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Should I Update a Plugin if an Update is Available?

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July 15th, 2009
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WordPress Discussions

WordPress plugin developers keep releasing updates to plugins. Once a plugin has been updated, you will see an update notice in WordPress, however should you update all the plugins that have updates?

The question is not that hard to answer, however there may be different views all over about this. Here are some things you might want to consider before upgrading a plugin.

  1. Does the older plugin work good enough for you and accomplish its task?
  2. Will the new version of the plugin, add more value for you?
  3. Is the plugin upgrade released to fix any bugs or security issues?
  4. Are the new features provided by the plugin really required for your site?

You can easily find this information on the plugin homepage which details changes and upgrades, another thing plugin developers can do themselves is by providing change logs in the readme files.

If you are a plugin developer, you might want to read this article written by Jeff detailing the changes for readme.txt to include changelogs.

There may be many other things that you might need to consider, however upgrading plugins is easy and does not take much time.

What are your opinions, do you have any other criteria’s, it would be interesting to learn from you, feel free to tell me about them.

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Comments

  1. DavidW says:

    Good write up but you missed what should probably be the number one question. Does the plugin work with the version of WordPress I am using.

    Sometimes plugin updates are released expressly for this reason. That is an old version of the plugin doesn’t work with the latest version of WordPress. Conversely, new versions of plugins may not work with older versions of WP. In either case the compatibility issue may cause errors and headaches.

  2. Ted Szukalski (6 comments.) says:

    My new practice is to download new version. Do a file compare to make sure there are no “suprises”. Backup old plugin. Install and test.

    In some cases where authors place styling or formatting of output hardcoded in the plugin I may have to re-apply some of my style changes. This is where the file compare also plays a major role.

    Other than that I have been more than happy to keep up with the plugin releases.

  3. James (1 comments.) says:

    This can be a real pain, sometimes ive updated plugins that break wordpress, or ive updated wordpress and thats broken a plugin, and at times ive not updated a plugin as it wasn’t tested with my version of wordpress, only to find out at a later date there were no compatibility issues. I think the simplest way forward is just to backup regularly and test all new updates.

  4. Kevin Wilyan (1 comments.) says:

    I don’t want to update the plugins, without any good reason.
    If it contains security or bug fix that I need, then I’d upgrade it. If not, I’ll just leave it.

  5. Uwe (18 comments.) says:

    Got that problem some days ago with “pagebar”, the new version needs php5 to work, my webspace runs with php4 so after 1 click update => error.

    lesson learned.

  6. redwall_hp (40 comments.) says:

    I always update my plugins on a regular basis. Nearly every release of a plugin has important changes, security, logic, or otherwise. Also, if you don’t stay current, you’re more likely to have problems.

  7. Jan from BetterSpines (1 comments.) says:

    I hate seeing the red numbers telling me things are ready to be upgraded. The trouble is, ever since I upgraded my all-in-one SEO, none of the upgrades will work. They all fail. Somehow, “Unable to locate WordPress Plugin directory” keeps coming up. Now, I am not technically clever. I am totally freaked that something is broken and I do not know how to fix it. Can anyone help me?

    • Steve (1 comments.) says:

      In case you’re wondering, there are probably a few plugins still available out there that will turn off the upgrade notifications in the admin console.

      An important consideration when it comes to upgrading plugins is: will the new version play well with the other plugins AND my current WP version? A lot of troubleshooting steps suggested by the WPers is to shut off all plugins, then turn them on 1-by-1 to figure out which is the one killing your blog. Since the potential for incompatibilities caused by plugins is apparently high, depending on whether the developer(s) are complying with the coding guide, plugin-plugin and plugin-WP interactions are important… which explains the need to test-test-test.

  8. Savage (1 comments.) says:

    I don’t update plugins unless I update WP itself. I think it’s the sane thing to do to avoid compatability issues.

  9. Chris (2 comments.) says:

    On the other side of the fence, I still have people emailing me asking for functionality to be added to one of my plugins that I added about 3 versions back. When asked, it turns out they’re using an older version and never bothered updating.

