Automatic Beats Stick Shift Upgrade

I’ve discussed the need to upgrade WordPress to the latest version before, and have run through my positive experiences with the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin. However, not everyone is so keen on the idea of automating such an important aspect of their blog maintenance. Kim Woodbridge on (Anti)Social Development, for instance, prefers to have total control over upgrades and provides her readers with an excellent tutorial (23 steps) on how to do a manual WordPress upgrade.

However, I stand by my thoughts on WPAU, it’s just so slick and does all the pre-upgrade backups, disables plugins temporarily, downloads the upgrade files, puts your blog into maintenance mode, installs WordPress, then re-enables plugins and fires up your blog…automatically, with little intervention.

Maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate, but I’ve never had any serious problems using WPAU to upgrade a blog and I’ve done dozens of upgrades with it so far. Indeed, the first upgrade I did using WPAU was to take my main blog from version a version 1.x to a version 2.x and it worked first time. There was not a single glitch. All plugins were reactivated perfectly. The only minor thing I had to tweak was to change the PHP call in one widget that had been rendered incompatible, but that would have happened with a manual upgrade too.

That said, other sites I have done upgrades from the same version cluster 2.x to 2.y where the WPAU plugin did not work first time. However, there is no need to panic if it fails. Simply run its inbuilt cleanup to sweep away problem files, and run it again. It might fail a second or even third time (I had that happen on a minor upgrade on what is an apparently unstable host). Eventually, it will work through the process and you will end up with the latest version installed and operational. Even having to try it three times is quicker than downloading, unzipping, and replacing using FTP or some other legacy method.

As with manual installation, I have full control over when the upgrade happens, it’s not like opting for an automatic over stick shift, it’s more like using quickdial memory buttons on your phone instead of tapping in the complete number every time. I can choose whether to upgrade or not, there is not behind-the-scenes upgrading. And, when you’re not upgrading you can deactivate WPAU it until it is needed again.

One word of warning. Backup. When you make any major changes to your blog, always backup your database first, there’s even an automatic plugin to do that too. And remember to check in your rearview mirror before you pull away whether you’re an automatic or a stick shift upgrader.

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Photographer and musician.