WordPress experts and designers constantly harp on just how important it is to keep your plugins updated all the time. Why? Two reasons. First, keeping your plugins updated and running on the most current versions ensures that any changes the third-party developer makes to them—changes that may increase performance, add exciting new features etc.—are being incorporated into your site’s operation.
Second, it’s vital to make sure they’re secure and not opening up your site to possible hacks or data breaches. Indeed, always keep in mind that plugins are one of the main portals through with nefarious persons attempt to gain access to your site’s inner workings and steal information or generally cause trouble. Often, these potential leaks contained within the code that run the plugin are discovered by the good guys in the virtual world, and these leaks are eventually fixed. But the average WordPress user may not even know there’s a problem, so staying on top of updates means the latest and most secure version of the plugin is installed on their site.
That said, there are a few different ways to go about updating your WordPress plugins, but for simplicity’s sake read on for a step-by-step guide.
To begin, know that WordPress comes with an update system built into the core program, meaning it automatically scans and checks your plugins—as well as other aspects of your site—for updates on a regular basis. And thankfully, the program gives you notifications when updates are available. So when you see one of these notifications on the plugins menu of your admin area you’ll know.
Next to each plugin will be an “Update Now” link, so you can choose to do it when you wish. Also, if you find that there are several plugins available for newer versions you can do a bulk update. To do this visit the plugins page and click on “Update Available.” Here you’ll see a list of what’s available for updating, and you can select specific ones or all of them. Once you’ve decided, simply select “Update” from the “Bulk Actions” menu and you’re off and running.
However, before initiating any plugin update it’s important that your read the details about what changes are in store: this way, if there’s a problem once the program is updated you’ll know what changes were made. And if a security update is among the changes listed for the plugin, of course you should initiate it immediately.
Occasionally you may find that, once you’ve updated a plugin, there are changes in the features of the program that you either don’t like or are incompatible with the theme you choose for your site. If this happens you’ll first need to deactivate the plugin via your admin area (just click on the “deactivate link” below the offending plugin). Then install the WP-Rollback plugin which will automatically revert the plugin back to its previous version.
If your site contains lots and lots of plugins and all are used and necessary, you may want to enable automatic updates for all of them. This will save you the time and trouble of going through the changes one by one. But, only do this if you completely trust all the plugins you have operating on your site, as you won’t be able to see what changes are in store for a particular plugin until after it’s automatically updated. And if you don’t spend much hands-on time in the admin area of your site consider enabling email alerts which will let you know when an update is available without you having to log in to the site itself.
Lastly, as important as updating your plugins is, it’s equally vital that you set up an automatic backup for them: too often something goes fatally wrong with a WordPress site, and having everything backed up will make it infinitely easier to restore the site in the event of a devastating crash.