Understanding WordPress 3.7 Automatic Updates

By 26th October 2013 February 1st, 2021 WordPress News and Updates

WordPressThere seems to be a bit of confusion about what automatic updates means with WordPress 3.7 and does this make a service like iControlWP redundant?

This article will clear up any misunderstandings about the new automatic updates and how it works with WordPress management services like iControlWP

What is the WordPress Automatic Updates feature?

Before talking around this subject, better to understand what it is.

Simply put, the WordPress automatic updates system will automatically update your WordPress core (not plugins; not themes) for all minor releases.

What is a minor upgrade?

  • 3.7 → 3.7.1 is a minor upgrade
  • 3.7.1 → 3.7.2 is a minor upgrade.
  • 3.7 → 3.8 is a major upgrade.

Now if you’re a minimalist, you can stop reading.  That is the WordPress auto-upgrade system in a nutshell.

If your website is has no custom configuration (pertaining to automatic updates) through plugins or your wp-config.php, then that is the way your automatic updates will work for your WordPress site.

No more. No less.

Is it possible to enable automatic updates of major WordPress releases?

Yes, and the simplest way is to configure this using your wp-config.php.

Put the following line anywhere in your wp-config.php (ideally close to the ‘WP_DEBUG’ line):

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );

What about automatic updates of plugins and themes?

The WordPress developers in this regard are a cautious bunch, and rightly so.

Plugins and Themes will not be automatically updated on your sites.

This setting needs to be set explicitly on your site before it’ll happen, though it’s not really something we would recommend in general practice.

Is it possible to disable automatic upgrades of WordPress?


But why would you want to?

The thing is that automatic minor upgrades of WordPress are a good thing. This feature will, in-time, reduce the security vulnerability surface area of the whole WordPress platform.

Many people seem to ignore upgrades. Granted, doing so for compatibility reasons has certain merit, but for many this isn’t the case.

Our advice: leave the WordPress automatic upgrades in-place where you can and select the options to tweak your automatic upgrades of certain plugins.

How can you customize the WordPress automatic upgrades system?

There is no native WordPress interface to customizing automatic updates.

I can see why there isn’t – simply because the developers want to effectively force automatic minor upgrades for the uninitiated.

But what if you want to customize this, or even turn it off completely, you have 2 options:

  1. use the Shield Security plugin to help you manage automatic updates
  2. manually customize your WordPress sites using guidelines outlined here

How does this compete or impact a service like iControlWP?

Basically, not at all.

iControlWP is a system for website administrators to help get control of their WordPress network. Automatic WordPress upgrades for minor releases removes the necessity for iControlWP in this scenario.

That’s a good thing!  Our service exists to make your lives easier and if a new feature is released that does this, it’s one less thing for our clients to have to worry about.

We think it’s a great step forward.

Now we want to help take advantage of the settings available to allow for automatic upgrades of our plugins.

Watch this space.

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