Why You Want To Disable Automatic WordPress Updates

This article is going to show you how to turn off WordPress sites automatic updates and do them manually. As a marketer on the Internet I’ve had sites being broken or failing due to a WordPress updates and that can be extremely costly to a Internet business.

While there are many reasons to stop automatic updates let me first stress I’m not telling you to disable updates completely or not update your WordPress installation at all – I’m merely telling you to do them manually instead of letting WordPress do them automatically.

After all, WordPress does updates for a reason. Updates are important. They protect you from security vulnerabilities and malicious attacks, and keep your site up to date in terms of it’s core foundation, namely WordPress, plugins, and themes.

Here’s why …

1) Automatic updates can and do break people’s sites. A site can become broken because of some compatibility issue between plugins or a theme and a site stops working completely. Doing manual WordPress updates will stop this from happening and insure your site is functioning okay with the least amount of downtime.

2) If your not using a child theme an update can destroy any modifications you’ve made. (I’ll do a post about why you should be using a child theme later.)

3) Losing functionality because a plugin or theme hasn’t updated but WordPress has updated itself is never a good thing. If you’re not aware of the problem your site could be down for days or longer, depending on how often you check your site. (and how long it takes for the plugin or theme to update itself.)

4) A less likely possibility is if a hacker slips bad code into an update. This makes any site that allows automatic updates vulnerable. This may seem like a very unlikely dooms day type of event but it’s a possibility and has become very close to happening in the past. Luckily the folks doing the update notified WordPress and thwarted any harm before millions of sites were effected.

5) Another reason is Control. It’s your site and you’re giving up control of that site to automatic updates, which may or may not harm your site working. I don’t know about you, but I want to control my site and not give that control to others.

So how does one manually update a WordPress installation?

Well, there are two ways. Both ways do the same steps, but one way is faster than the other and requires less technical knowledge. I’m going to explain the less technical, but just as effective way to do a manual update.

A completely manual update, which is the other way is covered in full by WordPress on their web site and requires that you know how to use FTP software.

To do a update completely manually, with no shortcuts or plugins follow the instructions explained at WordPress via this link : https://codex.WordPress.org/Upgrading_WordPress.

Before I begin, let me give you some words of caution. Be careful of the code some sites have to disable the automatic updates and when using “automatic update plugins” because both can break your site and leave you unable to login to your admin dashboard.

I know this from experience, the plugin and wrong code both left my site with the white page of death in my browser. I had to do a complete re-install of my site.

Also, one site I came across told me to delete all my old WordPress files, including my wp-content folder. Do Not Do That.

Under no circumstances do you want to delete the wp-content folder. This has all your media files, themes, plugins, with a normal installation and all your modifications if you’re using a child theme.

What I’m telling you in the blog post is recommended by WordPress and should cause your site no harm.

So Lets Begin –

You need to turn off automatic updates in your config.php file, which is located in the root folder of your WordPress installation. The root is where all your WordPress files are located.

This may be in a folder on your site such as your-site-name.com/blog/ or your root of your site (your-site-name.com).

To access your site, you can use a FTP software program, or access it through your cPanel File Manager (I’m assuming your web site host is using cPanel. Most do.

If yours doesn’t, please contact your web host and ask them how you can access your site files.)

Once you find you config.php file add this code to the file:


Here’s a picture of where I put that code within my config file:

Config File Picture

Notice where I placed the line of code, right above the line that says “For Developers: WordPress Debugging Mode.”

That’s all you need to do to disable WordPress automatic updates.

If you’re uncomfortable disabling the update via the config file, you can use a plugin but, as I mentioned above, I’ve found the plugins to turn off updates tend to be buggy and sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t.

I highly recommend that you use the above line as that’s the code the WordPress Codex recommends. (If it breaks your site, blame WordPress, I’m just the messenger.)

Backing up your site.

The next step is to back-up your WordPress files and database.

The reason you want to do a back-up is because if for any reason there is a problem with the update process you can restore your site from the back-up within minutes and try to do the update again, after you figured out what went wrong.

Complete manual instructions to make a backup can be found in the WordPress Backups section of the Codex. But we’re not going to do that, we’re going to use the plugin, it’s quicker and easier.

