How Do I Update WordPress Plugins Automatically?


When a small business builds its website using WordPress, it doesn’t take long before frustration drives someone to ask, “How do I update WordPress Plugins automatically?!”

Ah yes, WordPress updates.

Thanks to its incredibly active developer and user communities, WordPress is constantly undergoing change. In addition to updates that fix bugs, users consistently suggest, cajole and demand new features and functionality that some part of the vast developer pool is going to agree with, create and add to the ever-powerful WordPress code base.

Yes, there are a lot of moving parts in there. However, when WordPress does release an update, it all goes out in one neat package for users to install (a process we’ll be covering in a post next week).

Then you get to plugins.

A WordPress website can have tons of plugins and each one needs to be updated when a new version is released. That’s right, “needs to be” because plugin updates do more than fix bugs and add features and functionality — they also address security vulnerabilities. And compromising your customer and business data is no joke.

Happily, updating a WordPress plugin manually is a fairly straightforward process (we’ll show you how to do it below). However, the need to regularly check for updates and then update each one when an update is available is tedious and time-consuming and that brings us around to the opening paragraph’s cry of frustration, “How do I automatically update WordPress Plugins?!”

The good news? We’re going to answer that question below. First however, let’s take a quick look at how to manually update a WordPress plugin.

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How Do I Update WordPress Plugins Manually?

One of the many handy features of WordPress is the way it lets you know when there are updates available.

As you can see below, the orange circle next to the “Updates” menu item shows that there are updates available (the number displayed indicates how many updates are available) and the red circle next to the “Plugin” menu item shows that some of the updates (indicated by the number displayed) are plugins.

Plugin Updates Notifications

Once you see the updates notifications, click on the “Updates” menu item to be taken to the updates screen shown below:

how do i update wordpress plugins

Next, select the plugins you want to install by clicking in the box to the left of the plugin’s name (you can select all of them at once by clicking on the “Select All” box at the top or bottom of the plugins list).

Once you’ve selected the plugins you want to update, click the, “Update Plugins” button and you’ll be taken to the install screen. Once the plugins have been updated, you’ll see a screen similar to this one:

how do i update wordpress plugins

That’s it. You’re all done with this round! Now you just have to do it again and again and …

To avoid that repetitive stuff, it’s time to answer the big question, “How do I automatically update WordPress Plugins?”

How Do I Update WordPress Plugins Automatically?

Before we dive in, a quick heads-up: WordPress comes in two flavors: hosted and self-hosted.

When you create your WordPress site over at wordpress.com, you’re using the hosted option. While not as customizable as the self-hosted option, it’s the perfect platform if you want to get up and running quickly. Unfortunately, your choice of plugins is much more limited. On the plus side however, your website is automatically updated and that includes your plugins.

If you create your WordPress website over at one of the many available hosting companies, you’re using the self-hosted option. Infinitely customizable, self-hosted WordPress sites can use any of the 36,375 plugins available over at wordpress.org and that’s a good thing. What’s not so handy is that you need to update your plugins manually or set them up to update automatically. So if your site is self-hosted, this next section is for you.

Ironically enough, the best way to automatically update your WordPress plugins is to use a plugin to do so. Here’s a list of a few options:

WP Updates Settings

The WP Updates Settings plugin is our top choice for automating your plugin updates. As you can see below, it offers a clean interface and lots of options for managing your site’s updates.

how do i update wordpress plugins

Update Control

The Update Control plugin adds some options to your site’s General Settings page, letting you specify how auto-updates should work.

Advanced Automatic Updates

Although the Advanced Automatic Updates plugin hasn’t been updated itself in two years, it still gets rave reviews. Created by the same folks as the Update Control plugin, this one goes to 11 with lots of bells and whistles.

Conclusion

To sum up, if your WordPress site is hosted over at wordpress.com, you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff. WordPress will handle the automatic updates for you. Of course, you’re missing out on all the customization possible with a self-hosted WordPress site.

If you host your site yourself with one of the many providers out there, you’ve gained a lot more control over what your website can be. But with great power comes great responsibility. You’ll need to deal with plugin updates yourself, either manually or automatically.

