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

WordPress will automatically update the theme in seconds …

Your theme is now updated …

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

Updating Your Site’s Theme From The “Updates” Screen

Update your WordPress themes from the “Updates” area as follows:

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

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

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

WordPress will automatically update all of the selected themes …

Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your themes in the WP 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