The safest way to update a WordPress theme without breaking the code.

If you are running a WordPress website, one of the biggest headaches you might have faced is updating your WordPress theme. In this simple guide, I will walk you through the process of the safest way to update your WordPress theme.

No matter what, if you are using a premium WordPress theme or a free WordPress theme, there will be updates. Based on the feedback (Bug fixes) or based on WordPress core updates, theme developers release updates for their themes.

Sometimes updates are solely for adding new functionality to the WordPress theme. That being said, whenever there’s an update, you should do the necessities.

When updating a WordPress theme of your live WordPress website, sometimes it may cause unavoidable issues. Sometimes even it may ultimately break your Website. It is a considerable risk.

Think that your site is getting a lot of daily visitors, and you are generating a reasonable amount of money from it. What if the site is not operational due to a failure occurred in the update of your theme? Sounds more like a nightmare, isn’t it?

Yup, I feel you, and that is why I decided to write this newbie-friendly simple guide on ‘The safest way to update a WordPress theme without breaking the code.’

Why should I update my WordPress theme?

Before answering this, if you are still new to WordPress, I recommend you read the simple guide I wrote on How to Install WordPress on your Windows 10 computer. It is the most convenient and economical way to learn WordPress. And it is totally free!

OK, then, let’s get back to it.

There are numerous reasons why you should update your WordPress theme.

As a whole, you should update the theme for your own good, even though it might break your site’s code. Still, that is fixable.

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5 reasons why you should update your WordPress theme

5 reasons to update your WordPress theme

  • Keep your WordPress site compatible with the latest core WordPress updates (i.e., Gutenburg update)

When WordPress updates its core systems, all the theme should follow the newest updates. Or else, it will create lots of compatibility, functionality issues. All will negatively affect your site’s functionality.

  • To strengthen your site’s security

No matter how good your theme is, still, there’s this thing called ‘Human Error.’. When coding a sophisticated and complicated theme, the code itself may create flaws, which can not be detected for a while. Cybersecurity is a huge concern these days, and hackers are always keeping an eye on such shortcomings. When they discover flaws, they will exploit those flaws and create back-doors. Theme developers are releasing updates to patch those security holes, and you should make sure to update your theme to keep your digital properties safe.

  • Keep your site compatible with the latest mobile devices

Smartphones and portable digital devices have swarmed into all forms of internet activities. When we do things online, it is a recommended practice that we are ready for all these high-end mobile devices.

If you are using an outdated theme on your web site, it is highly likely that your website is not ready for high-end mobile devices. To make sure you are giving a ‘butter smooth’ user experience to all your visitors, you should update your site’s theme to it’s the latest update. If not, you are simply leaving a lot on the table.

  • Keep all the WordPress plugins are compatible with your theme

It is usual when WordPress releases a major update; it directly affects on WordPress plugins ecosystem. And when you are using an outdated theme, it is highly likely that the plugins start to create compatibility issues.

Plugins are playing a pivotal role in all forms of WordPress activities. If you are neglecting the plugins, you are overlooking the core potentials of your WordPress installation. By keeping your WordPress theme up to date, you can harness the true potential of your WordPress installation.

  • Keep up your Website’s performances

High performing, fast loading website is literally a gold-mine. Theme developers are always working seamlessly to provide a better user experience with their products. Modern complex WordPress themes may look amazing, yet some may fail to perform better.

In such scenarios, theme developers will do all kinds of fine-tunes and make the theme performs better than its predecessor. A new update of your WordPress theme not just brings you security, compatibility. But also, an updated theme will get you a better performing site.

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Guide: The safest way to update a WordPress theme

There are several ways to update a WordPress theme, and I’m here sharing the easiest (which I think) and the newbie-friendly method. Most WordPress users are updating themes via FTP.

Sometimes establishing an FTP connection might be a ‘tech work.’ If you are new to this, it is highly likely that you won’t get it for the first time.

I will walk you through the process of Updating your WordPress theme via cPanel.

