Downgrade WordPress to Earlier Version

WordPress is the most popular blogging software offered by many web hosting service providers for free, such as Bluehost WordPress hosting, also known as the best WordPress hosting. As a web developer or master, you can easily set up your websites or blogs with WordPress. You can also activate the auto update or upgrade, so when a new version is available, it will be upgraded to the latest version without any manual upgrade. But at some point you may come to a stage where you need to roll back to an earlier WordPress version. For example, when you find your favorite WordPress plugin is not compatible with the latest WordPress version. And you can’t see a must to upgrade to the latest WordPress immediately whenever it is available. There are also other reasons why WP users want to downgrade their WordPress to a previous or older version.
Downgrade WordPress to Earlier Version

To downgrade WordPress version is easy, what you need in advance:

  • Older WordPress Package
  • FTP or cPanel Access

Important Notes before WordPRESS downgrade:

  1. Backup your entire WordPress installation before you go to downgrade or upgrade WordPress website or blog.
  2. You can use a WordPRESS backup plugin, or the backup tools in cPanel to simplify the backup of your WordPress.
  3. You can downgrade WordPress online, or download WordPress site to local machine and downgrade WordPress manually on local computer before you publish the old WordPress to live server.

Downgrade WordPress to Older Version

In this case I have a live WordPress blog which I want to downgrade from the latest Version 3.9.1 to previous Version 3.9. However this downgrade process should be almost the same for other WordPress versions and downgrades.

1. Back up WordPress before Downgrade

Personally I prefer to backup my WordPress sites with a plugin. Try Googling, you should be able to find many similar WordPress backup plugins that do the same work in almost the same way. If you are using a cPanel hosting, refer to this guide: Backup Websites in cPanel.

2. Deactivate all WordPress Plugins

Login to the WordPress dashboard. Go to Plugins, select all active plugins and deactivate all the plugins.

deactivate all wordpress plugins

3. Download an earlier/older version of WordPress?

WordPress official website has a page where you can download any old WordPress versions, check out this link and find the version you like to downgrade to:

Webmasters can only find the latest WordPress version for their self hosted WordPress from their web hosting service providers. The download link above however provides you the access to all WordPress versions, old and new.

4. Downgrade WordPress to Earlier Version

Now you have the chance to choose to downgrade WordPress directly online, or download a copy of your WordPress files, downgrade it locally and publish to live server again.

Here is the workflow to downgrade WordPress sites:

  • 1) Delete or rename wp-admin and wp-includes folders (except wp-content folder and those files under site root directory) in current WordPress site document directory
  • 2) Upload all the WordPress files and folders (except wp-content folder) from the old WordPress version to WordPress site document directory

There is no need to delete the files from WP site root directory, since they can be replaced or overwritten while you copy the files. Also you may have some files customized in the root directory, such as the .htaccess file, search engine site verification file and so on. These files do not come with the default WordPress package. So simply leave these files in domain root intact.

You can directly perform above steps through a hosting control panel, such as the notable cPanel. Its File Manager allows you to manage and upload files through web browser. You can also connect to your web server with a FTP client, and perform the WordPress downgrade. Alternatively you can also download a copy of your WordPress files and folders, then downgrade WordPress locally, after that go to publish it again to live server. See below screenshot.

downgrade wordpress versions
downgrade wordpress versions

Copy all files and folders, except the wp-content folder, from the old version of WordPress to the new version. This will overrite the new WordPress folders and files with the old ones. In my case, I just renamed the wp-admin and wp-includes folders to different names such as wp-admin-bak or wp-includes-bak, see above screenshot.

After the WordPress version downgrade, double check see if the downgrade succeed. Firstly you can browse the site from frontend see if any error occurs. Then you can log on the dashboard, if you can find a similar upgrade or new version notice at the top of the screen, it means you have rolled over to an old WP version.

wordpress upgrade notice

WordPress Downgrade Extra Tips

After the downgrade of your WordPress sites, you need to manually activate its plugins one by one from the dashboard. If you choose to downgrade WordPress locally, you need to publish WordPress from local machine to remote web server after the downgrade.

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