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How to update your WordPress plugins?

How to update your WordPress plugins?

Updating WordPress plugins regularly is an essential security measure for your website. Outdated plugins make your site vulnerable to attacks and create an opening for hackers to breach your WordPress. With that in mind, the next time your site alerts you that you need to update WordPress plugins – you should follow through.

In this tutorial, we’ll spotlight the importance of keeping your WordPress plugins up to date and show you how to properly update them. Read on to master this security aspect of your website’s administration.

What to do before updating your WordPress plugins?

Before taking on the WordPress plugin updates, there are a few things to consider or take care of. In this section, we’ll give you tips on preparing your site for upcoming updates and how to be on the safe side of this process.

Check for available updates

First, if you are on your regular lookout for available updates, check which plugins are outdated on your site. To do that, navigate to your WordPress Dashboard > Updates. In that section, you’ll find all available updates for your WordPress core, plugins, or themes.

Check for updates in the WordPress Updates Page

Alternatively, you can also check the Plugins page to see which ones are up for an update.

Check the Changelog

A best practice before starting with a plugin update is to inspect the Changelog. This log provides information for any bug fixes, improvements, or new implementations in the plugin’s new version.

To check the Changelog for each plugin update, navigate to the Plugins page. Next to each plugin reported for an update, you’ll find the View version x.x.x details button.

View version details (Changelog)

The Changelog shows you if there are any new PHP requirements or known compatibility issues with themes or other plugins. It’s wise to check out the new features of a plugin before settling on an update plan.

WordPress plugin update Changelog

If the new plugin version is incompatible with your WordPress theme, you may need to give the devs more time to resolve the issue before updating the conflicting plugin.

Overall, you may allow a week or two for new plugin versions so its developers can resolve any bug fixes or incompatibility issues.

Choose which plugins to update manually and which automatically

Choosing between automatically or manually updating your WordPress plugins can be tricky.

For instance, plugins that are just for backend use and are not entangled with your site’s content are safe to auto-update. Even if there is an issue with the plugin after the update, it will hardly cause much damage to your site.

However, you should be extremely cautious when updating plugins that are fundamental to your site’s functionality and operation (like WooCommerce). Faulty updates of such plugins have the potential to wreck your WordPress. The same goes for various page builders, galleries, or redirection plugins.

That is why it is best to screen the changelog, backup, and manually update such plugins with caution.

In short, you must update plugins that are crucial to your site’s operation manually. Other plugins with less significance for the site’s functioning – you may auto-update.

Back up your site

As a rule of thumb, you should always back up your WordPress site prior to updating any plugins. Remember, a backup can be a life savior (or a site savior) when plugin updates don’t go as planned.

If the plugin update causes trouble, but the Changelog didn’t raise any red flags, you’ll be thankful you have a backup.

How to update WordPress plugins properly

Now that we are clear on the importance of updating your plugins regularly and you have taken all necessary precautions, it’s time to dive into the practical part of this process.

How to manually Update WordPress plugins

There are a few different ways in WordPress to update plugins manually. In this section, we’ll show you step-by-step instructions for each method, so keep reading.

From your Dashboard

The most straightforward method to update WordPress plugins manually is from your WordPress Dashboard. To do that, log into your WordPress and navigate to Plugins > Installed Plugins > Update Available.

WordPress plugins update available

WordPress will show you a list with all plugins up for an update. From here on, you can update plugins one by one or bulk update all of them if you want to.

Update plugins one by one

In WordPress, you can update plugins one by one if you want to check whether an update would cause an issue with your site. If updating one plugin causes a conflict, you’ll know right away which one is the culprit. This way, you can roll back to the previous working version while waiting for the plugin developers to release a bug-fix update.

Additionally, you can report the plugin behavior to its developers and allow them the time to test and rectify the issue.

Another reason to update plugins one by one may be that you want to update just one plugin at a particular moment. Whatever your reasoning, it is really up to you.

To update WordPress plugins one by one, simply click the “update now” contextual link under each outdated plugin you want to update.

Update WordPress plugin manually

When WordPress updates the selected plugin, you’ll see a confirmation message like the one below.

WordPress plugin updated successfully

Bulk update your WordPress plugins

There is a way to bulk update all of your WordPress plugins simultaneously. This action initiates the update process for all the plugins you’ve selected.

To update your WordPress plugins in bulk, tick the box on the left side of each plugin in the list you want to update. Alternatively, tick the box next to “Plugin” to mark all plugins in the Update Available list.

Select all plugins for a bulk update

Ticking that box will mark all plugins from the list, and now you can select a bulk action from the respective dropdown menu. Afterward, simply click Apply, and WordPress will take care of the rest.

Apply a bulk update on all WordPress plugins

When the update process is completed for each plugin – WordPress will display a success message.

Update your WordPress plugins via FTP

If for some reason, you don’t have access to your WordPress Dashboard, you can resort to updating WordPress plugins via an FTP connection. To use this method, you’ll need to download the latest version of the plugin from the WordPress.org repository on your computer.

Download the new WordPRess plugin version

The plugin will be downloaded on your computer in a zip file, so you’ll need to extract the plugin folder from the zip archive.

