WordPress is an open source software which you can download for free from their official website. However, to launch a WordPress site you need to install a theme that helps to create specific layout for your content. In addition, you may also need to install handful of plugins to add additional features. The problem comes when you have to manage all these stuffs and keep them up to date. To handle this, WordPress offers auto-update feature and in this article, we will explain how to enable or disable auto-update in your WordPress site.
Updates in WordPress
As with any other software, WordPress sites need to be updated for the following reasons:
- Security patches for fixing vulnerabilities
- To get latest design trend in site building
- Add additional features and remove outdated features
As mentioned, the update has three parts – WordPress core, themes and plugins. You have options to manage them independently depending upon your need.
1. Enable or Disable Auto-update for Themes
Theme is a backbone of your WordPress site and needs to work seamlessly with the core WordPress files. Though you use a single theme at a time, it is possible to keep multiple themes installed in your site. Whether you have a single or multiple themes, you need to enable or disable auto-update on one by one.
- Login to your WordPress admin dashboard and navigate to “Appearance > Themes” section.
- Here you can view all the installed themes in your site and hover over the active theme.
- You will see a “Theme Details” button and click on it.
- On the next pop-up, click “Enable auto-updates” link to turn on the feature.
You can do this for each theme or use the back/front arrows on the top right of the theme details pop-up to navigate to each theme and turn auto-updates on. Remember, you can simply go to theme details section and disable auto-updates any time later.
2. Enable or Disable Auto-update for Plugins
Unlike themes, you can enable auto-updates for plugins in bulk or only for selected items. This makes sense as a single site generally uses multiple plugins at a time.
- Go to “Plugins > Installed Plugins” section. Here, you will see the list of all installed plugins on your site.
- You can see the “Automatic Updates” status of each plugin in the last column of the layout.
- By default, automatic updates are disabled for plugins and you can click on the “Enable auto-updates” link to turn it on. You can do this for each installed plugin without navigating away from the page.
- If you do not see “Automatic Updates” column, click on the “Screen Options” button and enable the from the available columns.
- Once enabled, you can anytime click “Disable auto-updates” link to turn the feature off.
If you want to turn auto-updates for more than one plugin, first select the plugins using the checkbox in front of each plugin. You can also click the checkbox in the header to select all the plugins with single click. Now, click the “bulk action” dropdown and select enable/disable auto-updates option. Finally, click “Apply” button to turn the feature on or off for the selected plugins.
You can view the number of plugins with auto-updates enabled and disabled using the summary link showing top of the plugins list.
3. Manage WordPress Core Updates
Unlike themes and plugins, WordPress by default enables automatic updates for core releases. There are two types of core releases available – major and minor. Major version generally brings many new features while minor version are released for security/maintenance purposes. From WordPress 5.6 onwards, automatic updates for minor releases are enabled by default. You can change the settings under “Dashboard > Updates” section to get automatic updates for major or minor releases. Though you can toggle between major and minor release updates, it is not possible to disable core updates completely from the settings page.
Some hosting providers also help to manage automatic update feature in WordPress. This can vary based on the hosting company you use. For example, you can turn on automatic updates in SiteGround by navigating to their Site Tools section. The option is available under “WordPress > Autoupdate” menu. You can manage the settings for major and minor WordPress releases and select the schedule for automatically installing the updates. SiteGround also offers an option to auto-update all installed plugins from this section (we strongly recommend disabling this option to avoid problems).
Though you can delay the updates up to 72 hours, it is not possible to completely disable automatic WordPress updates in SiteGround. You will receive an email notification whenever automatic updates are installed so that you are aware of the situation. In addition, if you foresee a problem with the next update, you can skip that particular update when it is available in the hosting panel.
Disable Core WordPress Updates
For any reason, if you want to disable automatic core updates from WordPress, add the following line of codes in your wp-config.php file.
define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );
Sometimes, all automatic updates are disabled on your site especially when you have manually installed WordPress on your site. in this case, you can enable the automatic feature by adding the following code in your wp-config.php file.
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );
You can change the value “true” to “minor” to only receive minor updates (this is default setting). Or make the value to “false” to completely disable all core updates on your site.
Why My Theme and Plugins Do Not Show Auto-update?
All the free themes and plugin available in WordPress repository comes with auto-update feature. However, third-party themes and plugins may or may not offer this feature. Third-party items integrate with other plugins and need thorough testing. Hence, it makes sense for the developer to not offer auto-update feature. Otherwise, your site layout will be broken when a theme or plugin got its update. The bigger problem will be to find which plugin or theme got the update as there will be no history of updates available in the admin dashboard.
When automatic plugin update is disabled, you will see no status under “Automatic Updates” column or a specific message mentioning the developer disabled this feature. Plugins like WP Rocket intentionally disable auto-updates as it can potentially break you site’s layout if you do not test after updating the plugin.
Whether you use automatic updates or not, you will see a notification under “Dashboard > Updates” section whenever there are updates available for core, themes and plugins. You can manually update the items based on your convenient time. Remember, developers can push security updates forcibly regardless of your auto-update settings in the dashboard. For example, recently WooCommerce pushed a security update for their PayPal integration to automatically update the version to the latest. In such a case, you will see a notification in the dashboard informing you the item is updated.
Should You Enable Auto-update?
The answers is yes and no, depending upon the situation.
- WordPress core updates – leave this as default to get automatic minor updates and you can manually do major updates. Since WordPress will show the version number in header section, it is easy for hackers to target the sites with vulnerable versions. Hence, it is always a good idea to keep core WordPress files up to date to avoid security problems.
- However, when it comes to themes and plugin, you should disable auto-update feature.