Revert WordPress to Previous Version Quickly – Complete Guide

Jul 23, 2020

Revert WordPress to Previous Version Quickly – Complete Guide

Jul 23, 2020

Did you know why updating the core caused your website to break?

You had built your website around the core available at the time. The themes and plugins you chose were compatible at the time. 

But as soon as you upgrade your core, those same plugins and themes become incompatible.

This is common. 

A software developer ensures that their software is compatible and ready for the update. However, plugins and themes are often plagued with bugs which leads to incompatibility issues. 

It causes the website to break and visitors are served what we call a white screen of death.

Trying to find which plugin or theme caused the site to break and fixing it or even finding an alternative could take days. 

You don’t want to serve a non-functioning website to your visitors right?

Solution: If you have a backup you can quickly restore a version one that has all your latest versions. But if you don’t have a backup, then you need to downgrade the core to the previous version.

This will ensure your visitors see a functioning website while you troubleshoot the issue. 

That said, downgrading WordPress is risky. It has the potential to cause further damage like breaking your login page and preventing you from accessing it! 

But don’t worry, in this guide, we’ll show you a safe way of reverting back to the previous version of WordPress.

How to Downgrade WordPress to Previous Version

There are two ways of doing this –

  1. Using a plugin
  2. Doing it manually

Using a plugin is a much easier method.

We recommend using a plugin simply because the manual process is full of risks. It is prone to error. You could end up damaging your website even more. 

But manual methods are necessary when you can’t access your website.

It’s a catch-22 situation really.

But don’t worry, where there’s will there’s a way 👊

To reduce the likelihood of an error, we’ll carry out the manual method on a staging site. It is a replica of your live site. If the manual method works on the staging site with an issue, then it should work on the live site too.

Let’s dig right in – 

1. Reverting WordPress With a Plugin

You can use a plugin to revert the core only if you can access the login page. 

When a website breaks, the login page can become blank. If you can access the login page, go ahead with the steps below. If you can’t then, you will have to use the manual method. 

The following section tells you the steps you need to take to revert the core with a plugin. And what the steps are going to help you achieve. 

Step 1: Install WP Downgrade

  • Create a Staging Site: It is a duplicate of your live site. You’ll carry out the downgrade on this site first and then on your live site. 
  • Installing WP Downgrade on Staging Site: WP Downgrade plugin will help you downgrade or revert the core. 
  • Create a Staging Site: It is a duplicate of your live site. You’ll carry out the downgrade on this site first and then on your live site. 
  • Installing WP Downgrade on Staging Site: WP Downgrade plugin will help you downgrade or revert the core. 

Step 2: Check Your Staging Site For Issues

  • You’ll check if the new plugin has caused further issues on your website. For instance, did it break pages or posts that were not broken before. 

Step 3: Reverting Back WordPress Core 

  • Figure Out Which Version You Want to Revert To: You’ll learn which version of the core was your website using before you updated it and broke the site. 
  • Reverting the WordPress Core With WP Downgrade: You’ll learn how to use the plugin WP Downgrade to revert the core. 

Here’s we go –

Step 1: Install WP Downgrade

Although you can access your login page now, who knows what will happen when you install a new plugin!

If it’s incompatible, it can cause more damage to your site. It can cause your dashboard to break making it inaccessible. 

But if you install the plugin on a staging site (which is a replica of your live site), then you can check how it reacts with your website.

In fact, we are going to carry out the whole process of installing and reverting the core back to a previous version on the staging site and then do it on the live site.

Let’s go – 

Create a Staging Site

i. To create a staging site, download BlogVault and install it on your site. 

ii. From the left hand menu on your dashboard select BlogVault. 

iii. In the next page, enter your email address, select Staging from the drop-down , click on Get Started.

blogvault staging get started

iv. BlogVault will start taking a backup of your site. When the backup is ready, go to the BlogVault dashboard and navigate to the section – Staging and select Add Staging.

blogvault add staging

v. Once the staging site is ready, BlogVault will give you a username and password

The staging site is password protected and you’ll need it to access your site. Make note of it, you’ll need it in the next step. 

vi. Now click on Visit Staging Site. Next, enter the username and password.

blogvault staging http authentication

vi. Then add /wp-admin/ at the end of your staging URL to access the site login page. It will look like this – https://examplesite.d.wpstage.net/wp-admin/

vi. Download and install WP Downgrade on your staging site.  

