A new version of WordPress is out, and I’ve upgraded the three installations I’m now maintaining this evening: this blog (Moving at the Speed of Creativity,) Learning Signs (our family learning blog) and Eyes Right (a Christian team blog.) Several of the newer features of WordPress DO make the process of upgrading easier, but this is still a somewhat tedious process that requires careful attention to detail. I like the current WordPress feature which shows a notification message at the top of the dashboard when a new version is available:

WordPress update available

From a security standpoint, it is a VERY good idea to keep your WordPress installation up to date, just as it is a good idea to keep your client computer operating system(s) up to date with the latest security patches. There sometimes ARE compatibility issues with plug-ins and new WordPress versions. For that reason, when MAJOR WordPress updates have been released I’ve checked for compatibility on the main plug-ins I rely on (like PodPress) and only upgraded after compatible versions of those plug-ins become available.

Several months ago during an upgrade, which I attempted to do in a more hasty fashion than I should have, I neglected to de-activate my plug-ins first before upgrading and that led to some problems that may have corrupted one of my mySQL databases. I’m not sure if those problems are related to the troubles I had with my podcast feed, but they could be. I had been using an automatically created WordPress RSS feed for my “podcasts” catagory, but somehow that got messed up and enclosures stopped working as they should in the “burned” Feedburner feed for my podcast. I tried using a WordPress.com website to create my podcast feed for awhile, but ultimately switched over to using FeedForAll software (commercial) for creating and managing my feed. I resumed using the PodPress plug-in for WordPress, which I REALLY like, but I manage the RSS feed separately. I’d prefer a web-based solution for managing the feed, but I like the control FeedForAll provides over the XML code. Thankfully, since I use Feedburner (a great, free service) for my podcast feed, I haven’t had to change my PUBLISHED podcast feed address.

Waiting

I follow the basic steps for upgrading WordPress provided in the WordPress Codex whenever I want/need to upgrade my blog engine software. More specifically, the steps I follow for completing a WordPress upgrade like I’ve completed this afternoon (x3, once per installation) are:

  1. Download the latest version of WordPress, as well as upgraded versions of WordPress plug-ins I use. My current plug-ins are listed on the about page of my blog. (I updated that page thoroughly this evening.) I like the fact that the plug-ins page for WordPress now shows if newer versions of uploaded plug-ins are available, with a handy link to directly download the latest version.
  2. Under Options – Discussion in the WordPress dashboard, turn on the option “Before a comment appears: An Administrator must always approve the comment.” This insures spam comments don’t go up on the blog while the anti-spam plugins are deactivated.
  3. De-activate all WordPress plug-ins in the WordPress dashboard. Thankfully there is now a single link that deactivates all of them with one click.
  4. I delete the “wp-content” directory in the new version of WordPress I’ve downloaded. That directory includes plug-ins and themes, and since I don’t want to overwrite my existing theme and plug-in files (in at least one case, I’m using a modified version of the default Kubrick theme) deleting and not uploading wp-content seems like the best way to avoid an overwrite.
  5. I upload the new version of WordPress into the root directory used for the blog site. (I use the free ftp software for Macintosh, Cyberduck.)
  6. Reactivate all the plug-ins in the Plug-Ins menu of the WordPress dashboard.
  7. Turn off the option to require an administrator’s approval before a comment shows up. (Undo step #2 above.)

That seems like a lot of steps when I write them all down, but thankfully this process DOES seem simpler than it has in the past. Given this complexity, however, I certainly WOULD recommend that educators (and others) getting started with blogging use an administrated blog engine service, like WordPress.com or Edublogs (for WordPress) or Blogger. In each of those cases, network administrators handle the updates and upgrades for the blogging engine software. This does impose some limitations in terms of the customizations available, but for many people I think those limitations are outweighed by the benefits of NOT having to mess with all these “upgrade issues” whenever a new version of software, like WordPress, is released.

