New versions of WordPress are released regularly often accompanied by updates to the core default WordPress themes (the themes that come with WordPress such as Twenty Seventeen). Immediately following a new release, clients often ask me if it is safe to update the default WordPress themes. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Update the Core WordPress themes?

When there is a major new release of WordPress, new features are added.  The core themes are always updated to enable these new features to work.

Why Hesitate?

If you are using one of the core themes and you have made modifications to the theme files, updating will overwrite your changes and your website will revert to the standard theme appearance. Your modifications will be lost.

Child themes are the recommended way of making modifications to a theme.

What is a Child Theme?

A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits the functionality of another theme, called the parent theme, and allows you to modify, or add to, the functionality of that parent theme.

When the parent theme is updated, your modifications are preserved.

What is your current theme?

Determine what theme is the currently active theme — Go to → Appearances → Themes

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Is it safe to update the theme?

  1. If the default themes are not active the updates won’t affect your website appearance — go ahead and update the themes
  2. If you are using a default theme and you have not modified the theme files in any way — go ahead and update the themes
  3. If you are using a child theme  your modifications are safe — go ahead and update the themes
  4. If you are using a default theme (Twenty Ten to Twenty Seventeen) as your active theme and you’ve modified the theme — don’t update the themes. You need to move your modifications to a child theme before updating

You can delete themes you aren’t using (except for the parent theme) so you don’t have to update them all.

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