Step 2: Check Your Staging Site For Issues

If the plugin is incompatible to your site, it’ll cause further issues on your website. For instance, did it break pages or posts that were not broken before.

You need to check your login page. See if you can access all the elements on your WordPress dashboard properly. If your homepage wasn’t broken before, then you need to check that. In fact, whatever page or posts were not broken before, you need to check all of them.

All good?

Then let’s move on to the next step. 

Step 3: Reverting Back WordPress Core

Do you remember the previous version of the core?

To be on the safe side, we suggest revert back to the version that you previously had. 

If you don’t remember the version, then go to Wayback Machine. It offers an archive of your old web pages.

Figure Out Which Version You Want to Revert to

i. Open Wayback Machine and insert your URL.

ii. Select a snapshot from before your website was updated.

wayback machine date

iii. Right-click on the page and select View Page Source like so:

view page sources browser

iv. On the next page, do a Control + F and look for WordPress. You should be able to find the version. 

view page sources wordpress version

Reverting the WordPress Core With WP Downgrade

i. From the left-hand menu on the staging dashboard, go to Settings > WP Downgrade. 

ii. Enter the old WordPress version and then Save Changes.

wp downgrade

That’s it. Your site will be reverted back to the previous version.

Now, your website will be back to how it was before the core update broke it.  Do check your website thoroughly to ensure it’s back to normal. Check all the important pages on your site including the homepage, login page, about and contact pages, product pages, blogs, and forums.

2. Revert WordPress to Previous version Manually

If you don’t have access to your WordPress dashboard, you have to use the manual method. 

But as we said earlier, the manual method is risk prone. It involves going to the backend of your site and fiddling with your WordPress files and folders. 

Don’t worry. We have a solution: revert the core manually on a staging site which is an exact replica of your live site. 

Once you have carried out the manual process on your staging site without any issue, you can merge the staging site with the live sites. That way, you don’t have to worry about replicating the process on the live site.

The following section tells you the steps you need to take to revert the core manually. And what the steps are going to help you achieve. 

Step 1: Download the Previous WordPress Version

  • Figure Out Which Version You Want to Revert To: You’ll learn which version of the core was your website using before you updated it and broke the site.
  • Create a Staging Site: It is a duplicate of your live site. You’ll revert the core on this staging site. 

Step 2: Delete Old WordPress Files

  • You’ll learn how to access your WordPress files on your staging site and delete them.

Step 3: Upload New WordPress Files 

  • You’ll learn how to upload the previous WordPress version to your staging site. And then check the site thoroughly to see if it’s working properly. 

Step 4: Merge Staging Site With Live Site

  • You’ll learn to merge the staging site that you just reverted with the live site. 

Here’s we go –

Step 1: Download the Previous WordPress Version

i. If you don’t know which previous version you were using, then use the Wayback Machine to find that out. We listed down the steps in the above section. 

ii. Then go to WordPress Release and download the zip folder of the previous WordPress version.

wordpress old version download

Now, we have mentioned quite a few times that manual methods are risky. So we will not carry out the manual method on the live site but on a staging site which is a replica of your live site. At the end, you merge your downgraded staging site with the live site. 

Create a Staging Site

i. To create a staging site, download BlogVault and install it on your site. 

ii. From the left hand menu on your dashboard select BlogVault. 

iii. In the next page, enter your email address, select Staging from the drop-down , click on Get Started.

blogvault staging get started

iv. BlogVault will start taking a backup of your site. When the backup is ready, go to the BlogVault dashboard and navigate to the section – Staging and select Add Staging.

blogvault add staging

v. Once the staging site is ready, open it by clicking on the Visit Staging Site button. Make a note of the URL which will look something like this https://examplesite.d.wpstage.net/. You’ll need the URL later.

visiting staging site

Let’s move to the next section.

