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WordPress plugins and themes not updating is a really frustrating issue, you just want to get in and get your website up to date with as little hassle as possible. When you get in and WordPress is showing an ‘update failed’ error instantly then it could be one of these issues.

Firewall settings

If you are running a security plugin like WordFence or Securi then you may need to check that you are not blocking yourself from being able to perform certain tasks. You can whitelist your public IP and check other settings to make sure this set up correctly. You can test this quickly by temporarily disabling your security plugin and trying your updates again. If they now update then you are on the right track to finding the issue, be sure to enable the plugin again when you are finished testing.


Caching can do some strange things in WordPress, including breaking content editors and other functionality in the admin panel. To check if you are having a cache issue you can log in to your website using an incognito or private browsing tab. Then try your updates again and see if the updates start to work. Alternatively, you can take this one step further and temporarily disable your changing plugins and try again with them deactivated.

PHP version

PHP is moving to version 7 and some plugins, themes and even the WordPress core now need this for a stable upgrade. PHP is controlled by your hosting provider, so you can do this in your hosting admin. I would thoroughly recommend you create a staging site and test it there first, as upgrading PHP can cause some serious issues with themes and plugins.

File and folder permissions on the server

This is a common problem, it can happen by somebody updating something incorrectly on the server or incorrect server configuration. You can remedy this by using FTP or SSH to log on to your server. From there you can check the owner and permission levels of your files and folders. 

Plugin conflicts

The last resort is to disable plugins and then see if your theme updates start to work. If they do then you need to start narrowing down which one is causing you the issues.

So if your WordPress plugins and themes are not updating, give the suggestions above a try. Hopefully these little tips help you out and you will be back to updating your website in no time. If you want to take the hassle out of maintaining your WordPress website then I would be happy to help out. You can find out more about my WordPress services here.