We’re going to use a very easy to use plugin – UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin – to do this. It’s simple and if you back-up your site on a regular basis you’ll be a lot safer.

To use this plugin install and activate it. I’m going to assume you know how to add plugins to your site.

You’ll want to navigate to the settings tab. (see picture below)

updraft picture one

Under the settings tab you’ll want to decide where the plugin should send your backup files. I’m going to choose the FTP option, but you can do any option that you feel comfortable with.

updraft picture two

Now you’ll enter the detail for the location you’ve chosen – for me I need to enter my web sites FTP information

updraft picture three

Scroll to the bottom of the area and click the Save Changes button

Updraft picture four

Now you’ll want to navigate to the Backup / Restore tab and press the Backup Now button. This may take some time so just let the plugin do it’s thing.

updraft picture five

You’re Done, that’s it for backing up your site.

Disable your plugins.

The next step is to disable your plugins. You’ll do this through your WordPress Admin Dashboard.

This is a very simple procedure and you want to do this in case there’s some conflict with the update and a plugin that hasn’t been updated yet. It’s also a good way to find exactly where a conflict may be – if there is one.

Log into your WordPress admin area ( http://your-site-name.com/wp-admin/ )

Now navigate to your plugins folder. Once there simply click the deactivate link on each of your active plugins.

Deactivate Plugins picture


Now you want to update WordPress

You’ll do this right from your WordPress Admin Dashboard so there’s no need to download the newest version of WordPress nor FTP any files.

We’re going to let WordPress do most of the heavy lifting and we’ll just need to click a few links and your site will be updated.

Here we want to navigate to the Updates area within our Dashboard.

update 1 picture

Once you’re on the Updates page, you’ll want to update anything and everything that needs to be updated. Some updates may take some time to finish so please be patient. Most updates will take less than a minute.

I’m pretty sure most of you already knew that but for those that didn’t I wanted to mention it.

Technically you can do them in any order you like, but I always do WordPress first, then my plugins, and my themes last.

update 2 picture

After each update, you may want to navigate through your site and make sure everything is working. I don’t do that myself because I’ve never had a problem, but for the sake of being thorough it’s not a bad idea to do that.

Once those are done, the only thing left is to reactivation your plugins and check that your site is working okay.

Reactivate Your Plugins

The last step is to reactivate your plugins one at a time. I understand you can do them all at once, but you definitely want to do them one at a time even though it takes longer.

The reason for this is that if there is a conflict and something goes wrong you’ll know what plugin caused the conflict and can deactivate it until it’s updated or another plugin which does the same thing can be found.

Doing them separately is a safety issue and I recommend you do it that way.

Activate Plugins Picture


Congratulations Your Done !

That’s it, you’ve successfully updated your WordPress site manually and safely. Although this may have taken you a bit of time because it’s your first attempt, you’ll get faster with practice. It’s really not a lot of work and often I can do an update in less than five minutes.

I might mention here that if you have a lot of WordPress installations, I’d recommend you schedule updates on a routine basis into your work schedule. That will keep your installations updated on a regular basis which will keep your sites secure and hopefully running smoothly.

Best of luck.

Before I close out this article let me just mention a few things that may never come up – but then again they may. So here goes.

Failed Updates

If you see a “failed update” nag message, delete the file .maintenance from your WordPress directory using FTP. This will remove the “failed update” nag message.

You may want to look at the wp-config-sample.php file (if there is a new one) to see if any new settings have been introduced that you might want to add to your older wp-config.php file. This is very rare and not anything I’ve ever done, or had to do.

If you have caching enabled, clear the cache (in WordPress) at this point so the changes will go live immediately. Otherwise, visitors to your site (including you) may  continue to see the old version (until the cache updates).

If you have issues with logging in, try clearing the cookies (and cache) in your browser.


If anything has gone wrong, the first thing to do is go through all the steps in WordPress’ extended upgrade instructions. That page also has information about some of the most common problems WordPress comes across.

Of course, if you experience problems after the upgrade, you can always restore your backup. In extreme cases you can also replace the new files with ones from your previous version from the WordPress release archive of previous versions of WordPress.

Well that’s a wrap. I hope you found this article helpful and informative.

Until next time – Be Well.

Talk to you soon.


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