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How to Auto-Update WordPress Plugins and Themes (in Code)

Keeping WordPress core up-to-date has become so easy in the last few years that I barely even thing about it. Keeping WordPress plugins and themes up-to-date is currently still a more complex task. There are plugin-based solutions for it, but in this video we cover the method that’d be more favored by those who love writing PHP: the code that makes WordPress auto-update your plugins and themes.

There is some need for obvious provisos here: don’t auto-update plugins and themes that you don’t trust to keep working. Don’t enable auto-updates this way if you don’t have a solid backup system in place. Don’t use this solution of PHP-based auto-updates if your site looking weird when a plugin update doesn’t work will cause you (or someone else) to get fired.

With all those reasons why not, there’s one really good reason to do it: an updated WordPress plugin is more secure well over 95% of the time than an un-updated one. That means that while this isn’t an unquestionable win, it usually is one. Here’s how to do it on video:

How to Enable WordPress Plugin Auto-Updates in PHP Code

  1. Create your plugin or theme functions.php file. The Codex recommends that you use an mu-plugin  to do that — that is a “must-use” plugin that WordPress always has on. But WordPress will honor this code if it’s in an enable plugin or theme as well.
  2. Put in the line of code: add_filter( 'auto_update_plugin', '__return_true' );
  3. Put in the line of code: add_filter( 'auto_update_theme', '__return_true' );
  4. Make sure this code is somewhere it will run. If you’ve created this as a new plugin in the mu-plugins directory, it will. If you’ve enabled the (normal) plugin, it will. If you have it in functions.php of your currently running theme, it will.
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David Hayes

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August 8, 2019 7:36 pm

Great video, thanks.
Your two lines update plugins and themes.
How do you recommend we set up WP to auto-update any major or minor WordPress release?

November 3, 2017 11:29 am

FYI: You link for “are plugin-based solutions for it,” is.. wrong 😉 if you know what I am saying.

Please fix.

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