Note:  This post was updated 10/12/2015

How do you upgrade your WordPress software?  The upgrade itself is easy and will be addressed in Part Two of this series.  However, before you upgrade you should back up what you’ve got now.  This is just in case something goes hideously and horribly wrong.  Will anything go hideously and horribly wrong?  Probably not.  I’ve updated loads of sites on loads of website hosts.   98% of the time things work great.  Just the same, I highly recommend you make a backup.

Backing up Posts, Comments and WordPress Settings

The backup can be divided into two parts.  The first part is easy.   Let’s start with backing up your database.  To do that go to Plugins > Add New and get the WP-DB-Backup plugin.  Once the backup plugin is installed, click on Tools > Backup.

Here are the files that I back up:

In the Backup Options section click on “Download to your computer”.  Then click on “Backup now!”   You’ll see something like the below.

When it’s done, just download the backup to your computer.  Think of it like insurance for your blog.  The backups are handy to have just in case the upgrade fails or in case your blog gets hacked.

Backing up WordPress Configuration Files, Themes and Photos

In order to back up your customized theme, photos you’ve uploaded and the files that make WordPress run you’ll need to do something called FTP.  FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol.   If this sounds scary to you, you’re not alone.  The thought of file wrangling makes most people nervous.   Here’s how you get around that:

  • If you’re my customer – Call me and we’ll chat about this before you update your software.  I’ll deal with all that nasty FTP business for you.  We’ll discuss how often I should make backups of your site.
  • Call your website host – Most website hosts have tools that help you with FTP.  Call them and ask them to coach you through the process.

If the sound of terms like “FTP” and “file folder structure” don’t make you nervous then you might get yourself an FTP program like FileZilla or WS_FTP Pro.  Both are user-friendly and will allow you to make a backup of all your WordPress files.

Now that you’re totally backed up, it’s time for the actual WordPress software upgrade.  I’ll talk about that in Part Two of Updating WordPress.

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