By Princess Jones

Updates are incredibly important to WordPress websites. With each new iteration of the content management system, it gets better and better. Security holes are discovered and fixed. New features are added. It’s not just the WordPress installation that needs its updates. Plugins and themes also benefit from updates from their developers.

But many small business owners don’t stay on top of their WordPress updates. They either aren’t technologically savvy or they just get too busy to supervise it. For many, the solution is turning on auto-updates for WordPress.

Should You Do This?

Before you make this change, let’s talk about whether automatic updates is actually good for you. On one hand, the most updated version of anything is likely the most secure and the most stable version. Out of date installations, plugins, and themes can leave you open to all sort of issues. In fact, since 3.7, WordPress has featured auto updates for minor releases.

On the other hand, updates can change everything. If you have plugins or themes that don’t work with the new installation, you can lose functionality until you get it fixed. And if all the moving parts of your website don’t play nicely, it can bring the whole site down.

It’s a decision only you can make, but generally the more complex your site, the less likely automatic updates will work for you. You’ll likely need manual access over your plugins, themes, and installation. But if you have simple site with just a few elements working together, you’ll probably benefit from automation.

How to Do It

Before we start, please note that you’ll have to access the wp-config.php file in your WordPress installation. You can do this from your file management system in your web host’s dashboard. Editing WordPress root files isn’t something for the complete novice, but it’s not difficult, either. If you make a mistake, you can always just open the file again and delete it.

Open the file up and hit the enter key to start on the next line. Then, you can type one of the following lines, depending on what automatic updates you’d like to enable. Just don’t forget to click “Save” before you exit.

Major Releases: Again, if you’re using WordPress 3.7 and above, you’re already getting automatic minor release updates. But if you’d like to have those major releases automatically updated, add this code to your wp-config.php file:

define(‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, true);

Plugins: Depending on which ones you have, they may play an important part in how your website functions. If an update isn’t applied, you may lose functionality. To make those update automatically, add this to your wp-config.php file:

add_filter( ‘auto_update_plugin’, ‘__return_true’ );

Themes: Please note that this only works on themes from the WordPress directory. If you’ve found your elsewhere or are using a premium theme, it won’t be affected. But even if you use premium themes, sometimes you might leave the default themes installed on your site. And those need to be updated regularly. This is the line you add to your wp-config.php file:

add_filter( ‘auto_update_theme’, ‘__return_true’ );