How to Disable Automatic Updates in WordPress
The WordPress 5.5 update has, among other things, introduced an important security feature and quality of life change. The option to enable automatic updates in WordPress directly from your admin dashboard. Despite being useful to most WordPress users, this feature comes with several downsides, as well.
In this article, we will start by discussing the pros and cons of enabling WordPress automatic updates. Then, we will guide you through the steps for disabling it on various parts of your website. Those include WordPress core files, plugins, themes, or translation files if you choose to use them. Once you have all the relevant information, you will be able to decide whether to disable automatic updates and for which parts of your website you might want to do so. With that being said, let’s proceed.
Pros and cons of automatic updates in WordPress
When it comes to whether or not you should disable automatic updates in WordPress, there is no right answer. The choice needs to be made on a case by case basis, taking into account all the pros and cons. Some of the factors that play a role in making that decision are the level of your WordPress understanding, the possibility of regular backups, the availability of a staging domain for update testing, and troubleshooting skills.
Automatic updates are great for users who may forget to update their website, are away from their computers, or don’t have the time to manually update it. If you are a webmaster of multiple websites, automatic updates will save you a lot of time. Moreover, if the updates provide some bug fixes or resolve any previous security vulnerabilities, having the website updated as early as possible can be a great benefit.
Conversely, disabling auto-updates and performing them manually could be quite time-consuming and even stressful for less experienced WordPress users. However, if you modified the template files of your theme or some plugins, those changes will disappear after the respective theme or plugin auto-updates since the files will get overridden. To avoid such issues, we suggest either using a child theme or a site-specific plugin for adding code modifications.
However, the biggest issue that could arise from automatic updates is that they could break your website. Even though this is very rarely the case, you must be aware that the risk exists, especially with major updates. If this happens, it is likely due to some incompatibilities between the code of your plugins and themes, WordPress Core, and your code modifications. In these cases, being able to restore your website using a backup is essential.
If you experienced issues after a plugin or a theme update, you should contact the developers behind that plugin or theme for help. Apart from that, you could set up a staging website where you would test the updates before applying them on the actual live website.
How to disable automatic updates in WordPress
After examining the pros and cons of disabling automatic updates, we come to the how-to part of this article. As is usually the case with anything you want to do in WordPress, you can accomplish your goal using a plugin or using custom code. Below, we will show you both those methods for disabling the automatic updates.
Using a plugin
Using a WordPress plugin is, most often, the easier and safer method of adding or removing a feature on your website. It is perfect for people that don’t feel comfortable adding code and don’t mind an additional plugin. Thanks to the multitude of available WordPress plugins, you will be able to easily find a plugin that handles updates in WordPress, whether they are automated or not. A plugin we found quite useful for this purpose is the Easy Updates Manager.
The Easy Updates Manager plugin is light-weight and can handle all updates for regular and multisite installations. With it, you can disable all updates or fully automate them. Additionally, you can choose which plugins or themes get automatically updated and configure translation updates or email notifications regarding WordPress Core updates.
You can see what was updated and when using the Logs tab that the plugin provides. Therefore, even if your website were to break, you would be able to figure out which update caused it and go back to a previous version using a backup. This is made possible because this plugin, even with its free version, integrates well with UpdraftPlus, which is one of the most popular backup plugins. And if you opt for the premium version of the Easy Updates Manager plugin, you’ll get features such as safe mode, scheduled automatic updates, delayed updates, auto-backups before updates thanks to UpdraftPlus, import/export settings, email notifications of pending updates, version control protection, and many more.
With that being said, let’s explain how you can use the Easy Updates Manager to disable automatic updates in WordPress. After installing the plugin, navigate to Dashboard > Updates Options, which is the new section added by this plugin. Doing so will place you within the General tab, where you can adjust the necessary options regarding automatic updates. As we don’t want to disable the possibility of updating altogether, make sure that you press the Enable all updates button, located in the Disable all updates section at the top. Then, you can press the Disable auto updates button within the Quick configuration actions to disable auto updates for the WordPress core, plugins, themes, and translations. If you don’t want to disable automatic updates for all four, you can manually disable only the desired aspect of your site. Whether it’s the WordPress core files, plugins, themes, or translation files, all you need to do is press the Disable auto updates button next to each respective option.
Using custom code
Another way of disabling automatic updates in WordPress is with custom code. This way is only slightly more difficult than the plugin approach, as it requires small code tweaks. To successfully manage this approach, you would need to be familiar with the use of FTP. Since the process includes core file editing, we suggest making a backup of your WordPress files, just in case. Once you’ve done so, proceed as outlined below.
First, connect to your server using your FTP credentials. Then, navigate to your root WordPress directory, often called public_html, and find the wp-config.php file within.
Right-click on the file and select the View/Edit option from the dropdown menu that appears.
Open the file with your preferred file editor and add one of the lines of code provided below. These lines of code concern the WordPress Core updates and translation file updates that come bundled with it.
To disable all automatic updates, you can insert the following code:
define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );
To disable automatic updates of WordPress Core files, you can insert the following code:
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );
It’s also possible to enable automatic updates only for minor WordPress Core updates. If that’s something you want to do, you can add the following code:
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', minor );
The line of code you choose to use should be inserted above the /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */ comment. After you insert the line of code you want, save the changes you made. Then upload the file back to your server, which will override the file that’s currently there.
On the other hand, if you want to do a similar thing for your plugins and themes, you will need to use the add_filter() function. This code needs to be added either in the functions.php of your theme or inside a site-specific plugin. We will show you the former since it’s a bit simpler.
Since you are already located within your root WordPress directory, navigate to /wp-content/themes and click on your current theme’s folder to open it.
Within it, find the functions.php file, then right-click on it and select the View/Edit option from the dropdown. Open the file with your preferred file editor and insert one of the lines of code we provided below, depending on your needs.
To disable auto updates for plugins, insert the following line of code:
add_filter( 'auto_update_plugin', '__return_false' );
To disable auto updates for themes, insert the following line of code:
add_filter( 'auto_update_theme', '__return_false' );
As these lines of code aren’t mutually exclusive, we added both.
After inserting the code you want, save the changes you made, and upload the file back to your server, to override the file that’s currently there.
This concludes our guide on disabling automatic updates in WordPress. In case you wish to learn more about this subject, you can review the official documentation on automatic updates configuration.
WordPress is a regularly maintained platform that gets improved with each update that addresses bugs and security vulnerabilities, as well as adds new features. This makes WordPress users highly incentivized to keep their site up to date. With the addition of automatic updates, the whole process is made a lot easier and more user-friendly.
However, as some of these updates may end up breaking your website, it is important to weigh the pros and cons before letting WordPress update automatically. We have done our best to outline them in this article so that you can decide whether you should enable or disable this feature. If you do decide to disable it, you will be able to complete the task in a couple of minutes. Just carefully follow the steps we laid out for you. As a final piece of advice, we suggest making backups of your website frequently, so you always have a safe version of your site that you can fall back on, should any issues occur.