Easy ways to upgrade your WordPress theme


Upgrading your WordPress.org theme is important for compatibility and security. It ensures you have all the latest features that your theme provides, as well as the most current versions of any required, pre-packaged plugins.

Upgrade your WordPress themeBackup Your Site and Database

Before proceeding with any website changes, always make sure you have a backup version of your website to recover from in case something doesn’t go as planned. There are many free and paid-for plugins that can help with this. My favorite is BackupBuddy. Remember to download the backup copy to your computer, an external device, or an off-site location.

Download and Unzip Your Theme Package

Extract the files from your new theme package and you will see a number of elements inside. Locate the zipped folder labeled with your theme’s name. There may be another zipped folder labelled as the Child theme. A Child theme is a variation of your theme that your designer has used to hold all of your unique website customizations. Don’t overwrite the Child theme that is installed on your site or you will lose all of your uniquely branded design features! For this update, you want to use only the main theme folder (Parent theme).

Upgrade Using FTP or File Manager

If you have access to the files on your hosting space, you can upload the new theme files straight into the directory.

1. Login to your FTP account or cPanel (File Manager).

2. Navigate to wp-content/themes and locate your old theme folder.

3. Rename your old theme folder. I like to simply put an “X” or “old” in front of the theme name for easy identification.

4. Upload the new version of your theme.

5. Test your website. If everything is working perfectly, you may delete the old theme folder from your directory.

Upgrade Using a Plugin

I like Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades because it generates a backup file of the old theme and places it into your Media Library for easy recovery. Always check that plugins are compatible with your version of WordPress before installing them.

1. Login to your WordPress dashboard.

2. Install and activate Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades by directly downloading the file or by navigating to Plugins/Add New in your dashboard and doing a search for it.

3. Under Appearance/Themes, simply click Add New and upload the new theme files. The plugin will take care of the rest.

4. Test your website. If everything is working perfectly, you may delete the copy of your old theme that the plugin has added to your Media Library.

Required Plugin Upgrades

Your WordPress theme may come with pre-packaged versions of specialty plugins critical for your site’s functionality. With your theme upgrade, you may see a notification in your WordPress dashboard prompting you to upgrade your outdated versions. In this case, simply click through the steps and WordPress will do the rest.

If you see that specialty plugins aren’t being automatically identified, you will need to go back into the original theme package that you extracted the new files from. Locate the included plugins and manually upload the plugin folders, either through FTP/File Manager or via the Plugins/Add New panel in your WordPress dashboard.

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Nikki Takahashi

Nikki is the owner, Brand Designer + Stylist at Fetching Finn Inc. She earned the Governor General's Award with honors in Multimedia Production. By 2009, she was trading in her corporate digital media career to start Fetching Finn Inc., turning freelance brand design into a full-time gig. She runs on minimal sleep, maximum amounts of ambition, great genes, and a lot of Diet Pepsi.

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