WordPress is an ever-evolving software with regularly released new features, security fixes, and maintenance updates. These core updates ensure the safety and efficiency of the WordPress system.
If you’re running a WordPress site, you must update the latest WordPress version to ensure you have the latest features, performance enhancements, and protections.
In this article, we’ll show you how to check your current WordPress version, discuss the latest WordPress version and its features, and guide you on how to update to the latest WordPress version.
Let’s get updating!
Why WordPress Rolls Out Regular Updates
Before we begin, we need to understand why WordPress has a regular update cycle. In short, you can expect to see updates for the following reasons:
- WordPress releases new features regularly. Whether it’s a less noticeable change like adding new oEmbed providers (WordPress 4.4) or a complete overhaul of the editor by adding Gutenberg (WordPress 5.0), these additions tend to make content creation and website building much more straightforward.
- WordPress updates often include security fixes. It’s an ongoing battle since hackers find vulnerabilities all the time. So it’s essential to update to get the latest protections from new types of attacks.
- Recent WordPress versions often provide “under the hood” performance improvements. You may not immediately notice these enhancements, but they make working on WordPress simpler and faster. In WordPress 2.0, the user experience for publishing blog posts took a considerable boost. In WordPress 4.2, they streamlined plugin updates with a simple one-click button instead of the previous, more tedious, process.
- Every WordPress version also eliminates past bugs. These happen with all software. It’s like fixing something on your car that’s been acting up and bringing it back to normal.
Now that you understand the reasons for WordPress updates, let’s explore the more recent WordPress versions, along with details on how to check and update your current WordPress version.
What’s the Latest WordPress Version Available?
The most recent major version of WordPress is WordPress 6.1, named “Misha“. WordPress 6.1 was released on November 1, 2022, after going through a number of beta phases starting in September 2022.
You can learn more about WordPress 6.1 in our full introduction to the new features in WordPress 6.1. Or, if you just want the highlights, you can also find a shorter summary of the new features below.
If you haven’t already upgraded to WordPress 6.1, you can download WordPress 6.1 from the official repository or directly through your WordPress admin dashboard.
The WordPress team is also hard at work on WordPress 6.2 – the first beta was released on February 7, 2023, and WordPress 6.2 is currently scheduled for release on March 28, 2023.
What’s New in WordPress 6.1?
WordPress 6.1 primarily focused on improving the Site Editor experience and functionality, along with general improvements to the Block Editor experience.
Beyond that, it also brought a new default theme (Twenty Twenty-Three) along with a number of smaller improvements and enhancements, including 60+ accessibility-focused tweaks and fixes for 25+ performance-focused tickets.
Let’s go through some of the biggest new features…
A New Default Theme – Twenty Twenty-Three
WordPress 6.1 included a brand new default WordPress theme – Twenty Twenty-Three.
As has been the case with the past few default themes like Twenty Twenty-Two and Twenty Twenty-One, Twenty Twenty-Three is designed to take advantage of the new functionality in the Site Editor.
It uses a minimalist approach out of the box, but you’re free to customize things to your liking using the many included style variations and block patterns.
If you want to learn more, you can read our full post on the Twenty Twenty-Three WordPress theme.
Site Editor Improvements
WordPress 6.1 made a number of changes to help you get more value from the Site Editor and more easily customize your theme.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- Create more types of templates regardless of your theme, including templates for categories, specific terms, and more.
- More easily use and replace template parts in your designs.
- 1-click button to clear customizations for a given template.
Block Editor Tweaks and Improvements
WordPress 6.1 also added a number of tweaks and improvements to the regular Block Editor.
Here are some highlights:
- More/better control over the borders for some blocks.
- A new dimensions section that lets you control margin and padding.
- Option to select your post’s featured image in the Cover block.
- List and Quote blocks now include inner blocks, which gives you more flexibility for controlling their layouts.
- Enhancements to the Query Loop block.
There’s also a new “creation patterns” feature that displays a selection of patterns when a user opens the editor (this feature has been available to WordPress.com users for quite some time). Users can choose a pattern as a starting point or close the modal to build the page from scratch.
Again, this is by no means the complete list. Check out our full WordPress 6.1 release guide to learn about all of the other new features and enhancements.