1. Download the theme

The first thing you should do is download the updated theme from your vendor. I’m using the Rehub theme from Themeforest.

Don’t worry, if you purchase from your theme from somewhere else other than Themeforest, this is the only different step. All the other steps in this process will be the same. And I highly recommend you buy your theme or plugins from Themeforest as they are the best in the market.

Make sure to download the ‘Installable WordPress file only’ as shown in the image below.

The safest way to update a WordPress theme

2. Extract the downloaded theme

The theme will be downloaded as a Zipped file. You should extract the file, as shown in the image below. You can use WinRar to extract the zipped file. Or even you can use 7-Zip.

I recommend you use WinRar (For no reason, honestly. I’ve been using WinRar for more than 10 years now, and I love it 😀 )

If you don’t know how to download your theme from ThemeForest, read this guide I wrote on How to install a premium WordPress theme. It will guide you the process

Extracting the theme file

3. Rename the extracted folder and zip it again

It sounds a bit weird. But, yes, that is precisely what you should do.

One you extracted the theme, it should look like this

Extracted theme

As the extracted theme folder named ‘rehub-theme,’ you should change it to a different name.

In this example, I will rename it to ‘new_rehub-theme.’

NOTE: The reason we should change the file name is, on your cPanel, there’s a folder named ‘rehub-theme’ as you already installed Rehub theme there. So, if we upload another folder with the same folder name, it will replace the files in the ‘rehub-theme’ folder on the cPanel. It is a risk, and to avoid such, we should make sure to change the name of the folder before uploading it to the cPanel.
IMPORTANT: When you are zipping the renamed theme folder, make sure to zip it as ‘Zip’ format. Don’t use the RAR format. To do that, you should right-click on the folder you want to zip, and on the dropdown menu, select ‘Add to archive.’ On the next window, select ‘Zip’ and hit ‘OK.’

Take a look at the gif below if you still have doubts

Zipping theme folder

4. Log into your cPanel and open File Manager

To log into your cPanel, first, you should log into your hosting account. I’m using Namecheap as my hosting provider. You may be using a different hosting provider. It doesn’t matter and just log into your hosting account and from there log into your cPanel

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Once you logged into your cPanel, click on ‘File Manager’ and open it.

If you have trouble finding the file manager, use the search field, as shown in the image below.

cPanel file manager

5. Locate your WordPress installation folder and open wp-content folder

Once you open your file manager, you will see there are lots of files and folders.

Don’t get panic. If you have hosted multiple websites from the same hosting space, you will see even more files and folders. 😀

In my hosting space, I have hosted several sites, and I see lots of files and folders, which is usual.

If your website’s URL is, you will see a folder named in the left-pane of your file manager.

In my case, I’m going to update the theme of, and I located the folder named

See that is not hard!

Then click on the folder, and in the right pane, you will see the other folders/directories inside of the folder you just opened. (See below)

One your right pane, click on the wp-content folder


6. Locate and open the ‘themes’ folder in the wp-content folder

All your theme files are located in the theme folder, which can be found in the wp-content folder. Here’s how to locate your themes folder.

Locating themes folder

7. Uploading the theme to cPanel

Once you logged into your thems folder, you can see a folder named ‘rehub-theme’. This is why we had to change the name of the theme folder before uploading it.

Here’s how to upload your new copy of the theme to the themes folder.

First, click on the ‘Upload’ icon on the top left, and it will open a new window. There you will be able to browse and upload the theme.

Make sure you upload the ‘renamed’ theme in a zipped format.

Not clear? See below.

Uploading theme via cPanel

Once the theme uploading completed, click on ‘Go back to….’ Link as shown in the below screenshot.

Theme upload completed

It will take you back to the themes folder, and you will find the uploaded theme in the zipped format in your themes folder.

Uploaded theme in zipped format

8. Extracting the uploaded zipped theme file

Now you have to extract the theme content in the zipped theme to the themes folder. All you have to do is right-click on the zipped file and click on ‘Extract’.

