The Ultra-simple WordPress Upgrade Guide for Tech Uber-dummies

This is a post devoted to WordPress bloggers for whom CSS and PHP might as well be insecticides or government department acronyms. If you’re ‘uninformed’, wilfully ignorant, error-prone or phobic about technical aspects of blogging software, I’m lookin’ at you, kid. Me? I’m a technical Inspector Clouseau. Can I be rude and for the sake of simplicity lump us all into the basic category of tech uber-dummies?

If you can face the ignominy of classifying yourself thus, you will also be able to admit to an aversion to apparently simple tasks like upgrading to the newest version of WordPress – the very idea will probably fill you with terror. Well, this post might be your path to redemption, or at least, the simplest, most over-explained uber-dummies’ guide to upgrading WordPress on the web…

So how did Monsieur Clouseau de Tech arrive at the conclusion he was qualified to post this set of instructions? Due to a recent Google happenstance that vapourised my blog home page from the listings, I was forced to confront my fear and upgrade from WP 2.1 to 2.3.2 – this was on the recommendation of tech-savvy friends, who reasoned that such an upgrade might iron out the listing problem, whatever it was.  Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. Whatever, The Boomtown Rap is now back at the top of the listings when you type it in Google Search, so all is again right with the world.

Anyway, I diligently recorded my every step when doing the WordPress upgrade, and just as well – a couple of weeks later, another upgrade was released addressing a security flaw, and I was able to follow my own footprints to upgrade to Version 2.3.3. I did another full upgrade, only to later discover through reading Codex (good idea, that) that only 5 files had been changed from 2.3.2, and that upgrading them was a simple 2 minute task.

Never mind. Once a Clouseau, always a Clouseau. But the upside is I got enough practice to develop some confidence in the WordPress upgrade process. Bon, oui? Another phobia conquered? Well, safety net in place, anyway.

So, partly out of sheer magnanimity, partly to preserve a ready record for myself for future upgrades, here is my tech retard’s step-by-step guide to upgrading WordPress.

I’m providing 2 versions – the first, a summary for folk who do not need to be spoon-fed every step of the way, the second an uber-dummy’s guide in which I don’t only spoon the Heinz into your waiting gob – I tell you how to chew and swallow!

Here we go, then.

WordPress Upgrade Summary for Bigger Kids

  1. Back up your WP blog database. Easiest way: use the WP Database Backup plugin.

  2. Back up the rest of your WordPress files. Using an FTP server, locate the following files and download them to your desktop: wp-admin, wp-content and wp-includes.

  3. Deactivate all plugins.

  4. Download the latest Zip file version of WordPress (get it here).

  5. Extract Zip file contents to desktop.

  6. Using your FTP server, over-write the old WordPress files on your host server with the new ones you’ve just extracted to your desktop EXCEPT the wp-content folder – in this case, ONLY over-write the index.php file.

  7. Upgrade by opening the following link in your browser: (your blog site address goes in place of “” – but of course, you big kids know that).

  8. Activate your plugins one by one and check that everything is ok after each activation.

  9. Celebrate with an extra large glass of milk.

The Ultra-simple Guide to Upgrading WordPress for Uber-dummy Tech Tots Still In High Chairs

  1. Back up your WP blog database (contains all your posts and reader Comments).
  • The WP Database Backup Plugin makes this simple. Download it here. Then install it as a plugin and activate it.
  • Go to the Manage menu, then Backup.
  • Under Backup Options, tick whichever one of the 3 options you prefer (database saved to server or hard drive, or emailed to you). Click on ‘Backup!’ That’s it!
  1. Back up the rest of your WordPress files.
  • Open up your FTP server of preference. I use Filezilla – download it here (free). FTP virgins will need to get the following information from your host: (i) the IP address of the server (eg: here is my host server IP address – (ii) your user name (iii) your password. Enter those three items of information into the appropriate boxes at the top of Filezilla and click on Quickconnect. When connected, your blog will be listed on the right under “Remote Site”. Double click on it, then on the folder titled WordPress.
  • You’ll see these folders: wp-admin, wp-content and wp-includes. Right click on one, and save it to your desktop. When download is complete, check to see it is on your desktop.
  • Repeat as per 2 above with the other two files. You’ve finished your backup!
  1. Deactivate all plugins.
    (Get inside your WP blog and click on “Deactivate All Plugins” at bottom right of Plugins page).
  2. Download latest version of WordPress from here (click on the Zip download link and download to your desktop).
  3. Open Zip file and extract all files to desktop (click on Extract). A folder titled ‘wordpress’ will appear on your desktop and all extracted files will be inside it.
  4. Overwrite old WP files with new ones (with one exception – see bolded bullet 5 deep below!)
  • Open up Filezilla.
  • Double lick on Desktop and then on the new version ‘wordpress’ folder you’ve just extracted from the Zip file in Step 5 above.
  • Drag wp-admin from the left column of Filezilla to the wp-admin folder in the right column. The new files will then overwrite the old ones. Wait for this to finish.
  • Repeat as per above with the wp-includes folder.
  • DON’T drag wp-contents across as you did with the other 2 folders. Instead, open it (double click) on both sides of Filezilla, and drag across the index-php file from left to right. Nothing else! Check: you’re only overwriting the index-php file.
  • Drag across all the other files you see in the left column (license.txt, readme, html etc) to the right. Keep clicking on ‘OK’ when Filezilla asks if you want to replace the files.
  • When finished overwriting all old WP files with the new ones, exit Filezilla.

