What to do When WordPress Wont Upgrade

When WordPress refuses to upgrade it is usually because of one of the following reasons:

  1. The WordPress upgrade directory is inaccessible
  2. The PHP version is below 5.x
  3. WordPress was installed using Fantastico
  4. A plugin is preventing the WP upgrade
  5. The PHP memory limit or max script execution time

Other, less common reasons include:

  1. You’re doing it all wrong
  2. WordPress doesn’t like you
  3. WordPress is in a bad mood, or
  4. It’s just not your day

The less common reasons are easy to fix: take a break, have a drink and return to the website tomorrow. Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.

If taking a rest is not an option and you are on a deadline to bring WordPress up to date, then read on and follow the guided steps to fixing WP version upgrade problems.

Check WordPress has permission to write to the upgrade directory

  1. Login to cPanel
  2. Open the file manager
  3. Navigate to wp-content
  4. Check the read-write permissions for the upgrade directory are set to 755 (or 777 for some servers)
  5. Try to upgrade WordPress again

Make sure the server uses PHP version 5.x

The auto upgrade feature requires WordPress to be installed on a server running PHP 5.x or above. Check your PHP version.

  1. Login to cPanel
  2. Click PHP Configuration
  3. Select PHP 5.x then save the setting
  4. Try the WordPress upgrade again

If you need to force PHP5.x to be used:

  1. Open your FTP program of choice or cPanel file manager
  2. Navigate to the public_html (the root directory where WordPress is isntalled)
  3. Open .htaccess
  4. Add the following line to the top of the file
  5. Save .htaccess
  6. Try to auto update WordPress again

Was WordPress installed using Fantastico?

Fantastico is a software installer script used on some web servers. Fantastico can be used to install WordPress with minimal effort. Fantastico can be used by clicking the ‘Fantastico’ icon in cPanel.

If your WP site was installed with Fantastico you will see upgrade notices when you open the Fantastico admin panel. Some versions of Fantastico prevent WordPress core software upgrades from taking place unless initiated through Fantastico.

From cPanel:

  1. Click Fantastico Delux
  2. Check whether there is a WordPress script update notice in the Fantastico admin panel
  3. If there is no such notice in Fantastico you can discount Fantastico as being the problem. Skip ahead to the next solution. Otherwise..
  4. Use a file manager to browse the WordPress installation directory
    1. create a backup of wp-config.php
    2. create a backup of .htaccess
  5. Create a directory called backup then copy (do not move, just copy) the wp-content directory to the backup directory
  6. Run the Fantastico updater
  7. Check that your WordPress site works as expected. If the site works properly you can remove the backup files. If the site does not work properly, restore wp-config.php and .htaccess from the backups. If the site still doesn’t work properly, restore the wp-content directory from the backup.

Are plugins preventing WordPress upgrades?

This is easy to test and fix:

  1. Disable all plugins
  2. Try the upgrade again
  3. Re-enable all plugins

Badly out-of-date plugins tend to be the ones that prevent upgrades and update notices.

The PHP memory limit and script execution time limit are too low

To ways to  try fixing this:

  1. Ask your host to increase your PHP memory limit, or
  2. Open cPanel and open php.ini QuickConfig (sometimes called php.ini EzConfig) then raise your PHP memory limit. Check with your host for your hosting plan’s highest allowed PHP memory limit.

Over to you

How do you get WordPress to auto upgrade when it stubbornly refuses to budge from its current level?

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6 Comments on "What to do When WordPress Wont Upgrade"

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It has been a problem for me for a long time. But now, I use wordpress in public domain so it updates itself.

Many thanks for this info. Deactivated all plugins and updates (including WordPress) went off without a hitch.

This helped me quite a bit… I thought I had tried everything to update to WordPress 3.9 with no luck. I kept getting a blank screen. I had tried to pause cloudflare, change PHP versions, checked .HTACCESS files, checked for Fantastico lock files, etc. Never would I think plugins would cause a problem with the upgrade but I Disabled all plugins and it worked immediately. Thanks

Thank you so much for this article! People were telling me to manually install! Ahhh what a nightmare that would have been. It was just faulty plugin! Thanks again!

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