Update Your WordPress Plugins Right Now!

Stop reading this and go update your WordPress plugins right now! Okay, wait. I’m just kidding, don’t stop reading. Stick around for a bit and I’ll not only show you how to safely update your WordPress plugins, I’ll explain why it’s so important. In fact, let’s start there.

Why it’s So Important to Update WordPress Plugins

It’s crucial to understand that WordPress is just a kind of software that runs on your web host’s server. The software helps manage all the files on that server that make up your website and delivers it to browsers around the world. And like any type of software, WordPress gets updated regularly — new features, bug fixes, and up-to-date security patches that keep you from getting hacked.

Similarly, any plugin you install in WordPress is also just a piece of software. And just like WordPress, plugins are (ideally) being updated by the developers on a regualr basis.

However, even though the developers update the code on their end, it’s up to you to make sure the revised plugins are updated on your site. There are a few reasons why neglecting updates is a bad practice:

  1. You leave yourself open to malware attacks. Hackers love to exploit WordPress sites, and the easiest way to get in is via an outdated plugin.
  2. Your website can break. If you neglect plugin updates long enough, features on your site can stop working.
  3. You could be missing out on new features. Let’s say you use a photo gallery plugin, and the developers add a feature that allows you to watermark your photos without affecting the originals. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that happen automatically?

You might be thinking, but my website is so basic. I don’t have to worry about this stuff. The truth is, whether your site is super basic or has all the bells and whistles, it’s equally as important to keep things updated.

Thankfully, updating WordPress plugins is a simple process. Let’s walk though the steps!

How to Safely Update Your WordPress Plugins

The good news is that WordPress tells you which plugins need to be updated. There are two methods for seeing this info and for updating plugins.

Plugin Update Method #1

When you log in to your site’s Admin Dashboard, you’ll see an item in the left-side menu called Updates.

When you click on that menu item, you’ll see a page that lists all available updates for your site — not just plugins. You’ll see info about:

  • Your current version of WordPress
  • Plugins
  • Themes
Screenshot of WordPress Updates page

You can update any of these things right from this page. It will also tell you if your plugins are all up to date. If they’re not, you’ll see the plugin(s) listed in that section. Simply the select the plugin you want to update and click the Update button. Easy!

And hey, as long as you’re there you may as well head back to the Updates page and take care of any themes that need updating, too.

A caution about updating all at once

While you can select multiple plugins and update them all at once — super convenient — it’s worth noting which ones are being updated before you press the Update button. Just like with any kind of software, WordPress plugins are prone to bugs or they may conflict with each other. That can cause issues with your site’s functionality.

If you note which plugins are being updated in advance, you have a better chance of knowing which one may be causing an issue after an update, if any. You should also read my post on WordPress Site Errors which will help you troubleshoot this easily.

Plugin Update Method #2

If you want to get straight to the plugins, look for the Plugins menu item in your Admin Dashboard’s left-side panel. Hover over it and click Installed Plugins. This will show you a list of all the plugins installed on your site, as well as which ones are active or inactive, and which ones need updating.

Screenshot of WordPress Plugins page

There’s also a handy navigation menu at the top that allows you to see only the plugins that have updates available. If you have a lot of plugins, choosing that view helps you focus on just the necessary ones.

Updating is the same here as on the Updates page. Select the plugin(s) and click Update.

Automatic Update Feature

In your list of plugins, you may have noticed the Enable auto-updates links on the right. Just as it sounds, clicking these will make it so that plugin is updated automatically every time there’s a new version.

While the feature makes the updating process totally hands-off, it’s still a good idea to log in to your site on a regular basis and make sure everything is working. The reason I didn’t mention the easy auto-update feature first is because I’m not an advocate for it. I never use it on any of the sites I manage. As I mentioned before, if something breaks because of a plugin update, I want to make the debugging process as easy as possible for myself. I’m not a fan of nasty surprises — on my client sites particularly.

Keeping Your WordPress Site Healthy and Safe

Updating plugins is just one part of maintaining your WordPress site. It happens to be one of the easiest parts, and it’s a small bit of maintenance that keeps your site working and safe from hackers.

However, if even this small maintenance task sounds like more than you want to handle in the course of your busy days, I get it. I can manage all of this for you while you do your life. Take a look at my WordPress Care Plans and see which one is a good fit for you.

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