    I think telling non technical users that they should consider maybe not updating is giving the wrong impression and letting them think they understand something they probably don’t. If I bundle a minor security update in with a load of aesthetic fixes, its not good that they may not download the update because they don’t like the new options page layout or whatever. It could be putting their entire site at risk.

    9 times out of 10 I think its best to just trust the plugin developer. We don’t spend hours coding and testing updates for our own health – its because in many cases, its a necessary change.

  10. Vikas SN (4 comments.) says:

    I update my plugins regularly as well. However I would love it if they provided a detailed changelog with every new version of the plugin. It would be much more clearer for the user to decide whether to upgrade the plugin or not. Isn’t it?

  11. Dave (3 comments.) says:

    It best to have a test blog locally or on your server in another directory to test the plugins before activation.

    Always do a database backup before activation even if the test was ok and a backup of the old version of the plugin just in case the new breaks your theme or is not supported by the new WP version.

  12. Kjetil (7 comments.) says:

    After working with WordPress since version 1.8 I’ve found that almost all updates are to the better. i trust the developers.
    Anyhow, sometimes updates cause trouble, so I always keep a copy of the “outdated” plugin on my disk. If anything goes wrong (not compatible with my WP version, conflicts with other plugins etc) I just downgrade.
    Often I also post a question on the plugin’s page on wordpress.org – mainly to inform the developer and other users.
    My wish is that the ReadMe would tell exactly which WP version the plugin will (should) work with. For now I’m stuck on WP 2.6.5 because a crucial plugin (Post-thumb revisited) is discontinued. Then it would be useful to know which is the most recent version of eg. Nextgen gallery that should work with 2.6.5. What the automatic upgrade message in the plugins’ panel tells is not always the full truth.

  13. Nehemoth (21 comments.) says:

    Another question should be,
    After upgrade something will change?.

    For example Sociable will loose the configuration you had made.

    Also All in One SEO Pack will need reactivation after an update.

    In the case of Sociable, I have to upload my Icons images and change the size of the icons everytime there’s a new update.

  14. bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

    I don’t mess with upgrading plugins unless that plugin has been updated to support the latest version of WordPress.

    For instance, when I upgraded to 2.8, I made sure all my plugins were upgraded before upgrading to 2.8, because I figured the plugin authors would support the latest version of wordpress as quickly as possible. Thats not always the case, but us users assume that.

    otherwise I do follow those rules and don’t upgrade unless absolutely necessary

  15. bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

    I however, have a BAD habit of not ever going into my admin
    panel for anything, especially when I get into the habit of
    using a separate program to write blog posts, then I don’t
    ever go into the admin panel for years at a time, which is
    bad because then I never know when upgrades are available
    to both plugins and wordpress in general. Since I’m not a
    plugin author, I get lazy and don’t keep up on the latest
    and greatest wordpress versions, but if I was a developer,
    I would, because my users would demand so, and that would
    give me the motivation to do so, but yeah unless I write a post,
    I never go into the admin panel hardly, just never have a reason to.

  16. Stuart (1 comments.) says:

    The rule of thumb in IT is that “changes break things”, so you shouldn’t go out of your way to change a working system unless you really need to.

    Eventually you will learn this the hard way. You will make a “simple” change late on a Friday afternoon, and then spend several hours of your own time trying to fix the thing that you just broke…that is if you even bothered to check that all the features of your site still worked.

    I agree with Savage, who commented that he only upgrades plugins when he upgrades the WordPress version. It is best to bundle all your changes at once, so you can test adequately once, instead of every time you make a minor change.

    The only exception to this would be security vulnerabilities in plugins. Unfortunately WordPress does not make it easy to see what changes have been made between the plugin version you are running, and the latest release. It would be great if each plugin had a link from the plugin manager page to the WordPress.org plugins page that would display the changes between the versions.

    Cheers,
    Stu.



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