To login to your site via FTP, you’ll need your FTP credentials, and you can get these from your hosting provider.

SiteGround clients can easily create and manage FTP accounts from their Site Tools > Site > FTP Accounts. To get your FTP credentials, click on the Actions menu next to the FTP account and select FTP Credentials.

FTP Credentials Site Tools

With your credentials at hand, you can establish an FTP connection with an FTP client like FileZilla.

When you are logged in, list the contents of the wp-content directory by clicking on it to find the plugins folder. Then expand the plugins folder to see all your plugins listed and right-click on the folder for the plugin you want to update. Select the download option to get a backup of the outdated plugin, just in case.

Download the outdated plugin for backup

After the download is complete, delete the plugin’s folder. Then, drag the folder of the plugin’s latest version from the left side of the FileZilla screen to the right side where your site’s plugins are (/wp-content/plugins).

Drag and drop the new version of your WordPRess plugin

And that’s it! You have successfully updated your WordPress plugin manually via FTP.

WordPress plugin update via SSH – for advanced users

More advanced WordPress users can also use SSH to perform the plugin update manually. To do that, you’ll need to establish an SSH connection to the server that hosts your site.

SiteGround clients can create SSH keys and get SSH credentials from their Site Tools > Dev > SSH Keys Manager.

Get SSH credentials from your Site Tools

After logging in, you can use the WP-Cli commands to update your WordPress plugins.

wp plugin update plugin-slug

If you wish to update all currently outdated plugins on your site, you can use the corresponding command.

wp plugin update --all

During this process, WordPress will download the latest plugin version, remove the files from the older version, and replace them with the new ones. You’ll see a “success” message when the entire process is completed.

How to update WordPress plugins automatically?

As we mentioned, WordPress allows you to update plugins automatically, and you can do that in several different ways. Read further to learn more about them.

Note that automatic update configurations affect only plugins from the WordPress Repository. Any third-party premium plugins would not be updated automatically due to their specific update mechanism and license verification codes.

With the WordPress built-in auto-update feature

Since WordPress 5.5, users can take advantage of the auto-update feature available in their Dashboard. With it, you can choose which plugins to be automatically updated by WordPress upon a new version release. This way, you pass the control over plugin updates to WordPress.

Therefore, this feature is primarily suitable for small sites and plugins that are not crucial to your site’s operations.

You can do that easily from your Dashboard > Updates or Dashboard > Plugins > Installed Plugins. Right next to each plugin, you can click the Enable auto-updates option.

Enable plugin autoupdates

When you enable this option for specific plugins, you won’t need to worry about their future updates. This way, you’ll improve your website’s overall security since, most commonly, WordPress gets hacked through outdated plugins.

Update plugins with a WordPress management tool

WordPress Management tools handle certain tasks automatically for your peace of mind. For example, they can scan your site for malware and perform backups or updates. Thus, you can use such a tool to take care of your plugin updates. Below we’ll show you two popular tools of this sort, so keep reading.

  • Jetpack

Services like Jetpack provide multi-level support for various WordPress operations. It works on a pay-for-what-you-need model, and you can update WordPress plugins automatically with it.

Update WordPress plugins with Jetpack's autoupdate feature

You can also update plugins manually, set some or all of your plugins to update automatically, activate or deactivate plugins, and many more.

  • ManageWP

ManageWP is another WordPress management tool you can use to enable or disable automatic plugin updates.

Update WordPRess plugins with ManageWP's Safe plugin updates feature

It offers the Safe updates feature that lets you schedule plugin updates and creates a restore point right before executing it. This way, if anything goes awry, you can revert to the plugin’s previous version.

By adding a code snippet to functions.php

Another fine approach to enable automatic updates for your WordPress plugins is by adding a code snippet to your theme’s functions.php file. This piece of code tells WordPress to update plugins upon a new version release made available automatically.

You can find the functions.php file in your “/wp-content/themes/your-active-theme/” either from your hosting File manager or via FTP.

add_filter( 'auto_update_plugin', '__return_true' );

Note that adding this snippet will affect all plugins in your WordPress site, no matter if this is a major release update or not. There are no prior or post-factum notifications for any of these updates.

How to revert an update?

In case a WordPress plugin update breaks your site or hatches unusual behavior, you may want to revert it to a working condition. You can do that by restoring a backup you generated before updating or using another plugin to roll back the version of a specific plugin.

A popular plugin of this sort is the WP Rollback, and it does exactly that – it reverts the update, bringing the plugin back into pre-update condition.

After installing and activating WP Rollback, next to each plugin listed in your Dashboard > Plugins > Installed Plugins, you’ll find a Rollback contextual button.

WP Rollback plugin to revert an update

By clicking on that button, the WP Rollback checks for older versions of the plugin and asks you which one you want it reverted to. Hovering over each suggested version reveals a link where you can View Changelog.

Rollback a WordPress plugin to a specific version

After ticking the plugin version you want to use, click on the Rollback button at the bottom, and WP Rollback will do its job.

Why should you update WordPress plugins?