How To Check Your Site’s Current WordPress Version
There are four methods for checking the current WordPress version on your website. This way, you understand the features and limitations available to you as a WordPress user and can decide whether or not it’s time to upgrade to a newer WordPress version.
The four methods for checking the WordPress version include:
- Looking in the Admin area of WordPress.
- Going through the website’s frontend.
- Checking the
- Using WP-CLI.
For detailed information on these methods, check out our complete guide on checking your WordPress version. The linked article also provides valuable information on how to remove version information from your WordPress website.
How To Upgrade to the Latest WordPress Version
It’s always a good idea to promptly upgrade your WordPress site to the latest version to keep your site functioning and secure, especially if the release involves security or maintenance fixes.
Security and maintenance releases are releases with 2 dots in their version numbers – e.g. 6.1.1 or 5.9.3.
For major feature releases, you can wait a few weeks to apply the update since these releases aren’t focused on security or maintenance fixes. This gives you time to prepare for any new features in the release.
Major feature releases are releases that only have 1 dot in their version numbers – e.g. 6.1 or 5.9.
WordPress introduced automatic core updates a few years ago. As such, you might not need to manually apply new core updates.
Nowadays, the default configuration on most WordPress sites is to apply minor security and maintenance releases automatically. Some sites also automatically apply major updates, but this usually isn’t enabled by default.
For instance, you may receive an email stating that your website has been updated. In that situation, there’s no need to complete any other tasks. Simply delete the email, or save it for your reference, and continue with your day.
To check which WordPress version your site is using, you can go to Dashboard → Updates. Then, look for the Current version text.
If your site isn’t using the current version, you’ll also see a prompt to upgrade. Upgrading is generally as simple as clicking that button – but don’t click it quite yet because we want to discuss a few things first.
It’s worth noting that you’ll also see upgrade prompts around the rest of your WordPress dashboard, as well. Basically, it’s pretty hard to miss if your site is running an out-of-date version of WordPress.
Important Housekeeping Steps Before Updating Your WordPress Version
As we mentioned above, there are a few housekeeping details that you’ll want to consider before you hit that big Update to version X.X button in the Dashboard → Updates area.
While it’s rare to encounter issues upgrading WordPress, it’s always good to approach things with an abundance of caution, especially for mission-critical websites.
First, you should always back up your WordPress site before performing any updates. We recommend creating a backup right before updating, even if you already have automatic backups enabled for your site.
Kinsta offers manual and automated site backup tools. Learn all about backing up your WordPress website, even if you’re not using Kinsta for hosting.
We also have other helpful articles for restoring your site from a backup and finding the best WordPress backup plugins.
Second, if possible, you should always apply the update on a staging version of your site before applying it to your live site. All Kinsta users have access to Kinsta’s one-click staging tool. If you’re hosting your site elsewhere, here are other ways to set up a staging site.
Finally, it’s important to note that applying a WordPress update will switch your site to maintenance mode. Usually, your site will only be in maintenance mode for a few seconds, so most visitors won’t even notice.
However, we still recommend applying the update at a low-traffic period if possible to further ensure that your visitors won’t be impacted.
How To Upgrade WordPress Version
Once you’ve accounted for the housekeeping steps above, you’re ready to upgrade your WordPress version.
Go to Dashboard → Updates in your WordPress dashboard and click the button to Update to version X.X.
You’ll now have a short wait while WordPress downloads and applies the update – usually, it’s only a few seconds. While it’s happening, you’ll see a status screen letting you know what’s going on.
Once the update is complete, you should be automatically redirected to the about page for that release, which gives you some information about the new features and enhancements that you now have access to.
You’re all done! There’s no need to do anything further and your site should be working properly now.
If you ever want to bring up this page in the future, you can manually access it by going to youractualdomain.com/wp-admin/about.php.
Upgrade Your WordPress Version With FTP
Although it makes the most sense to get automated updates or click the links provided inside the dashboard, there’s one other method to update WordPress. You may consider using this method if you have trouble with the more straightforward dashboard Upgrade button, or if you’ve lost access to your dashboard for some reason.
It involves FTP (file transfer protocol), where you download the most recent WordPress version to your computer. You then replace your site’s old files with new ones through an FTP client.
For more on this, you can learn all about FTP, including how to manage and upload files to your WordPress site via FTP.
