The alarm clock displays 6 AM as it violently wakes you up. You’ve got a tight project deadline to meet, only to find the dreaded text “Updating Windows” displayed across your laptop screen. No! Not now! I don’t need it! I didn’t ask for this!
Resigned, you let the update do its thing. Interrupting it would just make it worse. Half an hour later, your computer finally reboots…and it no longer works. Looks like the update messed up your system.
We’ve all been there, and it’s no joke. Updates always happen at the worst possible time. Understandably, we’ve all developed a serious resentment and fear towards them on our computers, phones, and websites – WordPress is no exception.
Updating WordPress plugins can be problematic. The whole site can go down, the theme can get messed up, or page loading can slow down to a grinding halt.
As much as we avoid hitting the “update” button, we need updates or we’d be stuck with virus-prone sites from the GeoCities era. In this guide, we’ll show you the right way to safely install your WordPress updates. You’ll learn how to minimize the chances of site downtime, keep your WP site functional even after installing a bad update, and find out about a secret weapon that serves as a time machine for your WP site.
- Why is updating WordPress plugins necessary?
- How often should I be updating WordPress plugins?
- Tips for Safe Updates
- WP Reset: Your Secret Time Machine
- Final Thoughts
Why is updating WordPress plugins necessary?
It’s a chore, we know. Plus, you’re afraid that updating will break something on your site. Frankly, it can. However, updating brings about more positive changes than negative ones. And as far as breaking something goes, well…that’s where our secret weapon, WP Reset, comes in.
Now available in the AppSumo store, WP Reset is the website time machine you’ve always dreamed of. Make a major mistake, and it takes you back in time with one click to undo it. But let’s put that aside for now. First, we’ll talk about why you should always keep your site up-to-date.
Developers tend to focus more on the future than on the past. They may take backward compatibility into account, but there comes a time where they’ll simply block old software. That means even your favorite theme might not be able to run with their latest code if it’s outdated.
Old and new things go together to some extent, but at a certain point, you won’t be able to just slap on another coat of fresh paint – you need to upgrade.
Good, frequently maintained software continuously evolves. New features are added, the interface improves, and user feedback drives those changes. While you may think that the version you have is “the best one for you” and never needs an upgrade, try to embrace change. It’s usually good for you, and you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the new functions an upgrade brings.
Last but not least – security. Who wants their website to get hacked? Believe it or not, keeping WordPress up-to-date is the best way to keep a website secure. Bad people love outdated software – go figure. Hackers prey on sites using old versions of WordPress and old plugins. Why? Because they have known security issues that are easy to exploit. It’s just a matter of finding such sites. Don’t let stubbornness towards change make you a victim.
How often should I be updating WordPress plugins?
There’s no short answer to this question. WP core, plugins, and themes are updated in irregular intervals, and updates become available on any day of the week and at any time.
Checking your site once a day is not realistic for most people. However, we’d recommend checking for updates once a week. If you do it less than once a month, you run into a severe risk of using plugins and WP core with known security issues.
Tips for Safe Updates
Don’t be trigger happy
One of the most common causes of problems with updates is installing unstable, untested, and generally problematic updates. How do you know if an update is bad? Sadly, you can’t! You didn’t make the update, and it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to analyze the new code whenever there’s an update.
Instead of investing resources into testing a new update, let others do it first. Wait a day or two after the update becomes available and then install it. During that time, enough people will install and test it, so you don’t have to be the guinea pig. If it’s a bad update that causes problems, the developer will be notified immediately. By the time you install, a new, better update will become available.
This tip should be followed for plugin and theme updates as well as for core ones. Just be patient for a day or two, and don’t be update-happy.
Update things one by one
Sure, it’s convenient to click “update all.” But after you update everything and find yourself staring at the notorious white screen of death, it’s nearly impossible to know which plugin caused the problem.
Install updates one by one. After each one, open your site and see if everything looks OK. You don’t have to spend half an hour testing. Simply invest a minimal amount of effort to see if the update caused any noticeable issues.
Have a safety net
I’m sure you’ve heard multiple people stress the importance of keeping backups to you. If you still don’t believe in creating them, I’d instead urge you to have any kind of safety net.
Perhaps your hosting company keeps backups – that’s one thing you can rely on.
Maybe you keep all your posts in DOC files on your computer. Sure, it’s far from ideal (and I wouldn’t recommend it), but you do have a copy in the worst-case scenario.
My safety net is WP Reset’s automatic snapshots.
WP Reset is a WordPress plugin that makes recovering WordPress sites from any sticky situation a breeze. It automatically creates snapshots of the site every time an important event occurs, such as a plugin update. If all goes well, the snapshot gets automatically deleted after a while. If not, just click restore and in a matter of seconds, WP Reset undoes any changes the problematic update made.
WP Reset: Your Secret Time Machine
Having a website ruined by a bad update is a daily occurrence for users across the board. Some updates just mess with your CSS with barely visible changes. But certain updates can cause the white screen of death, leading to your site being offline till you or somebody you hire can fix it.
I know how frustrating it is to have an update, which should have improved your site, mess it up instead.
That’s why WP Reset is here. It makes sure that any disruptive changes that your website undergoes can always be undone, with one click.
Unlike conventional backups, WP Reset’s snapshots are much faster because they only keep a copy of your database and the plugin or theme files that have changed. Snapshots are much leaner and faster to work with. On an average site, restoring a snapshot only takes about ten seconds.
You can use snapshots to save the current state of your site anytime it’s about to undergo major changes. Thinking about installing a few new plugins? Create a snapshot first. If the plugins don’t work out, you can restore the snapshot and not worry about those plugins leaving unwanted data in your database.
Thinking about testing some changes to make your site faster? Not a problem. Create a snapshot and make those changes. If you decide not to keep them, restoring the snapshot is a breeze. If you do decide to keep them, delete the snapshot. It’s that easy.
What about the white screen of death?
When you get yourself in a white screen situation, you can’t access the WP Admin. So you probably can’t access WP Reset either, right? Wrong!
Say hello to WP Reset’s Emergency Recovery Script. This script is completely WordPress-independent and was created to get any WP site out of the most challenging situations. You know, those sticky jams where not even WP Admin is available.
The Emergency Recovery Script is safely hidden on your site and protected by a password until the moment you need it. When trouble strikes, the only thing you need to do is open a secret URL and follow the instructions.
This lifesaving feature will make sure all core WP files are intact and, if needed, restore any damaged ones. It’ll also make disabling any problematic plugins a simple matter of clicking the “disable” button, just like in WP Admin.
The ERS can also help you restore access to a WP site when you forget your credentials, and resetting the password doesn’t work. Again, simply open the ERS, click “create new admin user,” and get a new account working in seconds.
Being proactive goes a long way, especially when it comes to your WordPress site.
Due to the sheer number of updates an average site owner has to install, the odds of something breaking come down to a matter of when, not if. When that moment comes, be prepared!
On the other hand, not doing updates will only create a different set of problems.
Update regularly and do it the smart way, with a simple-to-use safety net in place. WP Reset’s snapshots take only minutes to set up. The first time WP Reset gets you out of a sticky situation, you’ve already saved hours of work.
Till next time, Sumo-lings!