How to Update WordPress Theme without Losing Content – Step-by-Step Guide

WordPress Theme is probably the most important part of your WordPress website.

It determines how your content is displayed to your clients, makes it look professional, and brings value to your brand.

There are multiple ways you can use to change WordPress themes. But there are minor risks of losing your content along the way.

This article will explain how you can update WordPress Themes without losing any of your customizations and content.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

How to Update your WordPress Theme?

Before we get into the whole process, you need to keep in mind that it can lead to losing customizations if not done properly.

You have to follow every step carefully.

So, there are two different parts when it comes to WordPress Themes update:

  • WordPress Theme update when you are using no customizations.
  • WordPress Theme update when you are using a customized theme.

Both of these steps are quite different from each other.

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WordPress Theme Update without Customizations

A lot of people prefer using a premade third-party theme to avoid the hassle of coding. It saves them time when working on a project.

If you are one of those people then changing an old theme is quite easy for you.

Here is a step by step process to update your theme file:

  1. Open your WordPress Home page.
wordpress theme settings
  1. Go to your Appearance from the left-hand side menu.
  1. Select the theme of your desired website.
  1. Click on Update Theme.
  1. It will automatically start to update the old theme file.

Premium themes without any customization keep the same file structure even after the update.

Important Note:

If you are not familiar with coding, we highly recommend that you use Premium WordPress themes. You can avoid many technical issues with your website by using a pre-made code.

One other reason to use a premium theme package is to keep the site’s security and firewall integrity intact.

The only downside is that you don’t have a lot of room for customization.

The next step is to create a backup of your theme’s zip file to avoid loss of content. 

This will help you to backtrack any mistakes or loss of content during the update.

This process is for you to make sure that the existing theme is working as intended.

You just have to go to your Dashboard and select the theme file. This will update it to the new version published by the theme developer.

From here on, things will get complicated.

Creating a Backup

As it goes for every WordPress theme update, you need to create a backup of your site’s content and customization.

Because when you update a customized theme, it deletes all the customization done beforehand.

Following is a detailed process on how to create a backup:

  1. First, you will have to open the main page of your WordPress account.
site name
  1. Then select the Tools option from the left-hand side menu.
  1. Choose the Export option.
  1. Select the desired place for your backup.

Important Note: 

The backup will save all the content on your site plus all the customizations like Site Title, Site Logo, and Layout.

Select Update Time

Once you have created a backup, you can run an update on your website’s theme.

But before you do that, you need to pick a suitable time and date.

We recommend that you pick a day that has the lowest inflow of traffic. It will minimize the loss of any potential customer during the downtime of your site.

Google Analytics is a highly efficient tool if you want to look at your site’s traffic. 

It can help you devise a plan accurately for downtime.

Important Note:

This step is quite important because your site might also have some users from overseas. Your site can still get a lot of traffic at nighttime.

A tool like Google Analytics can help you to schedule an update rather than just taking a wild guess.

Staging Site

A staging site holds a lot of importance when it comes to a website theme. It is a mirror website that lets you monitor your changes in real-time.

A lot of people refer to the theme on a staging site as the child theme. You can see your code working in real-time to make sure that it is working as it should.

How does a staging site help?

Staging sites serve the purpose of a filter that lets you separate any issues from your main site before it goes live.

It is only natural that you will face issues when you update a WordPress theme, especially a customized one.

It is a common practice to fix them beforehand rather than just going live with your site and then fixing everything.

There are multiple websites that can help you to create a WordPress child theme for your website. One such website is Kinsta

All you have to do is Log in and use your site’s URL to create a mirror site. After that, you can easily make changes to the child theme and see the changes on your parent site.

Once you are satisfied with the layout and outlook of your child theme, you can finalize the staging environment and save the changes to your parent theme.

A lot of professionals recommend the use of a staging environment, especially for beginners to avoid the loss of content.


Testing is highly important even if your site has no flaws in the staging segment. It is to check that the theme is updated correctly and the final outlook of the website.

So, the following are the steps to test your website:

  1. Check the updated version of your WordPress. This will ensure that your existing theme is compatible with the latest WordPress core.
  1. Make sure that you update the theme directory of your parent site as well. People often test their Child theme and forget to update the Parent theme of the WordPress site.
  1. Test each and everything related to your website in the Staging phase. Your Parent theme should be without any sort of minor issues.
  1. Thoroughly check the plugins associated with your Parent theme. Newer versions often don’t support custom plugins.

You can access the Plugins through the Plugins menus on the left-hand side.

  1. Check the theme folders for any unreported bugs or issues. If you report them to the Support forum early, they will be resolved quickly.
  1. After you have gone through all of these steps, you can safely go live with your website. 

WordPress developers often hurry in staging and testing because they know exactly what to do. 

If you are doing this on your own, the testing process is very important.

This brings us to the next section of our article.

Now we will get on with how to update a custom WordPress theme.

WordPress Theme Update with Customizations

It is quite easy to update a WordPress website theme if you are using pre-made themes. But you might face some major issues if you try to update a third-party theme.

Why is it better to use a premade theme?

This is because custom themes allow you to rewrite the code and change the overall functionality of your website.

Although the process is long, it is not hard at all. With some practice, you can easily master it.

You will have to follow each step strictly if you want to update a WordPress theme without losing any content or progress.

Following are the steps to install a new update:

Child Theme

As mentioned earlier in this article, the key to avoid losing customization is to work on a Child theme.

This mirror website will help you to remove any lingering issues and bugs before you go live.

