How To Update WordPress Themes

Learn how to easily update WordPress themes inside your dashboard …

Theme Management: Updating Your ThemesIf you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written an in-depth article that explains what themes are and how using themes can save small business website owners time and money.

This tutorial will show you how to update your WordPress theme inside your dashboard.

Updating Themes – Best Practices

Updating WP Themes - Best Practices Checklist

Before updating any WordPress themes, we recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below to ensure that your update goes smoothly.

1. Back Up Your Site Fully

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

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many WordPress plugins you can use. Learn 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 some release notes included with an update listing any new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new version.

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

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 an installed theme, track any bugs and verify that the new theme version doesn’t conflict with any existing plugins or settings before applying it to a live site.

If you manage your own website, you can install a test WordPress site on a subdomain or a separate domain using 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 and see if anyone has 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. 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 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 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 not complicated at all … a few simple clicks and you’re done! The bit of this process that takes the most time and effort to complete is the preparation involved prior to upgrading.

Many people don’t upgrade their themes regularly, while others 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, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to protect your online properties.

Upgrading A Theme In WordPress – Step-By-Step Tutorial

Upgrading your themes in your dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area …

Upgrading Themes In WordPress

Depending on what theme(s) you have 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: How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress

Updating a theme in the WP dashboard is a very simple process. You can update your WordPress theme from the “Themes” page, or the “Updates” section.

Updating Your Site Themes Using The “Themes” Section

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

Choose Appearance > Themes from your WP dashboard menu …

Theme Management: Updating WP Themes In The WP Dashboard

This opens up the “Themes” screen …

Theme Management: Updating Your Themes

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

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Theme

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

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

WordPress Theme Management: How To Upgrade Your Theme

WordPress automatically updates your theme in seconds …

Theme Management: Upgrading Your WP Themes

Your theme is now up-to-date …

WordPress Theme Management: How To Upgrade Your Theme

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

Updating Your Site Themes From The “Updates” Area

Update your WordPress themes from the “Updates” section as shown below:

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

WordPress Theme Management: Upgrading Themes In WordPress

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

WordPress Theme Management: Updating Your Theme

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

How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress

WordPress automatically updates all of your selected themes …

Updating Your Theme

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.