Upgrading your website’s theme to the latest version is highly recommended, not only because it ensures you have all the latest features, but you’ll also be up-to-date with any security patches.

Back Up Your Theme Files

First thing’s first – before we get started you need to back up your database and your current theme. Since we’re replacing and updating theme files, there’s a chance something could go wrong so it’s best to play it safe and have a backup.

Use whatever method you feel most comfortable with. You may want to simply copy your entire WordPress directory to your computer using FTP and backup your database with a plugin.

Uploading and Replacing an Existing Theme

Most theme providers require that you manually upload a new version of a theme and replace an older version in order to upgrade it.

However, if you go to Appearance > Themes > Add New and try to upload a new version of a theme that is already in your site’s themes directory, it will fail and you’ll get an error message telling you the destination folder already exists.

Replacing Twenty Fourteen
Avoid this error by renaming the old version of your theme.

 

The reason for this error is due to the fact you can’t have two folders in your themes directory with identical names (obviously!).

There are a couple of simple solutions:

  1. Login to your site via FTP or cPanel and delete the old theme and then upload the new version. Make sure you make a backup of the old version of your theme just in case something goes wrong.
  2. If deleting your old theme makes you nervous, another option is to rename the old version of the theme. This will allow you to successfully upload the new version of the theme.
    • Login to your site via FTP or cPanel and navigate to wp-content/themes/ and find your old theme.
    • Rename your old theme something like “theme-old” (replacing “theme” with the name of your theme).
    • Upload your new theme.

The old and new versions of the theme will both appear in the themes interface, but you will be able to distinguish them by their folder names and version numbers.