How to update your wordpress theme manually via FTP

Updating a theme is not easy for many because too often it requires you to use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program to do it. Usually the first reaction is “Where is the update button?” when someone wants to update their theme.

Hopefully the following information will help you feel a bit more at ease by showing you how this is done and of course, the different methods that are currently available to you…at least with Styled Themes.

Methods of Updating a Theme

The first method is probably the easiest because it relates to how you can update a theme that you install from the WordPress theme repository. Generally, if you install one of the free themes from, you get a bonus because not only do you get a notice that there is a theme update, you can update the theme by clicking on the “Update” button.

The second method is not as user-friendly as one might hope because now we are getting into something a bit more scary because we now need an FTP program and we also need to manually upload theme files.

What is an FTP?

An FTP is a fancy acronym for “File Transfer Protocol” which is basically a program that you use to move files, either by uploading or downloading files from your computer to your website and vice versa. Your web host provider will have a File Manager which is a type of FTP feature that comes with your account. Only problem with these is that they usually only allow uploading of files and not folders, whereas an FTP program does let you upload folders.

Where Do I get an FTP Program?

There are many choices both free and paid (commercial), so the choice is yours. The most common one that people use is called FileZilla… I generally recommend this one if you want one that is free.

Getting Your Theme Update

First thing you will need to do is log into the Styled Themes website and download the latest theme to your computer’s desktop. Unzip the file package to the same location and then inside you will find another zip file which is your actual theme. For example, if you have Preferential as your theme, you will see the zip file named as located there. Unzip that to your desktop which should give you a folder named “preferential”. You will know this is the theme because if you look inside, you will see a file named style.css and another screenshot.png, among other files and folders.

Back-up Your Theme

Before we continue here, ALWAYS, and I do mean ALWAYS, back-up your theme by downloading it to your computer and put it somewhere safe. If anything goes wrong with the theme update, you can feel safe knowing that your previous version can be restored before the update.

If you have a back-up plugin or service, you can also use that instead. The key factor here is that you create a back-up first before updating the theme. In fact, you should get into the habit of doing this for any updates you do, theme, plugin, and especially WordPress.

Time to Update Your Theme

  1. Open your FTP program and log into where your themes are located for your website. These will be found in this location: /wp-content/themes/
    You will know you are in the right place if you kept the default WordPress themes installed, such as Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Thirteen, etc. You should also see the theme you are using from me. For example, if you are using Preferential, you will see the folder “preferential” there.
  2. Now it’s time to upload the “preferential” theme folder from your desktop (or wherever you unzipped it to) and replace (overwrite) the existing “preferential” theme folder. Remember, you will know if you have the right folder because inside is the style.css file along with the other files and folders for the theme.
  3. Overwrite the folder and once done, log into your site’s dashboard and go to Themes and click on the “Details” button to see if it now displays the latest version.

If all went well, you will want to check your website’s front-end to see if everything looks normal, as in nothing out of place, things are still working, basically everything looks as it did before the update.

Final Words

Updating is not always required, but is recommended because from time to time, bug fixes or even new features get added to the theme. One thing you should do is to read the Changelog.txt file that comes with the theme package or theme and to see what changes were done. A Changelog is basically a reference to what things were changed with each version and acts like a sort of archive of such changes with each update.