How to Rollback WordPress Version (and plugins!)

How and why you should downgrade to an older version of WordPress

Usually, when we upgrade software, we expect it to work better and use new and improved features! However, has it ever happened to you that WordPress starts breaking just after you upgraded it? If yes, you are not the only one! Believe it or not, in these cases, you need to go back to an older version to get the maximum of the platform!

If you are reading this article, the chances are that you know and are already using WordPress! But before we start talking about why using the latest version of WordPress might not be the best idea and how to roll back, we would like to tell more about it for those who may be still unfamiliar with it.

So, WordPress is an open-source and free website creation platform.  Generally, you can use it for eCommerce, blogging, business or portfolio websites, etc. Although it is not the only platform of that kind, it is pretty safe to say that it is among the most popular. Why is that? One of the critical reasons is that it is a powerful website builder and content management system. Apart from that, regardless of whether you want to make a WordPress blog or a WordPress site, it comes completely free of charge. It is easy to use, safe, and SEO-friendly. Another reason why many people like it is that there are plenty of WordPress themes and WordPress plugin options; you can easily customise it as you want.  The fact is that many people use it for convertus aurum or other things.

However, same as with other platforms, you can run into problems with WordPress. For example, many people experienced the situation that it is not working as usual after an update. It is essential to mention, though, that WordPress core gets updated regularly and in most cases, you will benefit from this. Hence, you will want to upgrade to the latest version as soon as possible because that way, you make sure to have access to the latest features. Also, regular updates ensure that any potential security issues get resolved in time.

Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for problems to occur after an upgrade. Developers must test everything before the upgrade gets approved. However, even with the extensive testing, they can’t be 100 per cent sure that some bugs won’t occur. Apart from that, it is common that some plugins don’t work with the current WordPress version.

That said, in those cases, you might want to go back to using the previous WordPress version and wait for all those things to get sorted out. The same stands in case the plugin or theme doesn’t work.  Generally, it would be best if you worked with older versions only until issues are resolved. Then you should install the latest version again to be able to use the platform correctly.   Now, many of us find updating simply because it is either done automatically or we have to press a button. However, when it comes to downgrading, we get confused. But don’t worry; downgrading WordPress is also a reasonably straightforward process. In this text, we will explain to you how to do it, both manually and by using a plugin.  We will also talk about how to downgrade plugins and themes.

Before You Start

Before you decide to roll back WordPress,  you need to make sure that it is really necessary. That is important because often, you can resolve the problem more simply. For example, usually, you will have only a problem with a plugin. If a plugin is causing bugs, you can simply deactivate it and wait for an updated version. That will save you a lot of time and energy! However, if you are 100 per cent sure that the core code is causing the problem, then downgrade can be your best option. Also, it would be best if you kept in mind that it is essential to do a complete WordPress backup, so you don’t lose everything you have in the WordPress database. The good news is that there are plugins that can perfectly do this job for you.

Downgrading With the Plugin

The WP downgrade plugin can do the job by forcing the installation of a specific WordPress version. To get this plugin, you need to go to the WordPress admin panel, go to the plugins option, and click on “Add new”. Then you should search for WP downgrade, download, and activate it.  Move with the mouse to settings and click on the plugin. Click on the release that you want in the WordPress Target version field. When you finish, click on “Save changes’. You will be asked to “Update core” Click on it.

As you can see, this plug works like an ordinary WP installer, so it is pretty easy to use. Before you choose the downgraded version, you need to check which version you are using. You can easily find this information in your WordPress dashboard. Generally, it would help if you downgraded to the last version you used before installing the updates. All versions are available for you to see at the WordPress release archive. Don’t forget to do a complete backup before using this plugin.

Manual Downgrade

Some people feel more comfortable downgrading manually. It is also possible that the website is so messed up that you can’t even access the admin panel. If you are in any of those situations, we will explain how to do it without using the plugin.

Download WordPress 

People usually resort to this when they see no other option. For example, the website can be so messed up that you can’t even see your work, access any section of WordPress, etc.  In such cases, the best thing to do is download the version you used before installing the one that started acting up. Thankfully, there is an official archive where you can find everything you need, so you don’t have to waste time searching for the correct version. Bear in mind that you are opening the website to security flaws if you download a too old version.

Deactivate All Plugins

As we already mentioned, if plugins aren’t compatible with the WordPress version you are currently using, you won’t be able to use the website correctly. So, after downgrading the platform, you need to deactivate all plugins. You can do this simply by going to the plugin section on your website. However, don’t worry if you can’t access it. You will likely be able to complete the process without this. If a certain plugin causes some problems, you can deactivate it by renaming the plugin folder name using your cPanel file manager of FTP, usually located in wp-content/plugins. However, keep in mind that this is a temporary change.