When using an FTP client to update WordPress, begin by going to the WordPress.org Download page. Scroll down to the Download WordPress button. It should have the version numbers on the button as well.
Clicking this downloads a zip file to your computer.
Now, you need to extract the folder:
- On Windows, you can right-click on the file and choose Extract All. Then, you can open the folder.
- On macOS, you can just double-click on the file and macOS will automatically extract the file and open the folder for you.
Here’s what it looks like on macOS – you can see the original zip file and the unzipped folder.
Inside the unzipped WordPress folder, you should see a bunch of files and three folders – wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes.
To be safe, you can delete the wp-content folder. This is the folder that contains all of your themes and plugins, so you’ll want to avoid accidentally overwriting anything related to this folder.
The wp-content folder doesn’t contain any new files related to the WordPress update, so there’s no need to upload it via FTP. It just contains the default themes and default plugins like Helly Dolly, which you don’t need to upload to update WordPress via FTP.
Once you’ve deleted the wp-content folder, the WordPress folder should look like this…
Next up, it’s time to open your FTP client and connect it to your WordPress website. Here’s a list of recommended FTP clients if you decide to go this route.
You need to connect to your site’s root folder using your Host, Username, Password, and Port, all of which you can find in the Kinsta dashboard—or the dashboard from any other host.
After connecting to your site, find the root folder for your website in the left column. The root folder is usually called public. Sometimes it’s named after your website.
Regardless, opening the root folder shows folders like
wp-content. It should look almost identical to what you see in the computer files column. The main difference is that the computer files column has the newest updates.
Select all files within the new update folder. Right-click that selection and click the Upload button.
Your FTP client attempts to upload all files from the computer to your remote website server. The process replaces the old files, so you should select Overwrite and Always use this action before clicking OK.
The FTP client eventually provides a success message if it uploaded all the files.
There’s a good chance this ends the process. However, you may have to update your database as well. Therefore, close out the FTP client and go to your WordPress admin area in the dashboard.
Click the Update WordPress Database button if you see the following message on your dashboard.
If no database message appears, you’re all done! We typically only see a database update requirement if the new WordPress version itself needs you to upgrade the database.
You can also learn how to update the PHP version of your site. The PHP version is separate from the WordPress version update, but it’s often a good idea to improve your speed and security in WordPress.
Tips for After the WordPress Version Update
It may seem like after updating WordPress, you can go back to business as usual. That’s typically the case, but it’s still wise to keep an eye out for malfunctions within your website.
You have entirely swapped out your WordPress core files for new ones, so it’s possible a plugin or theme conflicts with the latest update. Or you might find that there’s a noticeable bug that you should report to WordPress.
We suggest clearing your cache and going to your WordPress site’s frontend in a new browser window. Make sure everything looks up to speed. You can also complete this simple test on the backend, ensuring nothing looks strange or broken.
How Many New WordPress Releases Come Out Every Year?
On average, WordPress usually releases around 3 major versions per year. However, this number is not set in stone and there have been years with more or fewer major releases.
Each major WordPress release has a defined release cycle with 5 stages, along with a dedicated team in charge of that release:
- Phase 1: Planning and assigning team leads – the release lead discusses features and identifies team leads for those features. This usually happens in the #core Slack channel.
- Phase 2: Development work – the team leads and contributors work on developing their assigned features.
- Phase 3: Beta – multiple beta versions are released to detect bugs and issues. No new features are added at this point.
- Phase 4: Release candidate – this is pretty much the final version of the release. Everything is frozen while users continue to look for bugs and issues.
- Phase 5: Launch – the version is officially launched and you can upgrade from your WordPress dashboard or by downloading the software.
In general, this full 5-phase release cycle lasts around 4 months, which is why you can usually expect around 3 major WordPress releases every year.
However, the situation and scope of each release are different, so this release cycle can take shorter or longer for certain releases. That’s why there’s not always a set number of WordPress releases per year.
For example, WordPress 5.0 in 2018 was one of the biggest releases in a long time because it introduced the Block Editor (AKA Gutenberg). In 2018, WordPress 5.0 was the only major release for the entire year because it required so much focus.
In fact, there were over 12 months between WordPress 4.9, released on November 15, 2017, and WordPress 5.0, released on December 6, 2018.
