WordPress is my favorite website builder for so many reasons. It’s flexible, scalable, and powerful enough to support websites ranging from small blogs to enormous e-commerce stores.
But as the saying goes…
With great power comes great responsibility.
Unlike other website builders, WordPress requires extra steps to update and maintain your website. It’s up to you (or your WordPress support gal — like yours truly) to keep your site in tiptop shape.
Part of that tiptop maintenance? Using the right version of WordPress.
Updating your WordPress version is crucial to keep your website secure and stable. Here’s the lowdown on when, why, and how to tell what version of WordPress you’re using.
When do you need to know what version of WordPress your site uses?
If you’re wondering whether your website needs an update.
Is your website suddenly running slowly?
Has a recent security breach in the news got you thinking about your own website’s security?
Are you just plain curious about what version of WordPress your site uses?
There are many reasons to check WordPress on your website. Knowing how to find your WordPress version is the first step in knowing if your site is secure or due for an update.
If you’re troubleshooting a website issue.
As a popular, well-established website builder, WordPress has a thriving community of designers and developers. The community has developed literally tens of thousands of unique themes and plugins.
However, it’s also up to those developers to maintain those plugins and themes. And some plugins and themes are maintained much more reliably than others.
Sometimes new plugins and themes don’t work with older versions of WordPress. And sometimes old plugins and themes don’t work with the newest versions of WordPress.
If your website starts displaying an error, or a plugin suddenly stops working, incompatibility with your WordPress version may be to blame. It’ll be very helpful to know your version of WordPress in order to troubleshoot the issue.
Why is it important to keep your WordPress version up to date?
Updating to the latest version of WordPress keeps your site more secure, stable, and running in optimum condition.
Attacks against WordPress put more than just your information at risk. Poor website security also endangers your customers and clients.
To protect your data and your visitors, it’s important to make sure that your website updates to include the latest security patches.
Poorly maintained WordPress websites are often clunky, slow sites…and they only get slower.
Outdated WordPress versions mean worse performance. Pages load more slowly. Links take forever to open. Images never fully appear.
These drags on performance add up. Even just a few seconds can make the difference between someone staying on your website or jumping ship to check out a competitor.
Keeping your WordPress version up-to-date helps ensure compatibility for your current plugins — and any future plugins you add to the site.
Your site should only use high-quality plugins by reputable developers who continually check their plugins with the newest version of WordPress. Your site should stay updated in order for those plugins to continue working.
In addition, future plugins are developed for the latest version of WordPress. So once again, keeping your site updated will ensure the best possible compatibility.
How to tell what version of WordPress you’re using.
There are several ways to tell what version of WordPress your website (or any WordPress site) uses.
Some methods are quite technical and involve digging through your website files. Other methods use tools to find your version of WordPress (even if you try to hide it).
Here are three of the easier ways to discover what version of WordPress you use.
Method 1: Admin Dashboard
Login to your WordPress website and go to the admin dashboard. You’re looking for a dashboard widget called “At a Glance.” In some instances, plugins or modifications may hide the “At a Glance” widget.
If the widget is visible, it should show you which version of WordPress you have on your site.
Method 2: Hosting
If you can’t see the version of WordPress in your admin dashboard, there’s always the option of checking your hosting.
Many hosts will tell you the version of WordPress on a website. Instructions to find the WordPress version will differ depending on which host you have. Google “how to find WordPress version ________” and fill in the blank with your website host (such as Bluehost, Cloudways, Siteground, etc).
Method 3: Page source
Some sites show their version of WordPress in the page source code. Right-click on your homepage and go to “View Page Source.” Control-f to find the word “generator,” and the version of WordPress may display after it.
This information is sometimes hidden by security plugins or file modifications, but it’s still visible on many sites.
How to update WordPress to the latest version.
So you checked your website discovered that WordPress isn’t updated to the latest version. What now?
There are three steps to update your version of WordPress: backup the site, manually update, and review content.
Before updating your version of WordPress, the first step is to backup your website. Having a fresh backup is crucial in case you need to restore the site for some reason.
Why would you need to restore your website? Updating WordPress can cause issues, especially if your site hasn’t been updated in a while (more than a month).
If your content is lost or corrupted, a backup is the single best way to quickly restore your site. Without backups available, restoring a website is oftentimes a lengthy and expensive process.
Be sure to backup your site before any updates.
The next step is to update your website from the admin dashboard.
In the dashboard, go to Updates and check for the current version. If you have the latest version of WordPress, you will see a note that you can re-install that version.
If you have an outdated version of WordPress, the button will say UPDATE to the newest version.
Again, be sure you backup your site before you make any updates.
After updating, check your site to be sure everything is working properly. Click through your pages, test the images, and send a message through your contact form.
Be sure to check on mobile, too! Over 50% of all web traffic is on mobile devices, so your site must work for all screen sizes.
WordPress Version FAQ
What is the latest version of WordPress?
WordPress is constantly publishing new updates. As of right now, the latest version is WordPress 5.9 RC3. Check the WordPress releases category archive for the latest official version.
How can you manually update your WordPress version?
To manually update your WordPress version, go into the admin area and click the UPDATE button. If your site is already running the latest version, the update button will be replaced by a RE-INSTALL button instead.
Be sure to backup your website first! If anything goes wrong, you’ll want a fresh backup so that you can restore the site and troubleshoot the issue.
Does WordPress update automatically?
You may be able to on automatic updates for WordPress, but I recommend manually updating WordPress rather than relying on automatic updates.
Some updates can cause inadvertent issues, such as breaking images or changing content displays. In some cases, your website may even go entirely offline due to an automatic update.
Rather than automatically updating as soon as the latest version of WordPress releases, I recommend manually updating at least one week after release. This gives developers time to find and fix the inevitable bugs.
What happens if you don’t update WordPress?
If you don’t update WordPress on your website, you set yourself up for inevitable performance and security issues.
Your website may be fine for a while…weeks, or even months. But eventually, your website themes and plugins will not be compatible with your version of WordPress. The longer it’s been since you updated, the more likely there will be critical issues requiring hours (or expensive professional help) to resolve. And in the meantime, your outdated website will be increasingly vulnerable to hackers and malicious activity.
Updating WordPress may take you just 30 minutes once a month.
Ignoring updates to WordPress can take hours upon hours to fix — if a fix is possible at all.
Feeling like you just don’t have time to keep your website updated? Uncertain about how to keep your data secure? Check our WordPress care plans and let us handle your monthly security updates.
Should you hide your version of WordPress?
Some security plugins hide your version of WordPress. In my experience, this “security through obscurity” is less protective than having strong defense mechanisms on your site. It’s better to ensure safe passwords, add a firewall, and block bot attacks.
If it’s quick and easy to hide your version of WordPress, go for it. But never rely on hiding your version as the only defense to protect your site.