Why and How to Update WordPress

You may not realize how important it is to update your hosted WordPress website, theme, and plugins until it is too late – and has cost you time, money, and given you a major headache. WordPress is a wonderful free, online, open source website CMS (Content Management System) that will serve you well, but because it is free, online, and open source, it is more vulnerable to online hackers. So just as you keep your anti-virus software on your computer up-to-date, you must also keep WordPress up-to-date. And if you see any suspicious behavior (like redirects from your site to other sites or multiple emails getting sent through your contact form), call Evolv right away to get it resolved quickly. Once you are hacked, there are a number of steps that you cannot take without our help.

To keep WordPress up-to-date just follow this 3-step process:

  1. Backup WordPress manually JUST IN CASE something happens.

    If your site is hosted on Modwest, you will use a backup plugin to perform a manual backup of both the website files AND database. If you don’t already have a backup plugin installed, see our Essential WordPress Plugins article for recommendations. Also, make sure you have routine backups scheduled daily/weekly/monthly or manually depending on how often you update your content. This will save you when/if you get hacked. Your host may also offer daily backups if needed.

    If your site is hosted on WP Engine, you won’t need a plugin. Simply hover over the WP Engine logo when logged into WordPress and select “User Portal.” Log in with your email and password, select “Installs” then “Backup Points” on the left. Select “Backup Now” and enter in a description that will help you remember why you’re backing your site up – such as “Backup taken before updating XYZ Plugin.” All that’s left is to enter in your email address where it says “Send notification to” then click “Create Backup.” You should receive an email within 5 minutes notifying you that your backup is complete. You can then either download the backup or leave where it is until needed to restore your site if something goes wrong after the update.

  2. Update WordPress BEFORE updating your plugins. WordPress will notify you in the backend on the Dashboard page with a yellow notification bar at the top as well as in the sidebar for plugin updates.
    Note: Before you update, make note of the version you are updating from so that we will know what version of WordPress to restore if something goes wrong. If you have a version prior to 2.7.x or 1.5.x then you may have to update incrementally or manually so please contact us to do so for you.


    Just click on either link and you will be taken to the Updates page where you will simply click the Update Now button for WordPress. IMPORTANT: Test to make sure everything is working properly. If you find one of your plugins is not working, there may be a conflict with the WordPress upgrade — see next step.

  3. Update WordPress plugins/theme. We recommend you update your WordPress plugins ONE AT A TIME and test in between each update so you know if there is a plugin conflict. Also, make note if a plugin specifically mentions a conflict with updating, but realize that not all plugins keep up-to-date with this info so they may just say Compatibility Unknown. Here is a great article that will give you more details on updating WordPress plugins: Think Twice Before You Upgrade that WordPress Plugin. IMPORTANT: Again test to make sure everything is working properly.

If you get notified of a theme update from theme vendor directly from ThemeForest/Envato, etc. (with no automatic update option offered to you in backend), you will have to:

  1. Download zip file from vendor, and then unzip to ensure the files match the file structure of your parent theme files on server.
  2. Connect to your server using FTP software and navigate your way to the /wp-content/themes/[parent-theme folder]. MAKE SURE NOT TO REPLACE CHILD THEME FOLDER FILES OR YOU WILL LOSE ALL STYLING!!! See FireFTP video tutorial »
  3. Upload all files to parent theme folder from your local hard drive to server via FTP.

    NOTE: This type of updating is not an easy task for just anyone and can easily screw up your site. Please try to get a developer to work on this or ask Evolv to do for you.

If you want Evolv to do your updates for you every week, please notify us. We offer a WP Updates package for $12/mo – see details at bottom of our WP Engine post.

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