As of WordPress 3.7, there are some updates that occur automatically on your default WordPress installation. This video and article discuss how to turn off automatic updates on WordPress.
How to turn off automatic updates — WordPress video
Which WordPress things automatically update by default?
By default, only minor releases (maintenance or security updates) and translation files are automatically updated. If you have a development version running, it will also automatically update on major releases.
By default, WordPress also has the ability to automatically update your plugins and themes in certain cases.
Reasons to have automatic updates turned off
The truth is, lots of things can potentially update in the background by default on WordPress (their preferred philosophy). So if you’re the type who likes to have more control and visibility into all things happening on your site (an engaged admin!), then you’ll want to disable the automatic updates feature.
Here are some reasons for why turning off automatic updates on WordPress is good. You:
- Prefer manual updates
- Want to have control over what is updating and when
- Take website security into your own hands
- Want to know what the updates are for various reasons, such as:
- To know what’s new
- To know what’s been fixed
- To know what’s been enhanced
- Want to test updates on another site before updating
- Have other reasons? Let us know in the comments!
When are automatic updates good?
Automatic updates may be good in the following scenarios:
- You don’t often check the backend of your site and therefore updates will pile up, which in turn can cause vulnerabilities
- You trust WordPress developers, and trust that you’ve installed only good and well-maintained plugins and themes and the benefits of automatic updates outweigh the work and time spent in manually updating everything
- When you want to make sure minor updates are automatic, but want to make sure major releases are under your control (also discussed in video and below)
- You want to streamline the update experience
Steps to turn off automatic updates on WordPress
Before making changes to your wp-config.php file, especially on production sites that are online, make sure you’ve saved a copy of the current wp-config.php file in case you need to revert back to it. This is especially true if you are not familiar with PHP syntax. Incorrect code in the wp-config.php file can break your entire site.
Disabling all automatic updates
The following will disable all automatic updates, core or otherwise (plugins, themes, translation files).
Access your wp-config.php file and open it.
Add the following piece of code to your wp-config.file:
define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );
(Preferably above the line that reads: /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */)
Tip: Your WordPress’s wp-config.php file can be found in the root folder of your installation. Your files can be accessed via your web host account, or via an FTP client that connects to your server. To edit this file and others like it, it is also recommended to use a text editor commonly used to edit different computer and programming languages.
Disabling only some automatic updates to the core
WordPress allows you to turn off only some of the automatic updates while keeping others.
Specifically, you can allow WordPress to continue doing automatic updates for all minor releases (security and maintenance), but major core releases can be manual (plugins/themes unaffected by the following code).
Or you can decide to turn core updates off altogether by changing the value of this other constant:
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', minor );
As you can see, the possible values for this constant are “true”, “false” or “minor”.
Note: The WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE constant only affects core updates. If you want to turn off automatic updates for plugins/themes as well, you are better off using the first constant provided, AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED.
Learn more about configuring automatic background updates on WordPress.org.
If you want to make sure you turn off all automatic updates and not deal with the “gray area” of what is considered minor or not for the core, or the possibility of plugins, themes and translation files automatically updating, the suggestion is to use the first constant that disables the automatic updater.
If you want to follow WordPress.org’s recommendation, the recommendation is to at least allow minor releases to update automatically as these will be regarding the security and maintenance of the core software.
Time. Do you have the time to constantly log into your site throughout a week to manage the updates manually? Or someone who can do it for you, responsibly? Is your time or interest better suited for other aspects of site maintenance, content creation, sales, analytics or marketing?
Trust. Do you trust the developers of WordPress, and the plugins and themes you’ve installed to give them all free reign over updating automatically?
Knowledge. Are you willing to not know the details behind what is being updated?
Backup. Do you have an on-going backup of your site that you can reference in case automatic updates affect your site?
Whether to leave automatic updates turned on or off for WordPress is a healthy debate. What do you choose to do?
Questions? Let me know in the comments below.