Extract theme folder

9. Renaming the theme folders

Once the extraction completed, you will see a new folder named ‘new_rehub-theme’, alongside the folder ‘rehub-theme.’

current theme and new theme


Current theme


Newly uploaded theme

Now we have to rename the themes.

First, we start with the currently active theme, which is ‘rehub-theme’.

Rename the ‘rehub-theme’ folder to ‘Old_rehub-theme’ and ‘new_rehub-theme’ to ‘rehub-theme’.

We are not deleting any file here. Just renaming the existing folders. This is important. If the newly uploaded theme is not working as expected, all we have to do is change the name of the ‘Old_rehub-theme’ into ‘rehub-theme’.

Not clear?

See below.

Renaming the theme files

10. Check your website now

Once the renaming completed, go to your web browser and log into your website.

See if it is working as usual after the update.

If everything works fine, congratulations, you have successfully updated your WordPress theme.

Now you can delete ‘Old_rehub-theme’ and the Zipped file.

It will help you to keep your hosting space clean.

If you have a huge hosting space, you may keep the file.

But, it is recommended to delete the files as soon as you completed your updating process.

NOTE: Don’t think that this guide on The safest way to update a WordPress theme is only applicable when you are using a premium WordPress theme. Not true!

If you are using a free WordPress theme, you can follow the same steps and do the update. The only difference is you will have to download the theme from the WordPress theme directory.

And the rest of the steps are exactly as described in this guide.

WordPress theme directory

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FAQs: The safest way to update a WordPress theme without breaking the code.

How do I update a WordPress theme without losing content?

There are several ways to update a WordPress theme safely. This guide on ‘The safest way to update a WordPress theme’ was prepared in keeping mind a newbie WordPress user. To make sure you are not breaking the code by updating your theme, you should make sure to keep a copy of your theme files, until you are sure that the update hasn’t broken your code. On this guide, it has clearly elaborated how to keep your ‘old theme’ files safe until you are sure that the update completed successfully. And updating a theme usually don’t cause losing the content, unless you delete anything without knowing what you delete. Therefore do not delete a single file, if you don’t know what you are doing.

Do I need to update my WordPress theme?

Absolutely Yes. Whenever you see, there’s an update for your theme you should update the theme. Because a theme update may be released due to numerous reasons. May be WordPress has released a major update to their core systems and theme developer releases the update to make sure your theme is compatible with the latest WordPress updates. Or maybe even the developer has addressed the user feedback on theme performances, bugs and security issues through a new update. Last but not least, a new theme update will bring you new features to your theme. Therefore make sure to update your theme whenever you see an update.

Will updating WordPress break my site?

Sometimes Yes, updating a theme may create issues. But the truth is, before releasing an update the developers usually these the theme with numerous instances and they will only release the update when they are so sure on what they do. But, human error is something we can not take out from the equation, and anything could go wrong as nothing’s perfect. This is why when you update a theme, you have to keep the ‘old theme’ files safe until you confirm your site’s proper functionality.

What happens when you update a WordPress theme?

Updates will fix the existing bugs and not to mention they will come with new bugs as well 😀 Also, updates will patch security vulnerabilities and strengthen your website. And they may even get your theme new features, increase theme’s performances, etc Simply, a new theme update will bring good than bad.

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Conclusion: The safest way to update a WordPress theme

WordPress is a highly dynamic ecosystem, and with WordPress, possibilities are limitless. We all are thriving to get us a modern, high performing website. When we pursue this, we usually ended up with a premium WordPress theme.

As WordPress is heavily dynamic, it may update the system from time to time. Whenever there’s an update, theme developers should release an update to their themes as well. When a developer releases an update to the users, they should make sure to update their theme with the latest files. But, this updating process may break the website. Which can be troublesome if you break your live website.

So, updating a theme is a cautious process and should be done with great care. The safest way to update a WordPress theme was prepared to make sure you don’t break your website when updating your theme. It is more like sharing my personal experiences as I have broken a few of my sites after updating their themes without taking precautions. 😀

Nimesh Madushanka
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