Manually Updating WordPress Themes

If you use a theme that is not from WordPress.org you will end up having to update that theme manually.  This includes basically every premium theme that you can get, including the excellent ones I get from ElegantThemes.  Luckily, this is a simple process that can be accomplished without any special technical skills.

How to Automatically Update A Theme

WordPress Updates Page

WordPress Updates Page

Part of the magic of WordPress is that it enables people with very little technical training to produce very professional websites by automating much of the work involved.  Automatic updates are a godsend as they enable webmasters to keep their site’s components up to date with a few clicks.  Having spent 20 years working with computers professionally, I must say that this is the largest labor saving innovation that I’ve seen and I love it.

If you have a WordPress theme that can be automatically updated you would simply click the box indicated in the photo to the left by arrow #1, and then click the Update button indicated by arrow #2.  Bing, zam, boom.  Your theme gets updated lickedy split.

Update Theme Page When It Fails

Update Theme Page When It Fails

If you do this with a theme that cannot be automatically updated, you will see a screen like the one pictured to the right.  Simply click the Return to Theme Page link circled in pink.  That will take you to the WordPress Themes page.

The WordPress Themes page is the control center for managing your themes.  Through it you can install, delete, and switch your themes with a few clicks.  And indeed, through it you can manually update your WordPress theme.

How to Manually Update WordPress Themes

WordPress Themes Page

WordPress Themes Page

Had you started out on this page instead of the Updates page, you would have seen a convenient note indicating that you could not automatically update your theme (#3).  So how exactly do you manually update a WordPress theme?

WordPress Themes Page After Themes Swap

WordPress Themes Page After Themes Swap

Manually Updating WordPress Themes, Step by Step

The first step to manually updating WordPress themes is to download the new version from your source.  If you chose a theme from ElegantThemes like I did, you are entitled to updates for as long as you are a subscriber and can simply go to the member’s area and download the newest version.  Save it to your hard drive in a location you can easily find.

Once you are sure that you have the latest version of your theme, you need to deactivate the one you are using.  To do this, simply activate an alternate theme, such as Twenty Thirteen which is from WordPress.org, by clicking Activate beneath the preview (circle #4).  You will know that this is complete when the preview picture of the alternate theme is at the top of the page.

Delete your old theme by clicking the Delete link (circle #5).  When only your alternate theme remains, you are ready to upload your updated theme by going to the Install Themes tab (circle #6).

Upload WordPress Theme

Upload WordPress Theme

Installing a theme in WordPress is as simple as can be.  On the Install Themes tab simply click the Upload link (circle #7).  This will open another page where you will be able to select the file you downloaded earlier.  You did save it someplace where you could find it again, didn’t you?

Install WordPress Theme

Install WordPress Theme

Click the Browse button (circle #8) to navigate to your saved file.  A standard file list will pop up (such as Windows Explorer if you are using a PC).  Navigate to where you saved your updated theme and select it.  Once done, you’ll see the file name in the box next to the Browse button.  Click the Install Now button (circle #9).  WordPress will upload the file from your PC to your web host.  One simple step left!

Activate WordPress Theme

Activate WordPress Theme

The final step is to activate your theme.  Simply click the Activate link (circle #10) and you are done.

Concluding Thoughts on Manually Updating WordPress Themes

While there are a number of steps to manually updating WordPress themes, as you can see they are not particularly complex.  The trick is really to realize that you need to have an alternate theme to swap out with briefly.  I use Twenty Thirteen from WordPress.org simply because I can automatically update it if I need to, and being from WordPress I trust that it has no malicious or self serving code hidden in it (which many free themes from other sources do have).  I would rather that my ElegantThemes themes automatically update, but I’m willing to live with a five minute manual process to have almost ninety theme choices for my various websites for the price of one.  All in all, the manual update process is as straightforward as it could possibly be.


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