Disable Auto Updates in WordPress

How to Safely Disable Automatic Updates in WordPress

Need to disable automatic updates in WordPress? If you’ve ever used Windows 10, you’re probably familiar with how frustrating automatic updates can sometimes be.

And while I don’t think WordPress’ automatic updates are quite that bad, there are definitely some situations in which you might prefer to go at things manually.

To that end, I’ll spend this post showing you two different methods that you can use to turn off WordPress’ automatic update feature. I’ll show you first how to manually turn them off, and then I’ll give you a plugin that you can use if you don’t want to dig into your WordPress site’s code.

Why Would You Want to Disable Automatic Updates?

Before I give you the methods, I want to stress that WordPress updates are incredibly important. There’s never a good reason to completely stop updating your site. But there may be a good reason to stop with the automatic updates…

With automatic updates, you might not be around when your site updates its files. So, if something breaks, that can be a real disaster if you’re not able to quickly roll back the changes and figure out what’s going wrong.

Because WordPress usually only relies on automatic software updates for minor security issues, there isn’t a huge chance of this happening. But there is a chance. There’s no denying that.

So, as long as you’re able to quickly handle updates by yourself, you can go ahead and disable automatic updates to lower the chance of this happening to zero.

Here’s how you can do it…

How to Disable Core Automatic Updates Using wp-config.php

Your wp-config.php file safely stores a number of important configuration settings (that’s why it’s called “config”!). If you want to disable automatic updates, you can use wp-config.php to give WordPress your instructions. Through wp-config.php, you can disable:

  • All automatic updates
  • Only major automatic updates

I’ll show you how to do both of those things in a second. But before we get to that, I need to quickly tell you how to actually edit your wp-config.php file.

To edit it, you can either download it via an FTP program, edit it on your computer, and re-upload the file. Or, you can use cPanel’s File Manager to edit the file directly on your service. No matter which method you use, make sure to backup your wp-config.php file before making any changes to it.

To edit your wp-config.php file via File Manager, log in to your host’s cpanel and find the File Manager option:

Where to find wp-config.php

Then, choose your site’s directory:

Choose directory

Then click on wp-config.php and hit the Edit button:

How to disable automatic updates in WordPress

Then, you’re ready to add a short code snippet to disable automatic updates according to your preferences.

To completely disable WordPress core updates, all you need to do is add the following line to wp-config.php:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );

If, on the other hand, you only want to disable major and development updates, you should use this code:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', minor );

With the code above, WordPress will automatically update the core software for minor security updates and bug fixes, but it won’t automatically update to any major release.

This is a good middle ground where you will get the fixes that protect your site but probably won’t run into any scenarios where something important breaks as a result of the update.

How to Disable Theme or Plugin Automatic Updates Using functions.php

WordPress doesn’t automatically update themes or plugins very often. Usually, the only time they force push a theme or plugin update is when there’s a major security vulnerability.

So, you definitely want to be careful when disabling automatic theme and plugin updates.

But if you still want to go ahead, you can disable them by adding a filter to your functions.php file. You could also use a custom plugin if that’s your preference. The important thing is – don’t put any of this code in your wp-config.php file. It can cause issues if you use wp-config.php for these snippets.

To disable all automatic theme updates, add the following filter:

add_filter( 'auto_update_theme', '__return_false' );

And to disable all automatic plugin updates, you can go with the following filter:

add_filter( 'auto_update_plugin', '__return_false' );

You can also get more detailed with these filters. For example, instead of disabling all updates, you can choose to only disable automatic updates for certain plugins or themes that you have installed. This method is explained well in the official WordPress.org Codex.

How to Disable Automatic Updates Using a Free WordPress Plugin

Did all that talk of wp-config.php and filters make your mind spin? If so, you can accomplish much the same end result using a free WordPress plugin called Easy Updates Manager. One nice thing about the plugin is that it works with both normal WordPress installs and WordPress Multisite installs.

The plugin functions by pretty much doing all of the manual stuff I outlined above for you. It’s not some advanced technique. Personally, I’d rather just do it manually because it means one less chance for something to break.

But if the code methods scare you, this plugin is a perfectly acceptable, regularly updated option for you to achieve the same end result.

To get started, install and activate the plugin. It’s free and listed at WordPress.org, so you can install it directly from your WordPress dashboard:

Easy updates manager

Then head to Dashboard → Updates Options to configure how the plugin functions.

Easy Updates Manager gives you a single dashboard where you can easily turn all types of updates on or off:

Dashboard in Easy Updates Manager

I’ll go through the dashboard so you know what everything does.

The first column, WordPress Updates, isn’t actually dealing with automatic updates. Instead, if you turn these options off, it turns off manual updates as well. For example, if you turn off Plugin updates, you won’t be able to manually update your plugins from the Plugins tab anymore. You can exclude certain users from the restrictions in the Advanced tab.

To disable automatic updates, you want the Automatic Updates column. Here, you can enable or disable the various levels of core software updates as well as decide whether or not to automatically update themes and plugins:

Disable or Enable Various Core Software Updates

Below, you’ll also have a Plugin and Theme Automatic Updates column where you can enable or disable automatic updates for individual themes and plugins:

Enable or Disable Themes and Plugins Updates

Disabling Automatic Updates Is Serious Business

Disabling automatic updates is something that you should not do idly. If you disable automatic updates, you’re committing yourself to always handling updates manually.

Running out of date WordPress software is a huge security hole and something that you should never do.

Every year, thousands of out of date WordPress sites get hacked unnecessarily. Don’t let that happen to your site. You need to be extra vigilant about updating your site if you disable automatic updates.

But as long as you stay on top of your updates manually, disabling automatic updates on your WordPress site is a good way to ensure that you’re always in control of your site and nothing breaks as the result of an unexpected change.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means Nimbus Themes may receive compensation if you make a purchase using these links.

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About the Author

Colin Newcomer is a freelance blogger for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics.

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