Step 2: Delete Old WordPress Files

A WordPress website is made up of WordPress files and folders. 

You need to delete your old files and folders from the Staging Site and replace them with the new one that you just downloaded in step 1.

Follow the steps below – 

i. Download and install Filezilla on your computer. It will help you access your WordPress files right from your desktop.

ii. Now, open Filezilla and connect it with your staging site. 

The credentials you need to make this connection can be found on the BlogVault dashboard. Open BlogVault, go to Staging and click on the arrow as shown in the image below. 

blogvault staging

iii. In the next page, you will find SFTP details

blogvault's sftp page

iv. Use them to connect the staging site to Filezilla

filezilla quick connect

iv. On Filezilla, there are 4 panels.

When the connection is established, on the top right panel, you will find a folder called public_html. This is where all your WordPress files are stored. When you select it, the contents of the folder will appear in the bottom right panel. 

From the bottom right panel select wp-admin and wp-includes, right-click and select Delete.

filezilla delete folder

Step 3: Upload New WordPress Files

i. The version you downloaded in step 1 is present on your computer in a zipped folder. Unzip it by double clicking on it. 

ii. Now place the folder on your desktop so that you can access it from Filezilla.

The folder should appear on the top left panel of Filezilla. And contents of the folder will appear on the bottom left panel. 

wordpress public_html contents

iii. You need to upload these files to the public_html folder.

  • First click on the public_html folder.
  • Then select all the files from the WordPress folder on your desktop, EXCEPT wp-content.
  • Next, right click and select Upload

upload folder in filezilla

  • When you are asked if you want to overwrite files, select Overwrite then Ok.
  • The files will be uploaded to the public_html folder.

When the uploading process is complete, you will see a message on the top of Filezilla saying – 

Directory listing of “/public_html” successful. 

Disconnected from the server. 

filezilla file transfer

Step 4: Post Upload Measures

Upload done…now, let’s open the staging site.

Remember the staging site URL that you made a note of in step 1?

Open that. (It’ll look something like this https://examplesite.d.wpstage.net/)

Don’t be alarmed to see a message saying Database Update Required.

Just click on Update WordPress Database, wait for a few minutes and your site will appear. 

database update required

Now that you have downgraded the core to the previous version, the site should work fine. 

Check your website thoroughly. Review the homepage, about and contact pages, login page, product pages, blogs, forums, etc.

All good? Now, let’s replicate the process on your live site. 

Step 4: Merge Staging Site With Live Site

You don’t need to replicate the entire process on your live site. You can just merge the staging site with the live site. But BE CAREFUL, if you have made any changes on your live site since you created the staging site, those changes will be lost.

Just open your BlogVault dashboard and then select Merge from the Staging section.

blogvault staging merge

And that’s it folk. That’s how you revert WordPress to it’s previous version. 

What Next?

Downgrading is a temporary solution. Remember to troubleshoot your website to figure out why it was crashing with the latest core version.

The most common reason is compatibility issues with plugins.

You need to find out which plugin is causing incompatibility issues with the core. In this guide, you’ll find the steps you need to take to find that – WordPress Plugin Problems: How to Identify & Troubleshoot.

If plugins are not the offender, then it could be a theme or malware infection.

You can seek help from the WordPress community by posting about it on the WordPress Support forum or hire a developer to help you out.

Final Thoughts

It’s not a good idea to run your website on an outdated core. It’s in your best interest to always keep your core updated to avoid security issues cropping up on your site. 

The right way to update the core (even your plugins and themes) is to do it on a staging site. If the update goes well you can replicate them on your live site. If not, then you can troubleshoot and fix the issue without affecting your live site. 

Check out our guide on How to Safely Update a WordPress Site.

Revert WordPress to Previous Version Quickly
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