The question is not SHOULD you update, but WHEN should you update?
Whether it’s a plugin update, theme or WordPress core update, they’ve been done for a reason. Sometimes it’s to add a cool new feature, sometimes it’s to fix a security hole, and sometimes it’s to fix something that broke when they introduced that last cool new feature. As you can see in the below screenshot, the latest Wordfence update had both improvements and fixes.
So should I update these plugins immediately?
Unless a plugin’s update is to fix a security hole, I usually wait a couple of days before updating – to make sure the new update is working well.
How do I know there is an update?
There are a couple of ways. First, when you log in to your WordPress website you will be in the dashboard. Hopefully you are doing this at least a couple of times a week, if just to check in and see that all is how it should be. If there are updates available for either plugins, themes or WordPress, you will see an orange circle with a number in it. The number indicates how many updates are available.
The screenshot above shows that there are 3 updates available (the number next to the word “Updates” at the top). One of the updates is for WordPress and you will see that notification at the top of the screen. The other 2 updates are for plugins (the number next to the word “Plugins” at the bottom of the image – which will actually be more towards the middle of your screen in your dashboard). Additionally, you can see that there is one comment waiting for approval (the number next to the word “Comments”).
So what’s new?
If you want to know what’s changed in this update, go to the Plugins tab in the dashboard, and below each plugin with an available update you will see “View version X.X details or update now.” Click on the “View version X.X details and you will see the changelog, as pictured at the beginning of this post.
What about themes?
So, periodically, themes may need updating as well. If your theme has been customized you should be using a child theme. A child theme uses the styles from the parent theme and adds any changes through the child theme. If the parent theme is updated then your changes will not be lost, but if you make changes to the parent theme, when it is updated you will lose all of your customizations. I typically use child themes with the Genesis framework. When Genesis has an update, my customizations are not lost.
Don’t be a pack-rat!
If you are not using any plugins or themes you can delete them. No sense in cluttering up your WordPress installation with things you are not using. Before you delete any themes check with your developer to make sure you are not deleting the parent theme.
BEFORE you do any updates make sure you have a recent backup of your website! I cannot stress this enough. Do NOT rely on your host to have a backup – make sure you have made one and have moved it off-site (either downloaded to your hard drive or cloud storage such as Dropbox). Read this post about backing up.
Have any questions about updating? Better to be safe than sorry – contact me for a free consultation.
33 thoughts on “To Update… Now or Later?”
Good post! These are definitely questions to consider about when to upgrade. Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best.-Chris Thompson
Hey, thanks, Chris! All the best to you, too!
I definitely wait a few days or so too. Then if there are any issues to fix, then they’re generally fixed by then.
Thanks for the clarifications and info!!
Great info, Mindy. Thank goodness I have someone who does this! It would all boggle my mind 🙂
WordPress makes it so easy to see when there are updates. I like the idea of waiting a few days (if it’s not a security issue) to ensure all the glitches are sorted before updating. I try to do backups to my hard drive every month.
Sounds good, Tamuria. What are you using for backups? Can you set it to go automatically so you don’t have to worry about it?
A great Post that is very helpful for taking control over your online precence and I like the word press suggestions in there. A great article thanks
I like your idea of waiting a couple of days before updating a plugin. Never thought about making sure it is working correctly. Thanks for the info.
I’m so bad about this Mindy! Great tip about waiting a few days before installing plugin updates. I didn’t do this the other day & a site wide plugin broke one of my blog posts. (Only one, which makes no sense!) I never back up before I install the plugin updates, and I know this is risky. Patience is a virtue that I do not have. 😉 I wait forever to update my theme…past experience hasn’t been good, so I procrastinate. Terrific advice!
Yeah, that is weird that it only broke one post! Patience, Meghan! And backups! 🙂
This is such an important post. I’ve talked to a number of people who have had a WP site built for them and they have no idea that it needs to be maintained. Or, even worse they start adding plug-ins without realizing not all plug-ins play nice together. If you’re going to have a WP site you either need to educate your self on the importance of site maintenance or have a reliable developer that can do it for you!
That is true, Crystal, you do need to educate yourself on what needs to be done. No need to do it all yourself, just be aware.
Very timely post. I have those circles, and have ignored them. Will be checking into this now. Thanks.
Oh, good, I’m glad you’re checking into them and hope all goes well!
Good tips for me especially. I do tend to wait before updating…just in case there are glitches I prefer to avoid. I need to backup more often though 20 lashes with wet noodle for me
Ha, no wet noodles necessary Alene! If you have a backup plugin that allows you to schedule the backups that is the easiest way – then you cannot forget!
I update my WordPress automatically as soon as an update is released. I know a lot of people recommend hanging on for a bit first (like you do), but since I do my backups daily, if anything breaks I just roll it back. Great point about getting rid of any themes or plugins you’re not using. That just slows down your website.
Clive, that is great that you are doing daily backups! Yes, no need to worry about updates when you are doing that! 🙂
I remember years ago, my geek said to me to wait before updating (unless, as you point out, it was a serious security issue). Because — as you also point out — there can be problems with the updates. Always good to wait a bit…but not too long. I’ve seen where outdated plugins can wreak real havoc on someone’s website.
Your geek gave you great advice, Jackie!
Mindy I love all the great information you share. Before I was in my own dashboard, I used to pay someone to do my updates. I would pay him for an hours work. Then I started learning about WP and now see I can update myself within seconds! There is so much to learn though and I appreciate you make it so simple. I look forward to having an appointment with you next week and am sure I will use your expertise in the future. You rock!
Hey, Candess. It’s great that you had someone to take care of things until you were ready to start doing it yourself. It’s good to know you can do it, but also that you don’t have to. I look forward to speaking with you next week too!
Hey Mindy 🙂
All of your tips about whether to update now or later are so spot on thank you! I usually update right away, especially when it is a plug-in or theme and of course a WordPress update 🙂 I may take your advice for the plug-ins and wait a couple of days to upgrade….makes sense to make sure it is working right.
Thanks for sharing your awesome post!
Backing up is critical! I’ve had things go wonky with updates. When I first started my latest blog, I forgot to uncheck the autoupdates and it took me a few days to get everything back to the way I like it. All’s well that ends well though. And we’re getting a new NAS to handle more backup files too.
Glad all ended well, Jennifer!
Thanks for the solid tips, Mindy! Generally I do update my own plugins, after checking with my web person to make sure. Recently when I asked him, he told me to hold off until he did an update and he would do the plugin updates. I have a customize theme, so he does those updates. I do agree that it is really important to keep our sites up-to-date, but making wise decisions if you aren’t computer savvy yourself.
Super tip and I usually tell folks plugins are like phone apps that need to be updated regularly. ON the pack rat thing… the sad thing is sometimes you can’t delete them… like I uploaded a new click to tweet but still have some old ones, so unless I remove all of the old click to tweets, they will all disappear. urgh.
Have you tried a search and replace tool to find the old click to tweets, Kristen? You may not be able to replace them properly, but at least you could locate them.
Excellent things to consider! I never know when it’s time to update plugins. I don’t want to break something that is working fine.
Good tips, thanks Mindy. Definitely I should probably clean a bit among the plugins.
It has been ‘later’ for us. We decided approximately three years ago that our policy would be to wait exactly one week before updating.
Yes, I heard that you have to wait a little bit before you update just to make sure that the bugs have been cleared up. That is the thing with these free plugins, since you are not the one who created them, you would just agree to most of the changes. And, of course, back up is the most important thing. It is going to be a disaster if you do not.