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Downgrade to a previous WordPress version

WordPress SettingsDaniel here with a quick word about downgrading to a previous version of WordPress.

In this post I explain why WordPress update installations sometimes cause errors and explain step by step, how to downgrade to an earlier version, and why you might want to do this.

Why would you want to do downgrade?

Sometimes, with all the constant updates, some plugins can stop working.  This is usually because they may be incompatible with the new update installation.  Occasionally, some of the theme functions stop working.  Just the slightest WordPress script modification can render your blog inaccessible if one of your current plugins is not compatible with the new update.

If you have a wicked plugin that you just don’t want to lose, and there is no other easy alternative, sometimes a downgrade is the best option, just while the plugin developer brings the plugin scripts up to date with the current WordPress version.

What causes update problems?

The main cause of update errors is incompatibility between the new WordPress scripts and the older scripts contained in plugins or theme related PHP files.

The most common cause for total blog inaccessibility, is usually a plugin file or folder, whose location is not compatible with the location given in the new WordPress update script.  This often causes WordPress scripts to crash, giving a ‘fatal error’ leaving you unable to access the blog.

In these instances, when you try to access the admin area of the blog, or the blog page for that matter, you will be presented with a page listing the errors that have caused the error screen to be displayed.

There are always fixes, but unless you are knowledgeable on PHP scripts, know someone who is, or want to pay someone to fix it, you are often left with few options.

Note: Plugin developers are responsible for their plugin script compatibility with the WordPress platform, whatever update version is active, so all plugins will have been compatible with WordPress at their date of release, but as time goes by, whereas WordPress is frequently updated as a matter of quality, most plugins are not and this is where the problems begin.

What if WordPress won’t let you access the admin area?

Likelihood of re-entry depends on the error being displayed.  Most commonly, plugin related errors after updates will be the reason for error messages, so errors such as ‘file not found’ or ‘No such file or directory in…’ will be the main problems.  This is why it’s important to always keep plugins updated.

When this is the case, don’t panic; just read through the error messages, which will give a pointer to the error.  As you will not be able to access the blog, you won’t be able to do anything in the admin area to resolve the problem.  The other option is to use an FTP client to manage the errors from within the installation directory on the server.

At this point, at least an understanding of PHP script is essential if you are to resolve the problem yourself.  You don’t have to know what all the scripts mean, as long as you know which bits affect the error you are trying to resolve.

As an example, the error; ‘file not found’ might be present because the old WordPress version used to find a particular plugin file in one place, whereas in the new update, it is looking for it in a different place now.

As a quick fix for this, you can create the file using a basic text editor.  Call it the file name that the new update is calling for and upload it to that location.  It doesn’t matter if it is an empty file; its purpose is just to ‘be there’ to satisfy the updated script and prevent the error.

At this point, if this has temporarily resolved the error, you will be able to once again access the admin area and uninstall or update the offending plugin resolving the problem – until the next update!

What if there are no fixes?

Unless something absolutely major has happened, which is highly unlikely during a simple update, there will always be a fix; it’s only code after all, but if say, you have a plugin that has absolutely no updates available, no support and no chance of any updates and you really don’t want to make do without it, a simple option is to downgrade to the version with which it was compatible.

If say, you have updated to version 3.2, the latest version at this time of writing, but are having problems with a plugin you don’t want to lose, you can downgrade to version 3.1 to make the plugin compatible again, or whatever version you were at the last time the plugin was working sucessfully.

How do you do this?

If you’ve been locked out of your admin area by an error message, you will have to ‘manually’ downgrade your WordPress version.

I you go to WordPress.org, there is a WordPress release archive that lists every single version of WordPress ever released and it goes right back to version 0.71-gold:  (http://wordpress.org/download/release-archive/)

From here, you can choose which version you want.

Download the required version and for ease of access, save the zip file to the desktop.

Unzip it into a folder, also temporarily on the desktop for ease of access for when using FTP.

At this point, before you do anything else, it is good practice to back-up the current directories – just in case!!

You will not be able to use any back-up plugins, having been temporarily ‘locked-out’ of your admin area, so this will have to be done manually.

How do you back-up manually?

Using an FTP client, navigate to the WordPress installation root directory, wherever that may be in your set up and copy everything from the root – except the ‘wp-content’ directory.

Just drag the highlighted files to a folder on your desktop.

Now, go back to the FTP window (server side) and delete the ‘wp-admin’ and ‘wp-includes’ directories from the installation directory.

Then go to the folder on your desktop containing the unzipped older WordPress version files and highlight all the files – except ‘wp-content’ and drag them all in to the installation directory.

At this point, the error messages on the blog will have gone and you should be able to log in to the admin area once again.

When you log in, you will be met with a screen that says ‘Database upgrade’.  Click on whatever ‘Ok’ or ‘Confirm’ button is available, which varies depending on the version installed, and then click ‘confirm’ or ‘Ok’ to confirm the upgrade has been completed.

That’s it; Done!

Now you’re back in the admin area, you can either resolve the offending plugin or function, or update them to compatible versions and re-upgrade.

Of interest: WordPress Core developers share a love of jazz music, and since WordPress version 1.0 all major releases are named in honour of the jazz musicians they admire.

To end, WordPress update version 3.2 requires a minimum application of PHP 5.2.4 and MySQL 5.0 to run.  If your hosting company does not have these latest versions installed, WordPress version 3.2 will not run!

Regards
Daniel D’Laine

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