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How to Disable Automatic WordPress Updates

Have you ever gone to check on your WordPress site, only to find your theme broken, plugin functionality crippled, or major features moved and changed? If so, you may have been surprised to find that WordPress’ automatic updates were to blame.

To avoid this problem, you can disable automatic updates in WordPress. This gives you more control over your site, enabling you to test updates for compatibility and avoid potentially unwanted feature changes. Of course, it also means you’ll need to manually update your site in order to patch potential security holes.

In this article, we’ll explain why you might want to disable automatic WordPress updates. Then we’ll show you how to do just that, using code or a simple plugin. Let’s dive right in!

Why Disable Automatic WordPress Updates?

Generally speaking, automatic updates in WordPress are a good thing, and we’d recommend that most users leave them enabled. However, there are some cases when disabling some or all automatic updates may be beneficial. 

The main reason to disable automatic WordPress updates is that they can sometimes break a website. Most of the time, updates are thoroughly tested, and there won’t be any problems. This is especially true with WordPress core, as well as many popular themes and plugins.

With that being said, developers can’t possibly test their software with every possible combination of plugins and themes. If you have tools installed that are built for a certain version of WordPress, or that rely on other plugins, an update to one can cause compatibility issues with the others. In rare cases, this could cause a chain reaction that brings down an entire website or cripples mission-critical functionality. 

Another potential issue with automatic updates is unwanted feature changes. If you remember the launch of the WordPress Block Editor, formerly known as Gutenberg, you probably also remember the controversy surrounding it. Despite plenty of advance notice, many users experienced disruptions to their workflows because they weren’t prepared.

For these reasons, if your site is a vital part of your business, the usual best practice is to review and test updates first before applying them to your live site.

Pros and Cons of Disabling WordPress Updates

Before moving forward, however, it’s important to know that there are both advantages and disadvantages to disabling automatic updates. Let’s explore the most important considerations in more detail.

Pros of Disabling Updates

  • You have more control over changes to your website.
  • You can make sure that all your plugins and themes work with new updates, avoiding site errors and broken functionality.
  • You don’t have to worry about theme and plugin updates overwriting any manual changes you’ve made.

Cons of Disabling Updates

  • You may miss important security updates, leaving your website vulnerable.
  • Reviewing and applying updates manually can be time-consuming, especially if you have multiple sites to keep updated.

How to Disable Automatic Updates: No Plugin

You can turn off automatic updates for WordPress core files, plugins, and themes simply by adding a few code snippets to your files. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Add Code to Your wp-config File

To turn off automatic updates for WordPress core, you just have to add the following code to your wp-config.php file:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );

To access the file, you’ll need to either use a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) solution (we recommend the free FileZilla client) or the file manager in your web host’s cPanel. 

Once you have access to your site’s files, you can find wp-config.php by navigating to app > public. Open up the file and add the code snippet towards the end, right above the line that says /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing. */:

Image of how to add code to your wp-config file

Now WordPress will no longer install updates automatically. This only applies to the core installation, however. If you want to disable updates for plugins and themes as well, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Disable Automatic Updates by Adding Filter Code

To stop your plugins and themes from updating automatically, you need to add a line of code to your theme’s functions.php file. You don’t need a file browser or FTP client for this one – you can access this file by heading to your WordPress dashboard and navigating to Appearance > Theme Editor:

image showing how to disable automatic updates by adding filter code in WordPress edit themes

Select your theme and open up function.php from the list on the right. Then, to disable automatic plugin updates, add the following code to the bottom of the file:

add_filter( 'auto_update_plugin', '__return_false' );

To turn off updates for themes, use this code:

add_filter( 'auto_update_theme', '__return_false' );

If you want to turn them off for both your theme and any plugins you’re using, simply add both lines:

Image showing how to turn off updates for a theme you're using in WordPress with code

Now you have automatic updates turned off for WordPress core, themes, and plugins. You can mix and match these in any combination you like, in order to create an update solution that works for you.

How to Disable Automatic Updates: With a Plugin

WordPress is nothing if not flexible. So if you prefer to use a plugin to disable updates instead of code, you’re in luck. All you need to do is install and activate an update manager plugin and configure your preferences.

Step 1: Download an Update Manager Plugin

There are a number of WordPress plugins available to help you manage updates, but we recommend Easy Updates Manager:

Image of Update Manager Plugin logo for WordPress

This solution enables you to easily manage updates for your entire WordPress site, including core files, themes, and plugins. It also works with WordPress multisite installations.

To install the plugin, head to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Plugins > Add New. Search for “Easy Updates Manager”, and it should be the first option. Click on Install and then Activate.

Step 2: Configure Your Update Options

Easy Updates Manager offers incredibly fine-grained control over the updates on your site. To configure its options, head to your WordPress dashboard and click the new Updates Options link in the sidebar:

Image showing where to configure your update options in WordPress menu

This will take you to the Easy Updates Manager settings. If you want to turn off all updates, just toggle the “Disable all updates” option:

Image of how to toggle off "disable all updates" in Easy Updates Manager

You can also toggle individual categories, like plugins, themes, WordPress core, and translation. If that’s still not enough control, you can dig into each category and set preferences for every theme and plugin individually:

Image of how to toggle individual categories like plugins, themes, WordPress core, and translation

There’s no need to save these changes when you’re done. Just set your preferences however you want them, and they’ll take effect automatically.

Keep Your Site in Shape with WP Engine

If you need more control over your site, disabling automatic updates can give it to you. This also enables you to vet plugins before installing them, to insure compatibility and maximize uptime on your site.

If you need more ways to keep your website in shape, WP Engine can help. We offer the best resources for users and developers to help keep your site running at peak performance!

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