From time to time, WordPress publishes upgrades, and if you want to keep your blog up to date, you’ll need to install them. Using WordPress is pointless, if you don’t evolve with it.
When you begin blogging, you probably won’t have much invested in content, comments, plug-ins, setup, and design, so you might not have much to lose if an upgrade goes awry. At that point, you may feel that you can click on the WordPress-upgrade notification with relative impunity.
After blogging a while, however, you may begin to feel insecure about doing upgrades without first protecting your blog. In order to preserve your investment (time and money), you’ll need to backup your site and database before upgrading to the next version of WordPress.
Here are the basic steps you should take before installing a WordPress upgrade:
1. Check WordPress’s minimum requirements.
2. Open backup folders on your computer.
3. Download web files to your computer.
4. Export the Database and save it to your computer.
5. Execute a Home-Directory backup.
6. Do a Full cPanel backup.
7. Deactivate all plugins.
8. Proceed with the WordPress upgrade.
9. Reactivate plugins one by one.
10. Continue blogging.
For seasoned WordPress bloggers, the terminology in the above list is familiar, but for novices, the lexicon may be intimidating. For that reason, I’m going to outline the steps set forth above. After reading this tutorial, you should be able to do all four backups with confidence before proceeding with your WordPress upgrade.
1. Check WordPress’s minimum requirements
Before upgrading to the next version of WordPress, be sure to check WordPress’s minimum requirements and then contact your webhost to ensure that it is running the required versions of PHP and MySQL.
2. Open backup folders on your computer
Open the following folders on your computer:
- Web-file (site) backups
- MySQL Database backups
- Home-Directory backups
- Full cPanel backups
3. Download web files to your computer
A web-file (site) backup is a download of your WordPress folders and files, theme folders and files, plugins, and images stored in folders to your computer. You accomplish this download through your ftp client.
When you view your site through your ftp client, you’ll see a list of folders followed by a series of files. The folder that contains your WordPress folders and files is called “public_html.” In order to capture your web files (site files), download the public_html folder to your computer and save it to the “Web-file (site) backups” folder.
Once you’ve successfully downloaded the public_html folder to your computer, store it on an external hard drive and on a backup service like Dropbox, Google Docs, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, or Amazon S3.
4. Export the Database and save it to your computer
Your MySQL Database contains all of your posts, comments, custom fields, and settings. Downloading your MySQL Database is accomplished through the phpMyAdmin of your webhost-account control panel (cPanel). The steps are as follows:
1. Log onto cPanel.
2. Scroll down to the section titled “Databases.”
3. Click on “phpMyAdmin.”
4. Click on the “Export” tab.
5. Select the export options you desire:
- “Quick” if you don’t want to omit anything.
- “Custom” if you want to bypass some of the options.
6. Choose the file format you want. (In the case of a backup in preparation for a WordPress upgrade, you’ll probably select “SQL,” which will produce a file with a .sql extention.)
7. Save this .sql file to your “MySQL Database backups” folder.
Once you’ve successfully downloaded the MySQL Database to your computer, you should store it on an external hard drive and on a backup service like Dropbox, Google Docs, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, or Amazon S3.
5. Execute a Home-Directory backup
A Home-Directory backup archives your web files (site files) and is the same as downloading the public_html folder manually through your ftp client. Since Home-Directory backups seem less transparent than web-file (site) backups, I prefer to do both, just to cover all the bases. Some experts consider such duplication to be overkill, but when my blog is at stake, a few extra minutes to do this backup seems worth it.
Home-Directory backups are done through “Backups” in cPanel. A Home-Directory backup consists of all your web files, but is not so comprehensive as a Full-cPanel backup. The difference is that with a Home-Directory backup, you can restore the files yourself through cPanel, but restoring your site using a Full-cPanel backup requires that your webhost do it for you.
First, log onto cPanel with your username and password. In the “Files” section, find an icon labeled “Backups.” Click on the “Backups” icon, and a window will open called “Backups.”
In the “Backups” window, you will find three sections:
- “Backups” (with a short explanation and a tutorial button)
- “Full Backup” (in a box)
- “Partial Backups” (the large area below)
In the “Partial Backups” section, click on the “Home Directory” button located under the words “Download a Home Directory Backup.” The Home Directory will download directly to the default download location on your computer. Drag or copy the file to the “Home-Directory backups” folder on your computer.
Once you’ve done the Home-Directory backup and have downloaded the file to your computer, store the file on an external hard drive and on a backup service like Dropbox, Google Docs, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, or Amazon S3.
6. Do a Full cPanel backup
A Full cPanel backup includes your web files and database. It archives your entire webhosting account. With this backup, in the event of a problem with your site, you will not be able to restore your site yourself. Rather, your webhosting technical-support team must do it for you.
To do a Full cPanel backup, follow the instructions set forth in my article titled Full cPanel Backup – How To Do A Full cPanel Backup Of Your Website Or Blog.
Once you have completed the Full cPanel backup and downloaded it to your computer, drag or copy the file to the “Full cPanel backups” folder on your computer. Then store the file on an external hard drive and on a backup service like Dropbox, Google Docs, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, or Amazon S3.
Doing a Full-cPanel backup takes time, and some experts will tell you that it’s too involved for regular backup routines. My paranoia, however, outweighs reason when it comes to preserving the work I’ve done on my site, so I consider the extra time well spent.
7. Deactivate all plugins
You deactivate your plugins through the Plugins tab on your WordPress Dashboard. Go to “Installed Plugins” in the Plugins dropdown menu and select all of the plugins by clicking the box titled “Plugin” at the top of the list. Then, using the “Bulk Actions” box above that, select “Deactivate” and then click on “Apply.”
8. Proceed with the WordPress upgrade
You perform the WordPress upgrade from your Dashboard by clicking on “Please update now,” which appears at the top of the Dashboard when WordPress releases a new version. You have the choice of doing the upgrade automatically or manually. I’ve always done it automatically, but if you want to customize the upgrade, you can do it manually.
9. Reactivate plugins one by one
Reactivate your plugins one by one through the Plugins tab on your WordPress Dashboard. Although you can active all the plugins at once using the “Bulk Actions” button, activating them one by one (and checking your site to observe the effect) is the most prudent practice.
10. Continue blogging
Now you can continue blogging with the most-recent version of WordPress. In addition to completing your WordPress upgrade, you have learned to do a series of backups that should become part of your blogging routine. Many services and plugins exist that execute both halves of a complete backup (web files and database) of your site.