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How To Update WordPress Themes

If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our introduction to WordPress themes. We’ve written an in-depth article that explains what WP themes are and how using a theme can be cost-effective and time-saving for online business owners.

This tutorial will show you how to easily update your themes in your dashboard.

Upgrading WordPress Themes – Best Practices

We recommend going through the “best practices” checklist below before going through the upgrade process, to make sure that your update goes smoothly.

1. Back Up Your Site

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 a number of plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups 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 some release notes accompanying an update which provides an overview of new features, improvements, security fixes or any other information pertaining to the new theme version.

If the theme 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.

Typically, web service providers will set up a test site where they can test the latest version of the theme, track any bugs and check to see if all plugins are working fine with the new theme before installing and activating it on a live site.

If you manage 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 site.

4. Search Online

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

5. Use Child Themes For Heavily Customized Themes

If you have made extensive customizations to your existing WordPress theme files, upgrading 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”, your customizations are 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 just visit the WordPress Codex 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 bit of the upgrade process that takes the most time and effort to complete 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 recommended “best practice” methods for ensuring problem-free upgrades. Ultimately, as a website owner, it is solely your responsibility to protect your digital assets.

Upgrading Your Theme – Tutorial

Upgrading your themes from your admin dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress administration area …

Depending on the theme(s) installed on your website, you may receive occasional alerts in your dashboard that new theme versions are available and require updating …

Updating a theme in the WP dashboard is quite simple and easy. You can update your WordPress themes using the “Themes” area, or the “Updates” area.

Updating WordPress Themes From The “Themes” Screen

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

Select Appearance > Themes in your WP admin menu …

This opens up the “Themes” screen …

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

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 will automatically update the theme in seconds …

Your WordPress theme is now up-to-date …

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

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

Update your WordPress theme using the “Updates” section as follows:

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

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

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

WordPress automatically updates all of your selected themes …

Congratulations! Now you know how to upgrade your WordPress theme in your 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