The problem with WordPress plugin updates

March 7, 2021

To click or not to click, that is the question. When you login to your WordPress dashboard and see the ominous notification for updates… it can be tempting to click. Updates whilst really important, can also throw up challenges in the form of error, clashes, security issues and so on. Here’s my tips for carrying out updates on your WordPress.

Take a WordPress back up

It’s mad how many people carry out updates on their site without first taking a backup. Having an automated daily backup system in place, with both local and remote backups, you should be in a good place to bring the site back from the dead. My web hosting includes exactly this and with my support services I can restore your site for you in minutes.

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Know how to restore a WordPress backup

If you’ve taken the sensible step to ensure you have a recent backup in place, you also need to make sure you know how to restore it (or fix the site) should something go wrong during the update or  if the updated site is breaks. Often this is carried out in the same platform whereby you made the backup in the first place, the two go hand in hand. Typically backups are take in your web hosting control panel, such as cPanel, or through a plugin in your WordPress CMS. There are also remote backup systems which send a backup of your site to an external storage location.

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Copy the HTACCESS file

This will mean nothing to most, you probably won’t even know it exists. However, it’s a very important and inconspicuous file which sits in the root folder of your web hosting. It’s often used for security configurations and can sometimes be changed when plugin updates take place. A small change is this file is enough to take down your site, so it’s worth taking a copy of it before you start your updates. If something happens, this would be a good file to restore (or compare for changes) when troubleshooting.

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Update one WordPress plugin at a time

If a plugin update is going to break your site, it’s a good idea to know which one broke it so you can quickly mitigate the issue. Many people select all plugins to update at the same time, making it hard to know which is responsible for the f’*?k up. If you update a single plugin, refresh the site and check to see if all is well, it’s a lot more time consuming but can save you a headache later on. Should you find a plugin does indeed break your site, go to the plugins folder in your website’s file system and rename the folder for that particular plugin in the plugins folder.

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Check the release notes

If you have a mission critical or e-commerce site let’s say, before you risk carrying out an update you should consider – is it worth it? Updates are great because they often patch security flaws, fix known bugs and add new features. However, if you’re updating from 5.1.0 to 5.1.1 why not first check the release notes to see what has changed between versions. That way, you can weigh up whether that particular update is worth the risk or if you’d prefer to wait until the next one.

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Final word

The above are by no means an exhaustive list, however, truth be told I don’t enjoy writing long articles and have to start somewhere – I’ll be growing this list over the coming months. Get in touch if you need any support with updates or maintenance of your WordPress website.