How to Update and Backup your WordPress Website

This is one part of a series of articles providing basic instructions for using WordPress. To start at the beginning, or view the full index of articles in this series, go to  A Simple WordPress User Guide for Beginners.

How to Update your WordPress Installation.

When a new update to WordPress is released, you will be notified in your admin panel by a one sentence statement to that effect, displayed at the top of each page of your WordPress admin panel. There is a link in that notification to update. Updating your installation immediately is always a good idea.  Sometimes the updates have security patches that protect your website from hackers.


Click that link to go to the update page where you will have 2 options – to update automatically or manually.


The WordPress automatic updater works very well. Just click the button to update and wait 5 to 10 seconds until it tells you it is complete.

update-completeYou will be told to backup your site first as a standard precaution. That is because you can never anticipate when something will go off, and as I said above, their updater works very well. At a minimum, it is a good idea and also very easy to backup your database, explained below.

Backing up Your WordPress Website

As an initial note, I think it is safe to say that any reputable hosting company will have backups of all of your files and databases.  But it can take days to a week to have them restored and at an additional cost (unless it was an error caused by the hosting company).  And your hosting company will likely not be backing up your site files, etc. every day but only every week or month – so their backup may not be right up to date if you should need that.  Backing up your files provides an additional insurance and control should a very rare ocurance happen.

Your WordPress site consists of the following:

  1. WordPress Core Installation
  2. WordPress Database
  3. WordPress Plugins and Themes
  4. Uploaded Images and Files
  5. Javascripts, PHP scripts, and other code files
  6. Additional Files and Static Web Page

To completely backup your website, you would need to backup your database, all of the site files that are located within your WordPress install folder, and any other files that you or your web developer installed elsewhere (if at all).

themes-plugins-exportTo backup those aspects of your website that are unique to your website, (ie not including all of the wordpress program files “core installlation”), you would want to backup the following ( with these, you could install a new wordpress install and put all of these pieces in place to put your site back the way it was):

The database: You can backup your database using the Export function within the Tools menu option. Your database contains all of the typed content of your website and its settings – (ie not your uploaded content (images, pdfs, etc).  Backing up your WordPress database is easy to do and is worth doing each time you update your WordPress instalation, unless you are using your website as a content management system and do not change content frequently.

WordPress Plugins and Themes:  Your “Theme” is the folder that contains the files that define the unique look and functioning of your website.  Plugins are sets of code that add functionality to your website.  You can find these folders on your server within the folder in which you installed WordPress here: /yourWordPressinstall/wp-content/themes and  /yourWordPressinstall/wp-content/plugins.  You can narrow down even further what you need to save within these folders by only downloading and saving  the “Theme” that you are using, and the only the plugins your site is using.  You can find your Theme in your admin panel within the Appearances/Themes area of your WordPress admin panel.  And you can determine which plugins you are using by going the the Plugins/Installed section of your admin and looking at those plugins that provide the option to “Deactivate” under their name (thus indicating that they are active).  You cannot backup these from within WordPress and would need to do this in another way, ie via FTP, a FileManager in your hosting account, or a backup utility in your hosting account.  Likely once your website is up and running, and you have one backup of these, you will not need to back them up again as they will not change, unless you install a new plugin.

Uploaded Images and Files:  Whenever an image or pdf document or other media is uploaded, it is stored in a folder on your server. In order to have your own backup of these, you would need to keep a backup of the contents of that folder.  By default, that folder is in this folder: /yourWordPressinstall/wp-content/uploads.  You can confirm where they are backed up by going to the Settings/Miscellaneous tab in your WordPress admin panel. You cannot backup these from within WordPress and would need to do this in another way, ie via FTP, a FileManager in your hosting account, or a backup utility in your hosting account.  How often you back this up depends on how often you upload new content.

Other Scripts or Files:  Any scripts, files or webpages outside of what is mentioned above would be unique to your website and theme and could not be anticipated here.  You would have to reference the documentation for a given theme you installed or ask your web developer.

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