Prepare your WordPress site for an upgrade



This article describes how to prepare your WordPress website for an upcoming version release.

Updating the PHP version of your site

It's highly recommended that you upgrade to the latest version of PHP as it provides better performance and compatibility with the latest versions of WordPress.

Not all third-party themes and plugins have been updated to be compatible with PHP 8. If your site relies on a specific plugin or theme, make sure you verify that it is PHP 8 compatible before upgrading.

Back up your site and database

Before you make any updates to your WordPress site, DreamHost recommends backing up your WordPress installation. The steps are different depending on if your site was installed using the DreamHost WordPress installer or DreamPress.

DreamHost WordPress install

There are two options to back up a WordPress site created by the DreamHost WordPress installer in your panel.

Either option provides you with an off-site backup that allows you to quickly restore your site from in case an error occurs during the upgrade process.


DreamPress websites have the ability to create an on-demand backup in the DreamHost panel. View the following article for instructions on how back up your DreamPress website:

Update your plugins

Make sure plugins are updated before the new WordPress version is released. You may notice a week or two before a new release that a number of your site's plugins and themes have updates available. This is generally because the developers are preparing their plugins for a new release.

View the following article for instructions on how to update your plugin:

Manual or automatic plugin updates

If the plugin is part of the core functionality of your site (e.g., WooCommerce) DreamHost suggests that you create a backup before updating (see above).

However, if the plugin is a more basic (e.g., Akismet) you may consider enabling automatic plugin updates to ensure they are always at their latest version.

Use a staging site to test the new version

If your site depends on essential functionality, such as eCommerce or memberships, it's best to create a staging site to test the new WordPress version before upgrading your live site.

Testing using staging site is not required, but it's a safe way to ensure your site will continue to function properly before upgrading.

Setting up a staging site

DreamPress hosting plans

View the following article to set up a staging environment for your DreamPress site in the panel:

All other hosting plans

View the following article to set up a staging environment if your WordPress site is hosted on a Shared, VPS, or Dedicated hosting plan:

Plugin option

Another option is to use a plugin such as Migrate Guru to migrate your site files and database to a secondary install.

Use the WordPress Beta Tester plugin to test the new version

The following steps are only necessary if there is an upcoming WordPress version available that is not yet officially released that you would like to test.

After you create a staging site (as mentioned above), use the following instructions to test a pre-release version of WordPress.

  1. Log into your staging site.
  2. Install the WordPress Beta Tester plugin.
  3. Navigate to Tools > Beta Testing and select the Bleeding Edge option.
  4. Click Save Changes.
  5. When the page reloads, select the Release Candidates Only option.
  6. Click Save Changes again.
  7. Navigate to Dashboard > Updates.
    When a Release Candidate (RC) of the next version of WordPress is available, you'll have the ability to update your staging site to it on this page:

    Release Candidates are effectively "preview" copies of WordPress that are ready to release so long as there are no major or site-breaking bugs.

  8. Once your staging site is on the most recent Release Candidate, ensure that everything is fully functional. Here are a few things to check:
    • Do all pages display as they should?
    • Does anything unexpected happen when you browse or try to create new content?
    • If you run an eCommerce site, are you still able to add products to the cart and check out?

If something isn't functioning as expected, note what's breaking and reach out to the developer of the specific plugin or theme as they may already have a pending update that fixes your issue.

See also

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Article last updated PST.

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