WordPress photo via Shutterstock

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Matt Mansfield


Matt Mansfield Matt Mansfield is the Tech Editor and SEO Specialist at Small Business Trends where he is responsible for directing and writing many of the site’s product reviews, technology how-to’s, and lists of small business resources as well as increasing the reach of our content.

14 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    I always update them like that so I can update all of them in one go without the need of downloading each one.

  2. Automatic updates for plugins is NOT a good idea. This is issue was raised recently by the WordPress.org dev team of the upcoming release of WordPress 4.2 They had decided to invoke Auto Activation upon upload of plugins and tis brought the entire debate back to the for front. The issue of Auto Activate for now has been shelved for later discussion and will NOT be part of the 4,2 roll-out due to the loud developer community telling them NO.

    Along with this is another dialog with regards to AUTO UPDATE. The Auto Update to Core WordPress is a separate issue from plugin updates. From a Security standpoint..pushing out updates that deal with that specific issue is a good idea. However, that’s where the line has to STOP. Why, because at this time the plugin community still does operate off a common theme for testing and QA.

    A case in point and study. One of the most popular FREE plugins installed on most every WordPress web site is WordPress SEO. This plugin has team that has grown over the last year and has been pushing out an aggressive update schedule. The problem is they have caused a lot of problems due to lack of quality testing and have caused countless sites to crash or cease operation of their SEO features. Now to be fair, sometimes the issues are caused by conflicts with other Plugins and or Themes running on a particular site too. On sites we manage for our clients. We NEVER AUTO update any plugins. We first review the plugin Change-log and find out what was changed and why ? We then review the support forum to see if anyone else is experiencing issues after having installed an update. In the case of WordPress SEO plugin. This is one we use to trust 100%. Now we wait at least a week to 10 days after a release to ensure that another release to fix something broken is not coming out right after this one. This has saved us countless hours of frustration and our customers heartache.

    So your advice to Auto Update from a developer stand-point is NOT sound advice, when it comes to WordPress plugins.

  3. Thanks a bundle for sharing such a helpful article keep it up
    Cheers

  4. My site would auto update and then i’d find that something wasn’t working with a plugin or a part of the theme occasionally. It felt out of control and it was frustrating because i dont know how to roll back the site when something would go haywire. Anyways, long story short, I started using a wordpress maintenance company and since then i’ve had no worries with any of this. Theres a lot of them to choose from but after speaking with several i went with one called Total WP Support so i have to give them a little plug and say thanks guys. If anyone is in the same boat and needs wordpress support they are at http://www.totalwpsupport.com

  5. I totally agree with the first comment. This auto update in WP has caused me so much trouble and countless hours of unnecessary work that I would be a rich man if WordPress.org would have to pay me for this. I stop all auto update on any WP site that I install. Even before I start installing the first plugin.

    This might sound a bit hard and this is purely my personal opinion but if you dont have a proper maintenance and upgrade strategy in place for your clients you should not be in this business at all. WordPress is trying to fix things with auto update that are caused by so called developers that don’t even have the most basic knowledge of what is involved in setting up a business website.

  6. Easy Updates Manager can also do automatic plugin and theme updates for any individually plugin.

  7. What is the best way to make sure a wordpress or plugin update won’t stuff up a client site? I have a local copy of sites but it would be a pain to revert back…..I don’t really want to purchase backup buddy. Is there a free option?

  8. Helpful article, I must say. Updating a WordPress theme or plugin is so vital as this also helps in strengthening the security of WordPress site.

  9. I think that there is now some update buttons that you can easily click. But I guess you can now set it on auto so that you don’t need to think about it.

  10. Thanks for the guide. This is something that should be done on auto lest you have a site manager that checks everything for you.

  11. Do you need this in WP v4.x? They already have automatic updates enabled.

  12. Very useful information for me

    I want to go on holiday for 10 days that’s why I want to set up my wordpress site automatically updated, I want to know that which is the best techniques to update wordpress and plugins automatically, by adding code to theme or by plugins.

    And please suggest me should I set up my site automatically updated or not

    Pls help me

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