NB: If you get “disconnected” from Filezilla during a lengthy transfer process, just wait for the download to finish (it will, regardless of whether you are shown as being “disconnected”). Once current download is complete, if you have more to save, click on “Quickconnect” at the top right of the Filezilla page to re-connect.

Recommended: Once you’ve saved the contents of wp-admin, wo-content and wp-includes to your desktop, create a new folder (right click anywhere on desktop, left click on “new”, then on “folder”) – name it something like “WP backup + date” – and drag the 3 wp folders into it for tidy safekeeping.

I keep my backup files from the last 2 times I backed up, and delete any previous to that whenever I do a new backup. So, at any time, I have my most recent backup files and those done on the previous backup occasion. Call me paranoid. Obsessive. Compulsive. Or all three.

  1. Upgrade by opening the following link in your browser:
    (Your blog site address goes in place of “” – of course).

Be careful if you’re copying and pasting your address that ALL you paste to replace ‘example/com’ is your address. I twice accidentally pasted extraneous detail into the URL address (ie: on the first occasion, I included an extra ‘http://’, and on the second, an extra ‘/wordpress/’). The result was a sense of massive panic and impending doom, when I received a NOT FOUND error. WHAT?! Was my blog gone forever (backup files are but cold comfort in this state of irrational terror)? Happily, no. As soon as I pasted only ‘’ in place of ‘’, up came the joyous confirmation that I had successfully updated to the current version of WordPress!

  1. Activate your plugins one by one and check everything is ok after each activation. You will need to upgrade to the latest version of any plugins that do not work (or, in rare cases, they will no longer be compatible with the new version of WordPress and you’ll need to google for an alternative plugin that is).
  2. Celebrate by…well, you decide.

And that, my friends, is all there is to it!

It’s not so painful. BUT, the first time I did it, I pored over Codex for hours, comparing the short and long upgrade process directions, then compared these with a simplified version my friend Christine had emailed me, then did a search on the web for even easier directions, then did the same in relation to backing up (and happened upon the WP Database Backup plugin)…all in all, I wasted most of a Sunday afternoon, simply out of a phobic fear of making a mistake.

The next time I upgraded, a fortnight later, the process took only an hour or so – probably less.

I hope the above super-simple non-technical directions save someone, at least, from the Upgrade Sunday Blues I needlessly put myself through.

Au revoir and bon chance!

3 thoughts on “The Ultra-simple WordPress Upgrade Guide for Tech Uber-dummies”

  1. Yeah, it’s tough the first time and if you don’t do it often!
    But it gets better.
    And the latest upgrade (2.3.2 to 2.3.3) is only 5 file changes, so only have to replace those 5 (someone posted about it on aussie bloggers forum).

    Anyway… glad to hear you’re back in google properly and all is well again in the world (yeah..we wish!!)

    p.s. were you aware of our Perth bloggers meetups? Should come along some time! I just wrote a post about the various meetups there are now

  2. Hi Simone! Haha – caught ya! You didn’t read the full post, did you? I do mention the 5 file changes and the unusually simple upgrade from 2.3.2 to 2.3.3!

    Not that I’d blame anyone who wasn’t actually planning to upgrade WP for not reading the full post…

    Thanks for pointing out your post about the Perth bloggers meetup. I thought it had come to an end once expired. I am interested in coming along. Will check my schedule for next week, and if I can’t make it this time, will do so next.


  3. lol, got me, haha. Read most of it actually, but scanned some, haha. Yeah, I just did it tonight!

    Oh bugger that you thought it stopped, that means more people might think that! I did put lots of messages in about moving to upcoming and facebook, but obviously they weren’t obvious/couldn’t be seen or something. Though, I know most people have joined the facebook group.

    cool, will seeyou some time then!

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