Updating a WordPress theme

WordPress updates help keep your site safe and bug free as well as make sure you have the newest features, better compatibility, and a smooth site experience.

In this article, you'll learn two ways of updating your WordPress theme: automatic update and manual update.


You should remember that a new theme update will replace the old files of the theme. If you’ve made any changes to your theme files then you'll lose those changes when updating the theme.

This is the reason why for heavy theme changes, an official WordPress site recommends editing your theme using a child theme.

It allows you to upgrade your theme in the future without losing the changes you have made to the parent theme files.

Before updating any WordPress theme, we highly recommend you to back up your current site in order to prevent any loss of settings and/or customizations that you've made. 

Automatic updates

It is possible to update your theme within WordPress Dashboard with one click by using automatic updates.

Note, not every WordPress theme provides such functionality. Whereas, professional WordPress themes by Themes Harbor support automatic updates.

Get the latest update

You can easily check for latest theme update without a need of leaving your WordPress dashboard.

  1. In your dashboard, navigate to Appearance → Themes.
  2. Any themes that have updates available will display an alert banner. From the banner area, simply click on the Update now link to complete the upgrade. To view a changelog, click on the Check out what's new link.

Note, the theme must be activated with a valid theme license key in order to receive updates. Otherwise, you'll not be able to see the Update now link in the update notice.

If automatic updates are not available on your site, you'll need to update your theme manually.

Manual updates

You can also update your WordPress site manually, but you will need to monitor the latest theme updates yourself.

If a new update of the theme is available at Themes Harbor, you will need to manually download* the theme files from the Themes Harbor dashboard, and then manually update your site.

* Download requires an active license key.

Upload the theme

Once you have the theme files, you are ready to start the process of updating the theme. WordPress allows to upload your theme using a native functionality of the platform. It all can be done in a dashboard.

By default, WordPress does not allow to have a theme folder on your server with the same name as the folder inside your uploaded . zip file.

In short, you cannot have two identical theme folders on your server.

WordPress 5.5 and up

If a version number of your WordPress installation is 5.5 or up, then from your WordPress Dashboard:

  1. Navigate to Appearance → Themes.
  2. Open Add New page by clicking on the Add New button at the top of the Themes page.
  3. Click the Upload Theme button at the top.
  4. Drop the .zip file of the theme.
  5. Click the Install Now button.
  6. Finish the update process by following the instructions provided by WordPress.

WordPress 5.4 and below

If a version number of your WordPress installation is below 5.5, then from your WordPress Dashboard, navigate to Appearance → Themes and activate a different theme. 

Note, if you have done any customizations to your theme files, these customizations will be lost if you use this method. 

Choose to delete files of the theme you want to upgrade. Then upload the newer version of the theme and activate it.

Also, you can try Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades plugin that allows you easily upgrade your themes and plugins using zip files without removing your current theme or plugin.

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