How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard …

Updating Your WP ThemeIf you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our overview of WordPress themes. This in-depth article explains what themes are and how using a theme can save web business owners significant time and money.

This tutorial will show you how to easily upgrade your themes with just a few clicks inside the admin area.

Updating WP Themes – Best Practices Checklist

Updating Your WordPress Theme - Best Practices

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

1. Back Up Everything

Backing up your website before making any updates to your site is vital. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your backup process 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 a changelog file accompanying an update which provides an overview of any new features, improvements, security fixes or any other information pertaining to the new theme version.

If the changes seem irrelevant or unimportant, you can skip the update. Otherwise, you should 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 the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before installing it on a live site.

If you’re managing your own website, you can set up a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain with the same configuration settings (e.g. plugins) 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 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 provide forums for premium themes, and even for some free plugins).

5. Is Your Theme 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”, all modifications get 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 just visit the WordPress Codex child theme page here:

Practical Tip

As you will see below, the actual process of updating a WordPress theme is very simple. What can feel slightly bothersome 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 online properties.

How To Update Your Theme – Tutorial

Updating your themes from your admin dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area …

How To Update Your Theme

Depending on the theme(s) installed on your website, you may receive occasional alerts in your WP Dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …

Upgrading Themes In WordPress

Updating themes from the dashboard is easy. You can update your site’s theme using the “Themes” area, or the “Updates” feature.

Updating Your Site Themes Via The “Themes” Area

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

Select Appearance > Themes in your WP dashboard menu …

Upgrading Your Themes

This brings you to the “Themes” screen …

How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress

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

Theme Management: How To Update Themes 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

WordPress Theme Management: Updating A Theme In WordPress

WordPress automatically updates your theme in seconds …

Upgrading Your Themes

Your theme is now up-to-date …

How To Update Your Theme

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

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

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

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

How To Update A Theme In WordPress

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

Updating Your Themes

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

Updating Your WP Theme

WordPress automatically updates all of your selected themes …

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Themes In WordPress

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


"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

Originally published as How To Update WordPress Themes.