WordPress is a popular and easy-to-use open-source Content Management System. Open-source means anyone can inspect its code and customize it to their preferences, including hackers who do it for malicious purposes.

Thus, ensuring your site’s security is one of the three main points to consider if you are wondering whether you should update your WordPress plugins.

Additionally, plugin updates promote better Reliability and Compatibility, as well as better overall WordPress performance.

Keep reading to learn more about each of these aspects.

WordPress Security

It is easy to ignore an update notification when you are busy populating your site with content and working on your brand’s online presence. However, neglecting your WordPress plugin updates creates a risk vector for your website.

Outdated plugins are a common target for cybercriminals looking for a backdoor to your site. According to WPScan, outdated plugins cause more than 90% of the known security breaches in WordPress.

Vulnerabilities impact by WordPress component

By gaining access to your WordPress, hackers can inject malware within your code, distorting your entire site’s functionality. This can start a downward spiral for your traffic since visitors can’t reach your site. Moreover, if search engines detect a related issue on your site, this can damage your online reputation further.

In short, ignoring your WordPress plugin updates can throw all your efforts and hard-earned ranking out the window.

Plugin updates patch security vulnerabilities and improves the overall security of your website. Therefore, you must diligently update the plugins to secure your WordPress site.

Reliability and Compatibility

Plugin bugs are common, especially when a plugin is recently released or in a beta version. Unfortunately, a bug may happen for well-established plugins too.

These bugs can be errors or flaws in the plugin’s code, producing unexpected behavior that can negatively affect your site’s functionality. A faulty plugin can potentially crash your website or render it inaccessible.

In general, the latest plugin versions include fixes for bugs reported by users and documented by developers. Any bug fixes with a new plugin version are logged in the Changelog, as in the screenshot below.

Example of a Changelog (Gutenberg update)

Developers release updates to guarantee their plugin’s reliability. Thus, if you want to keep using a plugin – don’t forget to update it when a new version is released.

Furthermore, WordPress core updates happen often, and plugins must be compliant to work as expected. Plugin developers push new version updates containing code refinements to comply with new WordPress requirements and code.

Therefore, you must regularly install available updates for your WordPress to ensure your site is running smoothly.

Better WordPress performance

Along with bug fixes, plugin updates may include new features or performance enhancements. The plugin creators may have decided to revamp the design or implement new functionalities to boost user experience and effectiveness.

On top of that, good developers always strive to improve their code to optimize their product’s performance. Great plugins should not slow down your site’s loading speed. Hence, the developers push script optimizations with WordPress plugin updates as well.

To take advantage of these upgrades, you should update your WordPress plugins to their latest version.

If you are worried about a WordPress plugin update breaking your site, keep reading to learn a few precautions you can take to minimize the risks.

Bonus tips for managing WordPress plugins effectively

Managing many WordPress sites can be a daunting task if you don’t have an effective strategy for WordPress plugin updates. To help you stay on top of your game, we’ve added a few bonus tips for better handling your updates.

Tip 1: Enable automatic updates for all of your WordPress plugins

You can comb through your plugins and enable automatic updates for those you trust that will not affect major site functionalities. Following the steps for setting up plugins to auto-update as we showed you above, you can easily do that. With such a setup, you’ll have more time to deal with more complex plugins on your site.

Tip 2: Configure email notifications for WordPress plugin updates available

By default, WordPress shows you update notifications when you log into your Dashboard. However, to keep up with all available updates, you must regularly log in to WordPress. If you don’t, you risk missing critical updates, which puts your site vulnerable.

Wouldn’t it be great to get an email anytime an update is available for a plugin? Well, you can use WordPress management tools to set up such notifications.

So if you want to get email alerts for available WordPress plugin updates, you can use a WordPress management tool for your site. The management tools discussed in this post, like Jetpack and ManageWP, can help keep your site secure and up-to-date.

Tip 3: Automatically update WordPress plugins with SiteGround’s AutoUpdate Tool

An excellent perk for SiteGround clients is our WordPress Autoupdate system. It handles core updates along with plugin updates if new versions are available.

SiteGround WordPress Autoupdate service

This smart update service generates a backup right before initiating a core update. Then it checks if your site is working as expected after the update. If it detects an issue, it reverts the plugin to pre-update conditions and sends you a notification.

Additionally, with this helpful service, you can schedule when to apply a core update. Also, if you want to update any outdated plugins with this WordPress core update, you can set different update intervals for major or minor releases.

Tip 4: Use SiteGround’s Staging tool to test new WordPress plugin updates

Another awesome tool SiteGround offers is the Staging tool. With it, you can create staging copies of your site where you can experiment with new features, plugin updates, WordPress theme updates, or core updates.

Create a Staging site in Site Tools

When you are pleased with the results, you can deploy your Staging copy to your live site. The tool takes a backup of the current state of your site right before pushing the staging site live.


Updating WordPress plugins is essential to your WordPress security and administration. To help you with this quest, we showed you various methods for updating your WordPress plugin. You learned about this task’s importance and how to mitigate any related risks or revert unwanted updates.

Loaded with our bonus tips to boost your confidence, you are now a master of WordPress plugin updates.

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