If you’re using WordPress and also deal with upgrade issues, I’d be interested if you have other tips or suggestions related to this process. Also, does anyone know the word that means “all the plug-ins I currently use in WordPress?” There is a special term for that which I’ve heard before, but have forgotten. :-)

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  • http://aresnick.mit.edu/blog Alec Resnick

    Personally, I use the InstantUpgrade plugin: it lets you do one-click upgrades, and I’ve never had any trouble with it. It makes things so simple. . .

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    That sounds fantastic, Alex – thanks! I hadn’t heard of InstantUpgrade before. I’m checking it out!

  • http://jstearns.org/wp Janice Stearns

    Thanks for sharing the steps to upgrade a WordPress installation. I use Vizaweb.com hosting, which has an app called Fantastico, which does one click installing, upgrading and backup. It’s a great service, but it always good to have an alternate course in case something doesn’t go quite right. Thanks for always sharing your learning. It’s so much appreciated.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    You are most welcome, Janice. My web host (POWWEB) does provide 1 click installs of programs like WordPress, but they don’t seem to make upgrades available as fast as I’d like, so I’ve opted to handle the installs and upgrades myself. In addition, they just permit 1 installation of each program and since I have 3 installs of WP, I couldn’t go with their solution for my other 2 blogs. Still, the availability of web host provided installations and upgrades is GREAT and certainly can simplify this process! I’m glad that is working for you!

  • http://cogdogblog.com/ Alan Levine

    I have 2 Wp sites at DreamHost- their one-click install/updates have been flawless for the 18 months I’ve been there and they have them available rather quickly. On the other hand, I have now 6 WP sites on the NMC web sites I maintain, which require the manual approach. My suggestions are:

    * Create a backup of your database before doing anything. You can use the wp-db-backup plugin; but sometimes I just go into phpMyAdmin and make a copy of the database under a second name.
    * I leave my wp-content directory, /images, wp-config.php files in place and upload everything but these from the new version
    * I highly recommend the maintenance mode plugin – http://sw-guide.de/wordpress/plugins/maintenance-mode/ – you can leave this one activated when you shut off all others, and it presents a simple “We are upgrading” notice to visitors as you shuffle files around. You can still log in as an admin and twiddle until you are assured the update is clean.
    * I’m ready to experiment with WP multi-user to avoid the multiple updates. They are tedious.

    Curious to try the InstantUpgrade plug tho.

  • http://www.speedofcreativity.org Wesley Fryer

    Alan: Thanks for the tip on the maintenance mode plug-in, I will certainly give that a try. That’s a feature I’ve needed during upgrades!

  • http://www.ncs-tech.org Kevin Jarrett

    Hi again Wes,

    I looked at InstantUpgrade, it’s very promising, but … I dunno … I’m still the belt-and-suspenders type and like to upgrade manually. I just did three blogs, my technique is nearly the same as yours, however my host allows me to create a one-click backup of ALL FILES and MySQL databases which I then download locally before I do anything. That way, if something blows up, restores are easy. I also do this monthly, it’s a habit I got into after being burned in the past. You do have local backups of this incredible blog, don’t you? ;-)

    The appearance of InstantUpgrade is most interesting to me because (I think/hope) it is only a matter of time before its functionality gets included into the base WP code. THAT would ROCK and I would use it with confidence. A v0.2 plugin … uhhhh … no. Even though it’s probably PERFECT, I’m not that much of an adventurer!

    Keep on keepin’ on,

    -kj-

  • http://kevindevin.com Kevin Devin

    Wesley,

    Along with the InstantUpgrade plugin, there also exists the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin. They look to be effectively the same thing, I have only used the WPAU plugin personally, but not the other. It can be found here – http://techie-buzz.com/wordpress-plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade-plugin.html

    Something else to take note of, if you do any editing of your theme. Occasionally there could be a collision if you attempt to write back a file of your theme while at the same time someone accesses the site. The collision results in your theme reverting back to the default theme. More info can be found here – http://kevindevin.com/?p=2481

    -KHD

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