Deleting Core Files and Updating New WordPress Copy

You tried everything in your power, but you still can’t access the site? Don’t worry about it; there is a solution! In this case, you will access the website using an FTP client. Once you do, you need to remove the WP admin and include the folder. Then you can upload the content of the version you just downloaded. But keep in mind to not upload WP content, because it will copy over the existing files, and everything will be messed up again.

Completing the Reinstallation

Assuming that everything went okay, you can now access and use the version of the WordPress you downloaded. When you start working with this WordPress copy, you will get a message to update the database. This should go smoothly. Now be prepared to rebuild permalinks. You will know that this is necessary if you start receiving 404 error messages on your posts. It is pretty simple to do it. You just need to go to settings and find permalinks. Once there, you will choose another permalinks option and click “save changes. Then you will go back, click Save again, and you will be good to go.

Disable Updates 

As we said, WordPress is updating automatically. But in case you need to downgrade, you don’t want this; otherwise, you will be again in a mess. It would help if you kept all automatic updates disabled until you know for sure that everything is compatible and that your website can work without any problems. Then you can update again, either manually or automatically.

Using WP Rollback to Downgrade Plugins and Themes

As we mentioned, every WordPress version is thoroughly tested before it is released. However, developers are more focused on testing core code than anything else. Hence, when upgrading to a new version, you are more likely to encounter some problems. Usually, this happens because the one question isn’t compatible with other plugins or themes. The problem can also occur if you update only the plugin but not the theme. That happens because many themes now come with embedded plugins. If you have to downgrade them, it is best to inform the developers to fix the bugs and improve that version.

If you need to roll back plugins, the best thing you can do is to use the WP rollback plugin. Again, this process is straightforward. Install it and search for the plugin you want to downgrade. Then find the version you wish to use and install it with a click. We will once again remind you to back up everything before proceeding with this action. Now, you may think that you can install just any older plugin version. That is not exactly true. The best is to roll back only to the one you were using before the update.

It is also necessary to disable all the automatic WordPress updates, same as you did when downgrading core code. That way, you can ensure that plugins and themes won’t update themselves before the problem gets resolved.

Rollback WP Plugin

Okay, you have installed the rollback plugin? What should you do now? You will see a Rollback link next to deactivate and edit when you go to the admin panel. If this link isn’t there, it means that you didn’t install the plugin, and you will need to downgrade manually. If the click is there, you need to click on it. Once you do that, you will be directed to a screen where you can choose the version you want to use. You will also get information on the version of the plugin you are using. When you select the option you want, you will see a confirmation message. After you confirm, you will be directed to the screen with the message informing you that the process is completed.

Theme Rollback 

The process is pretty similar to the one we just described.  Click on the Appearance and then the Themes button in your dashboard.  Then select the Theme details for the theme you want to downgrade. If the theme is available in the WordPress directory, you will see the option Rollback. When you click on it, you will see a window with all the themes you installed. You will have the option to choose which one you want. You will also see the confirmation screen, followed by an update screen.

Downgrade Themes and Plugins Manually

WordPress directory isn’t the only place where you can find themes and plugins. If you downloaded them elsewhere, you will need to do the downgrade manually. Here is how you can do it.

  • Make sure that everything is backed up before you do anything.
  • To ensure that everything is compatible, you need to download older core versions for themes and plugins. Generally, you can find them in the repository you downloaded them from.
  • First, log in with FTP and go to the WP content folder.  Depending on what you want to downgrade choose the plugin or theme folder and change its name. The best is to add the word temp next to the existing name.
  • Finally, install the previous versions of plugins and/or themes, and activate them. If everything is working properly, remove the temp folder from the admin panel.
  • This is something that should work if the plugin didn’t drastically change the database. If it, however, did, then you will probably need to restore it entirely. That is why it is essential to back up everything before you start this process.

Bottom Line

Let’s be honest.  The best thing you can do is always use the latest version of WordPress, with themes and plugins that are up-to-date. That way, you avoid any potential security threats. However, sometimes these changes cause issues that can disturb your work. There is no other choice but to downgrade and wait for the developers to fix the problems in those cases. If you need to downgrade, follow the WordPress tutorial to see how to do it. However, never forget to back up all the files. Are you using WordPress? Have you ever had to downgrade? What are your experiences?

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By Tiago Lavis-Fernandes

Tiago is a Portuguese freelance web designer living and working in Manchester for over ten years. Fascinated by WordPress and the Divi Builder, he helps clients achieve success through UX/UI website design and search engine optimisation. If you're looking for someone to help with your online marketing, look no further.

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