Updating WordPress Fails – How to Fix Update Problems

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If your WordPress update fails, there may be a quick solution at hand that may not involve manually restoring several critical files.

I recently encountered a problem when updating a client’s WordPress-based website; the update failed. In fact, several attempts failed in spite of logging out and back in again, clearing browser cache and scratching my head a couple of times. WordPress update noticeWith frequent updates to the core WordPress installation, there are two methods of updating your main site files; either automatically or manually. If you see the nag/notice screen at the top of your admin area click on the Please update now text and you’ll be taken to the update page with the options buttons:

WordPress update options

Clicking the blue Update Now button should start the process automatically and as of version 3.3, once this successfully completes you should see a “What’s New” screen.

If your update fails for any reason, you should download the files using the other button and take a full back-up of your WordPress site. The best way to do this is is via FTP. There are several apps and programs for this, and a lot of people like the free FireFTP plugin for Firefox. (It is a good idea to backup your site before any major update to your core installation.) Download the entire folder or directory your site is sitting in.)

Use the WordPress Tools menu to export a file which you can also use for moving content from local to remote installations, or when moving your WordPress site to another web host.

WordPress Backup

Export all the content and images too as this covers all your bases. If you are moving a site, you can import this file through the Tools menu to fill your new installation with your content.

Now you have a backup, it is worth logging in to any cPanel or web hosting account panel you have that lets you see how much web space you have left. This can save you a lot of work! If you are over your limit or have almost no room to spare, updating WordPress might be an issue. Check to see that you don’t have full email boxes or large backup files eating in to your web space. Clearing some of this out might make all the difference, so if you have this situation and have deleted some unneeded content, try the WordPress updater again.

If you use a WordPress backup plugin, you will have options to state how many backups you want to keep. Some of these backup files can be quite large so think how many you need and how often you need to back up your site.

If this doesn’t work, you can trying disabling your plugins and seeing if that makes a difference. You can deactivate them all in one go using the checkbox and drop menu on the Plugins > Installed Plugins page.

If that doesn’t work, changing some of your WordPress files may be the way to go.

  1. Using FTP, delete the wp-includes and wp-admin directories.
  2. Upload the new ones (from the files you downloaded right at the start.)
  3. Upload any loose files from your wp-content folder, but do not upload the whole folder or delete the existing one. You will be over-writing any existing files at the root of the wp-content directory.
  4. Upload all the new, individual files that are NOT in the wp-admin, wp-content and wp-includes directories to the root directory of your site (or wherever you installed WordPress.)

If you had a failed automatic upgrade, using FTP you need to remove the .maintenance file to clear the “Failed Update” nag message.

Hopefully, you should now be able to update your installation.

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