Furthermore, an elaborate Child theme folder can also help you to test out a custom plugin for your website.

Every experienced web developer uses the Child theme method to avoid any loss of progress.

After you have created a Child Theme of the old version, you can get on with the Staging process.

Staging Process

If you are a beginner at this task, you should know that staging is most important for a third-party custom theme update.

We will explain step by step the things you need to do in the staging process.

  1. Create a backup of your Parent theme and save it to your Laptop/PC. This will allow you to compare your new theme with its older version.
  1. Create a Child theme folder and install file comparison software. This will allow you to compare the function files of the Parent and Child theme.

You can use the Inspect feature of the Chrome browser to compare the code of your Parent and Child theme.

  1. Use the older version as your Parent theme and the updated version as the Child theme.
  1. Update your Child theme.
theme details
  1. Copy all the function files and styles from the Parent theme to the Child theme.
  1. This will override all the updated files and revert them to your old website customizations.
  1. Activate your Child theme and leave the Parent theme as it is.
child theme
  1. Thoroughly run and test your website to make sure you haven’t missed any files or styles in the latest version.
  1. Double-check the edited files to make sure that everything is in the right place.
  1. Check if every custom plugin is working properly across the entirety of the website.
  1. Make sure that your current theme has all the templates in order with the older version.
  1. Run your tests multiple times until you are absolutely satisfied with the current WP theme.
  1. Go live with your WordPress website after you have sorted out all the issues.
wordpress website

Use the Live Preview feature to take a final look at your site’s appearance and then activate it.

Important Note:

You don’t have to repeat this process once you have updated your WordPress dashboard. 

You can add new stuff to your Parent theme instead of your Child theme and it will work fine on the WordPress website.

But keep in mind that you should always test the changes on a Child theme if you wish to update the theme.

Post-Update Issues

In some circumstances, you might encounter some issues after the update even if you have followed every single step.

These minor issues are caused due to some overlapping files that aren’t required anymore.

You can solve this issue by:

  1. Deleting the bugged files from the Child theme. It will then copy the same file from your Parent theme.
parent theme

For example, the highlighted code in the picture isn’t working. You can delete these code lines and the system will automatically copy them from the Parent theme repository.

  1. Run a double-check to make sure that all the files are aligned with the Parent theme.

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Importance of Updating WordPress Themes

Now that you know how to update your WordPress theme, you need to understand its importance.

Multiple things are directly affected when you update a WordPress theme.

Some of them are:

  • Website’s Security
  • Enhanced Compatibility
  • New Features
  • New Look

Important Note:

The WordPress site constantly updates its WordPress dashboard and adds new features. 

You should always have the new version to keep up with new plugins and make sure that your site’s code is still compatible with the update.


As you already know, WordPress is an Open Source System. Hence, all the minor patches and issues in the security of an update are discussed and removed publicly.

An older version of WordPress Theme can make your website susceptible to a harmful breach.

You can add multiple security plugins to your Parent Theme as well. It will further enhance the firewall’s security against viruses.

Furthermore, some plugins will also alert you when new theme files are available.

Important Note:

The main reason why a lot of people update themes is that it takes the target off their back. Anybody that tries to steal your valuable information will face a lot of difficulties.

They will have to go through multiple layers of firewall security to get in.

WordPress is an Open Source website. It is not owned by any company.

Enhanced Compatibility

This is probably the most important reason to update your current theme. As time goes on, the newer versions of different platforms demand better compatibility.

Why are themes so important?

You should know that presentation is crucial to your brand’s image. An up-to-date theme directory ensures that your website has the intended outlook.

Some older versions of WordPress Theme Files work on newer devices but they are distorted and things are often not in the right place.

We recommend that you update your theme folder regularly to stay on the safe side.

Other than that, the custom code of your website will also be compatible with the new plugins as well.

WordPress is an old and reliable service. It was established even before Facebook and Twitter.

New Features

Another reason to install a theme update is to take advantage of new features from the developers. 

WordPress experts publish a bunch of new features regularly that include bug fixes, theme customizations, plugins, layouts, file comparison tools, and security patches.

Why is it important to update my WordPress theme?

To make sure that you get to use all of these features, you need an updated theme. Another upside of new features is that you get an upper hand over your competitors. 

The only downside of you using the latest version is that it still might have some minor bugs.

They can cause some delays in your work schedule.

Now that you are familiar with why you need to update your current WordPress theme, let’s get into how you can do it.

Nearly 26% of the websites are powered by the WordPress system.

wordpress theme

Important Tips for Updating Themes

We have pretty much covered the technical part of the articles but there are still minor tips that you can use to improve your WordPress Dashboard.

Some of these tips are stated below:

  • Always keep a backup ready before you change anything in your WordPress dashboard.
  • Always test a custom plugin before you add it to your Parent theme.
  • Keep your theme up to date to have an edge over your competitors.
  • Try to use a file comparison tool to effectively transfer your files between the Parent and Child theme.
  • Report any new issues to the theme developers to reduce the loss of time.
  • Double-check your Parent and Child theme to make sure everything is in order.
  • It is recommended that you hire a professional if you wish to update a third-party theme.

Fun Fact: Every WordPress update is named after a Jazz artist.

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We hope that you have learned how to update your current theme without any loss in customization or content.

You can add a lot of value to your brand’s image if you implement the aforementioned process effectively.

This can help you to sell your products to wider audiences and get a better reach.

We hope that this guide proves to be beneficial for you. 

Do let us know if we missed anything important. 

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