What to do when your WordPress dashboard shows you have updates available

laptop-wordpress-dashboardOne of the best features of running a WordPress website is the update feature. You may notice from time to time as you log in to your WordPress dashboard that a small orange circle with a number inside appears in the dashboard sidebar or you may see a window at the top of your WordPress dashboard with a message that a new version of WordPress is available.

When you notice these messages it’s a good idea to go to Dashboard > Updates in your WordPress dashboard and see what updates are available. There are three main types of updates:

  1. Updates to WordPress: These are new versions of WordPress. About every six months, WordPress releases a major new update. Developers spend a lot of time beta testing these updates but if you have any WordPress plugins installed it’s best to wait a week or two until the developers of your plugins can release any necessary updates to their plugins in case they don’t work so well with the new version of WordPress.
  2. Updates to WordPress plugins: These are individual updates to each plugin you have installed. If a developer finds a security problem in their plugin they will often release an update and you will see there is a new version of that plugin available to install. Other reasons developers of plugins may release updates are for bug fixes or to add new features.
  3. Updates to WordPress themes: Similar to plugins, developers of WordPress themes will also release updates to their themes for security fixes, bug fixes or to add new features.

Running the latest updates for WordPress, plugins and themes are always a good idea since they can prevent hackers and malware from exploiting old versions that may have security issues.

If there is a major update for WordPress or a plugin (not just a security fix) then it may be wise to wait a week or two and see if the developer releases any other updates to fix bugs that are in a newly released update. Waiting a week or two can also be helpful if you have a lot of plugins on your WordPress website. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally we have run into issues when a newly updated plugin causes a conflict with a WordPress theme or another plugin. Another good idea is to make sure your backups are up to date before running updates. Check out our article on The Best WordPress Plugins to Install on a New WordPress Website to see which back up plugin we recommend.