Updating WordPress, should I Update Core or Plugins First?

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WordPress updates can be a daunting thing to new users. Fear not, WordPress has one of the easiest updating systems around, and the core is designed to be as backwards compatible as possible. When you have some updates to do, always update core first, then update your plugins and themes right after.
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WordPress updates can be a daunting thing to new users. Fear not, WordPress has one of the easiest updating systems around, and the core is designed to be as backwards compatible as possible.

When you have some updates to do, always update core first, then update your plugins and themes right after.

After an update, you should always check that the site is working as expected. If there are any issues, you can contact the support staff of the plugin or theme you are using. Contacting support when your core is not yet updated is fruitless because good developers always test on the latest version of WordPress, and will mostly ask you to get your site up to the latest version as well to help in trouble shooting.

So there you have it, an answer to a question that gets asked often around here.

Jean Galea

Jean Galea is an investor, entrepreneur, and blogger. He is the founder of WP Mayor, the plugins WP RSS Aggregator and Spotlight, as well as the Mastermind.fm podcast. His personal blog can be found at jeangalea.com.

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14 Responses

  1. Check each plugin for WP version compatibility. Any that requires an upgrade to work with latest version of WP: upgrade those plugins first*. The rest can be upgraded after. If no compatibility issue is specified by the plugin, it doesn’t matter when you upgrade.

    *If a single version of a plugin isn’t compatible with both before and after version of WP, uninstall the plugin and then install after – make note of any plugin settings which will need to be reapplied.

  2. Thanks you for such clear instructions.i followed www.agnishukla.com/2014/07/23/step-wise-updating-wordpress-version/ but i cleared some issues from your articles
    thanks you.

  3. I can’t downgrade my wordpress instalation but i can erase or downgrade a plugin. If a disaster comes then, the most practical scenario for me is working first with the plugins and after with the Core.

  4. Always core first. It can go wrong both ways but since features are not just suddenly removed from core it is safer with core first.

  5. I guess I update plugins first by default, since I keep them updated at least a few times/week. By the time a new core update rolls around, most of the plugins on my site are already updated. I just take the updates in the order they’re released, and things seem to go quite smoothly.

  6. I’ve always updated plugins first and it’s never let me down. To me it seems logical – if there is an update to a plugin, then either:

    a) it includes specific changes to cater for the new version of WordPress, in which case you want it in place *before* the new version, so the plugin doesn’t break your site when you upgrade WordPress
    b) it’s unrelated to the new version, in which case it will work on the current version of WordPress (and probably the new version), so no problem updating plugins first
    c) it includes some functionality that requires the new version, but has no backward compatibility for the current version, even though many people will still be on that version (assuming the new version has only just been released).

    So it comes down to whether A or C is more likely. Over the years, I’ve seen quite a few plugins releasing updates to fix issues caused by changes with a new version (major releases, not minor releases), whereas I haven’t come across *any* problems with plugins only working with the new version.

    Frankly speaking, if a plugin breaks when used with the last release of WordPress, then that’s just poor coding (in my opinion, although I know bugs happen)… It should at least degrade gracefully.

    You can get caught out either way, but in my experience, you’re more likely to have problems if you upgrade WordPress first.

    Of course, in practice, I generally upgrade the plugins and then WordPress in the same session, so any problems are minimal.

  7. Definitely update core WordPress first. This is a rule I preach religiously. Plugins/themes breaking on a WordPress update should be rare. If it happens, it’s usually (not always) because the plugin/theme in question was poorly coded in the first place. The breakage was bound to happen at some point.

    For many developers, including myself, we don’t provide much in the way of backwards compatibility with older WP versions (if you want back compatibility, use an old version of the plugin). So, by updating a plugin/theme first, you’re more likely to break your install than the other way around.

  8. Jean,

    with all my deep and big respect to you and all of your work (that I follow with great joy and learn a lot with your posts), I’m sorry but I have to express my different opinion/experience regarding update order.

    Namely, I was doing for some time as you suggests (first update WP core and afterwards plugins), but I experienced several issues with certain plugins which were not updated to work with the latest WP version (non-compatible issue). Result was that my sites crashed – I had then to delete those (obsolete) plugins and reinstall them to their latest versions (which were adjusted/compatible to work with the latest WP version).

    Therefore, I changed update order: I first update plugins and themes and WP core at the end. Now everything is OK and I don’t have any more issues… which is now (after all practical experience) pretty logical to me because of the following:

    a) if I update first WP core, than plugins don’t need necessarily to be compatible with the latest WP version and anything (bad) can happen with the site,


    b) if I update plugins first and then WP core, plugins are (if updated by their authors) most likely compatible with the latest WP version AND also compatible with the older WP versions (plugin backward compatibility).

    I hope you don’t mind (much :-)) that I stated different opinion according to bad experiences I had.

    Thx, Ivica

    1. Of course I don’t mind you disagreeing Ivica 🙂 I did some more reading about this, what do you think about Yoast’s opinion?

      1. As I read A LOT of articles, especially all from those that I follow on Twitter (Yoast included), I already read this article and thx to it (I appreciate Yoast’s opinion very much) I was doing previously differently upgrade – first WP Core and than plugins.
        However, after I changed that order (first plugins then WP Core) I didn’t have any incident since.
        Nevertheless, as I already was “burnt” after upgrading web sites, I decided NOT to ever again upgrade on the production anything (even smallest things) without first do it on the test environment (production site cloned with BackupBuddy). So far – so good – I caught some “bugs” – for example in HeadwayThemes, I reported it to guys, they corrected it immediately (they are very fast!) and they issued new corrected version. I re-tested it and after I saw that everything is ok in the test site I upgraded production site.

        I “admire” those users that just hit the “update” button on the production site and (probably) pray to God that everything works OK (or they don0t suspect anything). They do it even on the sites with Web Shop (we have a lot of those examples in Jigoshop case)! And often they create a lot of problems to themselves (primarily) and their visitors/customers as the site/web shop is down who knows for how long… We usually try to educate them in advance (and afterwards), but people usually don’t get it as they “just hit the update button for WP and some plugins when they saw it in the WordPress backend”.

        1. That’s definitely something I agree with, and with hosts like WP Engine and SiteGround offering staging servers, it’s now easier than offer to perform updates on them before moving to production.

          1. Yes, that’s the right path – test everything before putting in production, you never know which plugin is non-compatible with another one… or your active Theme… or new WordPress version… hm, I believe the point is clear 🙂

  9. In all honesty and my years of experience with WordPress, things can break in either order.

    However, also in my experience, core tends to go through a lot more testing and iteration to make sure that it avoids breaking backwards compatibility (it still does though!) than plugins and themes do. That said, I would generally recommend updating core first if you don’t know any better.

    It certainly isn’t a “golden rule” though. There’s plenty of situations where you might be better off updating certain plugins first, such as those that fix issues with new versions of 3rd party libraries WordPress provides like jQuery. More generally speaking, I would advise users to read up about changes in new versions of WordPress and the changelogs supplied by most plugins to find out what they recommend themselves instead.

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