Are you unsure about updating WordPress plugins? Here’s our summary of this essential website maintenance task.
As we mentioned in our article on the top five crucial steps to WordPress maintenance, updating your WordPress core software and plugins is very important. Out-of-date plugins is one way that your site can become infected with malware.
So should you update as soon as you see on WordPress that one is required? Well, not necessarily. Here’s what you need to know:
Tips for Updating WordPress Plugins
Start by looking at the WordPress update page for your site. You can find it by selecting “Updates” under the main Dashboard menu, top left of the WordPress screen in the back end. Scroll down to the Plugins section.
This will show you a list of all the plugins that need to be updated (each site will look a little different, depending on which plugins are in use). Here’s an example:
As you can see highlighted in yellow, the author of the plugin will tell you whether it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. Therefore, we recommend waiting until it shows 100% compatible before you update.
However, this isn’t totally foolproof, because it is only the opinion of the plugin author. They don’t know what other plugins you have. For example, it’s possible that the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress – but not your theme or some other component.
This is why we always suggest making a full backup of your site files and database before installing ANY plugin updates.
Read our new blog post: How to Backup A Website for more information.
Plugins Directory BackUp
In addition, we suggest making a backup of the plugins directory prior to any large or risky updates.
As these instructions would be different for every host, we suggest that you ask for their guidance on this issue.
You could also check with your host about a file system backup: this is actually something that we suggest that site owners do automatically every night.
Be Wary of "Enable auto-updates"
Back in 2020, WordPress added an “enable auto-updates” feature. When enabled, the plugin would automatically update as soon as a new version was available.
But for reasons very similar to those already given, this isn’t a strategy that we recommend.
The plugin update might not be compatible with your site and cause technical issues. With auto-update enabled, these issues may occur without your knowing. And when trouble-shooting, the more plugins you have that are auto-updating, the harder it is to keep track of changes on the site.