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How to upgrade a WordPress blog

Once logged into the dashboard administration area of your website there will be a link towards the top of the page telling you there is a new version of WordPress available. The link asks you to “Please update now”. However, there are a few precautions you should take first before upgrading.

If you upgrade WordPress through the dashboard area you will replace all of your source code, which is everything in the WordPress directory. So that’s all of the standard source code and all of the default themes, which means if you’ve changed or customised any of the default code, then that will be erased when you run the upgrade. But all of your custom things should still be in place if you’ve downloaded a custom theme and it’s not one of the default themes. Still be cautious though even if you think that you haven’t changed any code or have anything customised because anything could still go wrong and leave your website out of order and if you have no back-up then you will have lost it all.

So before you do anything you need to back-up your database and any customisation you’ve made to your website. To do that go to the back end of you website, either via the control panel or FTP, whichever you prefer to use.

For the purpose of this article I will be telling you how to do this via CPanel.

  1. Go to the “File Manager” where your wordpress website is installed
  2. Click the file you want to backup so it’s highlighted
  3. Click “compress” in the tool bar
  4. A new file will be created which is the back-up
  5. Next you want to download that file onto your local computer, so click on “download” in the tool bar and download it to a location on your computer
  6. Then delete the backed-up copy of the file from this area so no-one else can get to it by selecting it and clicking “delete” in the tool bar

The next thing to do (also from the CPanel) is back-up the database.

  1. Go to “Databases”
  2. Click on “Php My Admin” and back-up a copy of your database
  3. Select the database from the left-hand side
  4. Click on “Export” and make sure all the tables are selected
  5. Make sure it’s a SQL file
  6. Click “save file as” the click “Go”
  7. Click “Save” and download it to a location on your computer and when that’s finished you have a copy of you’re database on your local computer

Now you should have your entire site directory backed-up and downloaded to your local computer and your complete database also downloaded to your computer. So now we can go back to the website dashboard of your WordPress site and use the link to upgrade your WordPress version and know that if anything happen to go wrong when upgrading to the new version we have the backed-up copies to revert to.

There is still one other precaution to take to help with a smooth upgrade so we’re going to go to the “plugins” area from the dashboard and deactivate all of the plugins.

  1. Click on “plugins”
  2. Select “all” then click “deactivate” and “apply”

So now we have the site backed-up the database backed-up and the plugins deactivated which means we’re now ready to come back and click “please update now”.

It will show a warning to backup your database and files which we’ve already done. So it’s safe to click “Upgrade Automatically”. It will tell you when it’s finished and if it was successful.

Now go back to the plugins area and reactivate the plugins that you turned off earlier. Once that’s done go back to your site to check everything is working fine by clicking around and making sure you are lead to the right places.

Hopefully everything should work if you’ve taken all these precautions, but if for some reason something goes wrong you have got all of your files and database backed-up which you can revert to if needed.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section below.

Happy blogging!

Bryan - For the past 10 years, Bryan been designing and developing Internet Banking applications for Australian banks and credit unions. Bryan has had a passion for computers ever since high school, and has advanced to a high level in his development career. In recent years, he discovered internet marketing and has developed a passion for helping others achive the results they long for.


  1. Donna-Marie
    Apr 22, 2009

    Great tips Bryan.

    I’m upgrading my blog tomorrow and although everything’s backed up, I’ve been gradually customising every little part of the site so I’ll be double-checking with your guide to make sure I get it right :-)

  2. Bryan
    Apr 22, 2009

    Wow Donna-Marie! I just posted that… You are always on the ball :)

    Good luck with the upgrade – WordPress 2.7* is pretty nice!

  3. Donna-Marie
    Apr 22, 2009

    That’s because my computer is almost permanently attached to me :-)

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