Some WordPress contributors have suggested having shorter, time-based release cycles instead of the current approach, such as aiming for a new release every month or 2 months. However, this approach has not received much traction and WordPress still uses the 5-phase release cycle outlined above rather than a fixed time-based release cycle.
All Current WordPress Version Updates from the Previous Year
WordPress 6.1 came out on November 1, 2022, and it was the final major release of the year (though the WordPress 6.1.1 minor update was released 2 weeks later on November 15).
In total, 2022 saw 3 major WordPress releases, along with ~7 “unique” minor release fixes to those major releases. Here are the major releases from 2022:
- WordPress 5.9 “Joséphine” – January 25, 2022
- WordPress 6.0 “Arturo” – May 24, 2022
- WordPress 6.1 “Misha” – November 1, 2022
The actual number of releases was higher than that because WordPress also adds minor releases to older WordPress versions as part of its commitment to backward compatibility.
For example, WordPress 3.7, originally released all the way back in October 2013, was still receiving minor release fixes up until December 1, 2022. The most recent release is WordPress 3.7.41 in November 2022.
Here are some details on the 3 most recent updates, including major and minor releases…
WordPress 6.1.1 Update – November 15, 2022
WordPress 6.1.1 was a maintenance release for WordPress 6.1 that was released around 2 weeks after the original major release.
It fixed a number of bugs in the release, including 29 bug fixes in the core software and 21 bug fixes in the Block Editor.
WordPress 6.1 Update – November 1, 2022
WordPress 6.1 was the last major release of 2022. We already detailed some of the biggest changes in this release earlier in this post.
WordPress 6.03 Update – October 17, 2022
WordPress 6.0.3 was a security release that was the third minor release for WordPress 6.0. It included a number of different fixes for a variety of potential issues including XSS vulnerabilities, open redirects, exposed email addresses, and media.
These security fixes were also released for all previous versions of WordPress that still receive support, which at that time was WordPress 3.7 or later.
Other Recent WordPress Versions
Here’s a partial list of some of the many WordPress updates from 2022, including their release dates:
- 6.1.1 – November 15, 2022
- 6.1 – November 1, 2022
- 6.0.3 – October 17, 2022
- 6.0.2 – August 30, 2022
- 6.0.1 – July 12, 2022
- 6.0 – May 24, 2022
- 5.9.5 – October 17, 2022
- 5.9.4 – August 30, 2022
- 5.9.3 – April 5, 2022
- 5.9.2 – March 11, 2022
- 5.9.1 – February 22, 2022
- 5.9 – January 25, 2022
- 5.8.6 – October 17, 2022
- 5.8.5 – August 30, 2022
- 5.8.4 – March 11, 2022
- 5.8.3 – January 6, 2022
The list goes back to WordPress 3.7 (launched in 2013), which saw its 41st update in November 2022. However, as of December 1, 2022, versions including 4.0 and older will no longer receive security updates. That means only versions 4.1 and later will receive new security fixes in 2023.
Some of the other most recent major WordPress updates include the following:
- WordPress 5.8 “Art Tatum” – July 20, 2021
- WordPress 5.7 “Esperanza Spalding” – March 9, 2021
- WordPress 5.6 “Nina Simone” – December 8, 2020
- WordPress 5.5 “Billy Eckstine” – August 11, 2020
- WordPress 5.4 “Nat Adderley” – March 31, 2020
- WordPress 5.3 “Rahsaan Roland Kirk” – November 12, 2019
- WordPress 5.2 “Jaco Pastorius” – May 7, 2019
- WordPress 5.1 “Betty Carter” – February 21, 2019
- WordPress 5.0 “Bebo Valdés” – December 6, 2018
- WordPress 4.9 “Billy Tipton” – November 15, 2017
Updating to the latest WordPress version is critical. It ensures that your WordPress site is in tip-top shape at all times. Not to mention, it brings with it many security and performance enhancements.
WordPress now offers automatic updates too. You can take advantage of that to update all your WordPress sites to the latest version automatically. If you’re managing a lot of sites, this feature is super handy.
Finally, you can keep up to date with the upcoming WordPress releases by going to the official Releases Category Archive page, which lists all the details for every WordPress version, including minor maintenance updates and major releases.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about finding your current WordPress version and upgrading to the latest WordPress version.
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