How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating WP Themes From Your DashboardIf 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 small business website owners significant time and money.

This tutorial will show you how to easily upgrade your theme in your dashboard.

Upgrading A WordPress Theme – Best Practices

Upgrading WordPress Themes - Best Practices

We recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below before attempting the upgrade process, to help minimize any problems affecting your site during your upgrading process.

1. Back Up Your Site Fully

Backing up your website before making any updates to your site is essential. Whenever something doesn’t go as planned, you can always restore.

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

2. Check The Theme Update Notes

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 a changelog file included with an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new theme version.

If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should 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 a theme, track bugs and make sure 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’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 main website.

4. Search Online

Before updating your theme, it’s a good idea to do a quick search online to see if anyone has reported any serious problems 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 provide forums for premium WordPress themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized Themes

If you have made extensive changes to your existing theme files, upgrading 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”, all modifications get 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 visit the official WordPress 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 part 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 recommended “best practice” methods to help you avoid problems. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is solely your responsibility to protect your online assets.

Upgrading Your WordPress Themes – Step-By-Step Tutorial

Updating your theme from your dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

Updating Your Theme

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

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Theme

Updating WordPress themes from the WP dashboard is quite a simple process. You can update your WordPress themes from the “Themes” screen, or the “Updates” area.

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

To see which themes require updating, go to your Themes page.

Select Appearance > Themes in your WP dashboard menu …

Theme Management: Updating Your WordPress Themes

This brings you to the “Themes” screen …

How To Upgrade WP Themes From Your Dashboard

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

WordPress Theme Management: How To Update Your Themes

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 Themes In WordPress

WordPress will automatically update your theme in seconds …

Theme Management: Updating WP Themes From Your Dashboard

Your theme is now updated …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating WP Themes From Your Dashboard

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

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

Update your WordPress themes via the “Updates” area as shown below:

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

How To Upgrade Your WP Themes

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

Upgrading A Theme In WordPress

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

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading Your WordPress Theme

WordPress automatically updates all of the selected themes …

How To Upgrade WordPress Themes In Your Admin Dashboard

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


"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group

Originally published as How To Update WordPress Themes.