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How To Update WordPress Themes

If you are new to WordPress, make sure to read our overview of WordPress themes. This detailed article explains what WordPress themes are and how using themes can be cost-effective and time-saving for small business website owners.

This tutorial will show you how to upgrade a theme to its newest version inside your dashboard.

Upgrading WordPress Themes – Best Practices

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

1. Back Up Everything

Backing up your files and data before making any changes to your site is vital. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore your website to its former configuration.

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 fully 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 are using, there may be a changelog file accompanying an update listing new features, improvements, security fixes or important changes in the new version.

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

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 bugs and verify 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 using the same plugins and configuration settings and test 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 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 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 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 plan to 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 fairly simple. The step in the updating 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 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 assets.

How To Upgrade A Theme In WordPress – Tutorial

Upgrading your theme in the WP dashboard is easy.

Log into your WordPress admin area …

Depending on what theme(s) you have installed on your site, you may receive occasional alerts in your dashboard that your theme(s) need updating …

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

Updating WordPress Themes Using The “Themes” Page

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

Choose Appearance > Themes from your WordPress admin menu …

This brings you to the “Themes” screen …

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

Locate the theme that needs to be updated 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 WordPress theme is now up-to-date …

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

Updating WordPress Themes Via The “Updates” Screen

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

To view all themes in your site 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 your selected themes …

Congratulations! Now you know how to update your theme from 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)