How to Manually Update WordPress?

The most common reason that automatic updates on a WordPress website fail is related to improper file permissions on a web server. This can occur if a site was transferred from another host or if the autoinstaller used different settings than the admin user when updating the CMS.

This FAQ will guide you through the manual update of WordPress core files which can be used to re-establish automatic update functionality and repair websites stuck in maintenance mode.

How to Manually Update WordPress?

WordPress website administrators can navigate to /wp-admin/update-core.php in order to check the status of their WP installation and see if there are any pending version updates for the application core or any associated add-ons.

Most users will be able to utilize the built-in auto-update capabilities of WordPress and install the latest stable version in a single click. In such cases, WP will automatically enter into maintenance mode, download and apply the core updates in the background, then confirm the process’s success.

But in instances where WordPress is misconfigured or transferred with improper file permissions, the auto-update functionality might fail, and a website can get stuck in Maintenance Mode.

To solve this problem, ScalaHosting has equipped SPanel with an easy backup functionality to make a full archive of your website files and database.  Make sure you start with that before making any changes to your site.

Next, you will have to download the latest WordPress distribution manually and use either FTP or SPanel to remove the old CMS files. This way, you can replace them without losing any custom site settings.

Reasons to Manually Update WordPress

Softaculous users can set the script installer to automatically apply WordPress core updates without any user interaction. This can be risky for sites with custom code in themes or plugins that are dependent on specific versions of WordPress, JavaScript, or PHP.

For most users, the inability to apply automatic updates reflects a broader problem with a WordPress installation. A site stuck in Maintenance Mode needs to be manually updated to restore normal functionality. 

Overall, manual version updates help preserve the stability of any custom WP configuration.

Steps for a Manual WordPress Update

To perform a manual WordPress update, we must first decide whether to use FTP or ScalaHosting’s SPanel for file management. The advantage of the SPanel File Manager is that you can access the files through a web browser without the need for any FTP software.

Still, both methods will allow you to delete WordPress distribution files and upload the archive files for the new update.

Backup CMS Files & Database

Before deleting any files in a manual WordPress update, use the SPanel backup service to create a restore point for your website. This will preserve your legacy work, storage files, and CMS database information from any errors that can occur in the manual update process.

When making the backup of your website, you will be given the choice to:

  • Exclude emails and files
  • Exclude databases
  • Store the backup on a remote FTP server

You can confirm the choice of the domain for the backup at the top of the page via the drop-down menu. The SPanel Backup service will create a tar.gz file that can be downloaded or used to restore the website in the future to its current state.

Replace the WordPress Files

After you have backed up the site files for the domain, use either FTP or the SPanel File Manager to navigate to the folder where the WordPress installation is stored

The basic file structure of the WordPress installation will be listed like this:

In order to perform a manual WordPress upgrade, you need to preserve your installed plugins, theme, and settings files while replacing the core distribution files of the CMS. This requires the selective deletion of some files and folders, while others need to be overwritten on the server.

Follow the steps listed below to manually update your WordPress website:

  1. Download the latest WordPress core installation file at WordPress.org.
  2. Navigate to: /wp-admin/plugins.php and deactivate all installed plugins.
  3. Connect with FTP or File Manager and make a backup of the .htaccess file.
  4. Delete the wp-includes and wp-admin folders from the web server.
  5. Upload wp-includes and wp-admin folders from the new WP distro to replace the files.
  6. Overwrite the files in the new wp-content folder without deleting any files or folders.
  7. Overwrite the files in the root directory while preserving the old copies of:
  • wp-config.php
  • .htaccess
  • robots.txt
  1. Update the custom settings in the wp-config.php and .htaccess files to relaunch.

Depending on the number of version changes between the core updates, you may need to update the wp-config.php and .htaccess files to incorporate new settings for the CMS.

Remove the .maintenance File

If your WordPress website is stuck in “Maintenance Mode,” the CMS will automatically create a .maintenance file on the server’s root that needs to be deleted manually to restore features.

Source: WPDT: “WordPress Stuck in Maintenance Mode? Here is What to Do” (2022).

Connect with FTP or File Manager and locate the .maintenance file on the web server. Use the Delete command to remove the file from the installation base and return your site online.

Update the WordPress Installation

After you have replaced the core WordPress CMS files with the latest distribution and updated the settings for the database, you can run the update utility again to restore the site.

Navigate to: /wp-admin/update-core.php and check the status of the manual update. WordPress will detect the core distribution version and display which phase of the installation you’re in. If there are any errors, WordPress displays an alert with links to more information on the problem.

Test Plugin & Theme Compatibility

After you have successfully updated the WordPress core and exited Maintenance Mode, you will still need to reactivate your installed plugins and themes. To do this:

  1. Navigate to /wp-admin/plugins.php to reinstall and update all plugins.
  2. Review the theme settings at /wp-admin/themes.php to see if any updates are required.
  3. Navigate to /wp-admin/site-health.php and follow any recommended actions.

WordPress’s Site Health section includes a full diagnostic suite for the core, plugin, and theme files that can be used to debug and fine-tune an installation against any possible errors.

Final Steps

As a manual upgrade is a more extensive process than automatic WordPress updates, you can also benefit from using a plugin like Site Offline to manage the maintenance display during offline periods. You can also create a custom display or site message for users as per your project requirements.

Troubleshooting

WordPress administrators and website developers can review the official documentation for manual upgrades on WordPress.org. If you need more help, there are more extensive instructions.

You can also contact the Scala Team via chat and ticket with any questions or issues on the matter.

FAQ

Q: How to turn off automatic updates for WordPress in Softaculous?

A: Navigate to the Install tab under WordPress in Softaculous. Under Advanced Settings, uncheck the boxes in the form for:

  • Auto Upgrade WordPress Plugins  
  • Auto Upgrade WordPress Themes  

You can then perform the updates manually to preserve custom code or test platform compatibility between plugins and themes before going live with the changes.

Q: How to turn off automatic updates for WordPress in SPanel?

A: Navigate to the SWordPress manager section under the Software tab in your SPanel. Toggle the Auto Update button on or off according to the requirements of your website.

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Rado
Author

Working in the web hosting industry for over 13 years, Rado has inevitably got some insight into the industry. A digital marketer by education, Rado is always putting himself in the client's shoes, trying to see what's best for THEM first. A man of the fine detail, you can often find him spending 10+ minutes wondering over a missing comma or slightly skewed design.

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