What to Do When a WooCommerce Update Fails

A woman sitting at her laptop biting down on a pencil in frustration

Updating your WooCommerce website can keep it protected from hackers, and it will keep running smoothly. When an update doesn’t go through, you might wonder what happened and what you can do to fix it. If a WooCommerce update fails, you can do a few things to get your site back on track.

What do you do when a WooCommerce update fails? When a WooCommerce update fails, the reason will be given on the screen just before “Installation failed.” If the message is unclear, here are potential reasons:

  • The maintenance mode might not work correctly.
  • File permissions may need to be changed.
  • Safe mode may be enabled.
  • The FTP variables may be wrong.
  • The site may need to be backed up.
  • An extension or plugin may need updating.

WooCommerce updates happen to fix operating errors and to make your site run smoothly. So when an update fails, you might freak out and wonder what went wrong. The good news is that you can do a few things to fix the issue.

What Is a WooCommerce Update?

WooCommerce is part of WordPress, which is a piece of software that you use to build and run a website. WordPress is open-source software, so anyone can create updates and add extra features. WooCommerce is a plugin, and you can use it to build a store on your WordPress website.

To keep adding extra features and patching up old issues, WooCommerce has to update occasionally. WordPress also has to update for the same reasons. Some updates are minor and only make small changes or fixes.

Less often, WordPress and WooCommerce release more substantial updates. These might make more significant changes to the overall design of the WordPress dashboard or other areas of the admin panel. In most cases, these updates are free, and the only paid updates that might happen will be for paid plugins and extensions for WooCommerce.

What Is a Plugin Update?

Like WooCommerce, plugins and extensions can develop problems that can’t be fixed without an update. A plugin update can add new features, too, which can make the plugin easier to use. Plugins and extensions are features of your website, so they have to keep up with the more significant updates to WordPress and WooCommerce.

  • Typically, plugins and extensions are free to use once you buy them. You should be able to update them whenever an update is available.
  • Plugin and extension updates are more common than the overall WordPress updates. That might be because plugins and extensions are smaller, and developers can more easily update them.
  • A plugin or extension update can provide more features, which can make your site easier to run. Some features may also add other payment options or shipping choices.
  • For a more practical reason, plugin and extension updates, like WordPress updates, can also cover up security issues. This can keep your site working well and protected from hackers.

If you keep your WordPress or WooCommerce website updated overall, you can’t forget about all of your plugins and extensions. When WooCommerce updates, some extensions may also have updates. By keeping everything on the same page, you can ensure that your website is compatible with itself.

Why Do Updates Fail?

WooCommerce updates can fail for a number of reasons. In some cases, a failed update can keep you from accessing the admin panel from your website. Other failed updates might just mean you don’t have the latest features of WooCommerce or WordPress.

Knowing why your WooCommerce site fails to update can help you find the right solution so that you can get your site to update. Once you fix the problem, you can get back to working on your website and selling orders.

  • Sometimes, WordPress doesn’t automatically disable maintenance mode. That can render your site unusable and inaccessible.
  • If something goes wrong with file permissions, you may not be able to get to specific files that are needed for an update.
  • While safe mode can come in handy at times, it can affect your site’s ability to perform and execute an update.
  • It could be that your site hasn’t been backed up in a while, so you may need to perform a backup before the next update.
  • An overall site update may not work if you have one or more plugins that need an update

There are multiple reasons why your WooCommerce update might fail. Luckily, there are just as many things you can do to correct the problem or avoid the problem in the future. If you know why an update fails, you can reach a solution more quickly.

What to Do When a WooCommerce Update Fails

When a WooCommerce update fails, it can cause different issues. A small problem might be that you don’t have the latest features of WooCommerce. On the other hand, a major update failure might lock you out of your admin panel.

The first thing you should do when a WooCommerce update fails is to figure out what caused the problem. Of course, many things can cause an update to fail. However, checking for different issues is the first step to getting your site back up and running.

If you can figure out why this update failed, you can take the steps necessary to prepare your site for future updates. That way, you can avoid the same problem in the future. What’s more, knowing all of the common reasons for a failed update can help you prepare for all of them.

Disable Maintenance Mode

One common reason for a failed WooCommerce update is that WordPress didn’t disable maintenance mode correctly. Whenever you perform an update on your site, WordPress enters maintenance mode to help the process. It should get out of maintenance mode at the end of the update, but that may not always happen.

If your site fails to disable maintenance mode on its own, you may have to disable the mode manually. This can take a bit of patience, and you’ll need to access your web hosting account. However, you should be able to do this even if you can’t access the backend of your website.

  • Go to your FTP program. You can ask your web host for help if you don’t know where to start.
  • You can also log into the control panel for your server and go to the file manager.
  • Once you reach your FTP program or the control panel, find the file showing “.maintenance.”
  • Delete the file. Now, make sure you can log into your admin panel and access your website.

While no problem is “good,” you can easily disable maintenance mode, even if your site is locked. You just need access to your control panel to get there. If you have problems, you can reach out to your website hosting company for help with the process.

Many hosts can either walk you through the deletion, or they can do it for you. If you want to learn more about disabling maintenance mode, click here.

Change File Permissions

If disabling maintenance mode doesn’t solve your problems, you may need to change the file permissions for your website. Checking your file permissions is especially important if you have your site set to update automatically. Still, having the right file permissions can help you run your site and update it smoothly.

  • Access your WordPress Directory. The exact location of this can vary, so ask your hosting company for help finding it.
  • In your directory, head to WordPress, then WP-Content, then Update, then WordPress-3.tmp.
  • Set the directory permissions to “777” and try the auto-update again.
  • Make sure to use the most restrictive permissions you can, but they should be open enough for your site to update.

If the 777 permission doesn’t work, you may need to try another setting. Each WordPress website is different, so don’t be afraid to test out a few options. You can always ask your website hosting company for advice on what methods to try.

Of course, you shouldn’t change file permissions every time there’s an update. However, changing them after a failed update can help you avoid update failures in the future. Just make sure you are careful when choosing and setting file permissions.

Disable Safe Mode

If you’ve ever run your website or computer on Safe Mode, you know it can be helpful at times. However, Safe Mode can make it harder, if not impossible, for your site to update as it should. That’s why you should try to disable Safe Mode if it is enabled.

There are a few ways you can disable Safe Mode, and it might depend on how or where it was enabled. Here are a few ways you can disable Safe Mode.

  • Check your plugins. Some plugins, like JetPack, have a Safe Mode feature that you can use if you need it. If one of your plugins has that mode enabled, you can go to that plugin’s settings to disable it.
  • You can also disable Safe Mode from your PHP files. In php.ini, use the snippet “safe_mode = OFF” to turn off Safe Mode on your website.
  • If you have access to your Apache configuration file, you can also disable Safe Mode there. You can add a bit of code to your httpd.conf file to turn it off.
  • When you can’t turn off Safe Mode in one of these ways, check with your hosting company. You can submit a support ticket, and they can help you turn it off.

Safe Mode can come in handy if you’re site is having certain issues. However, leaving it enabled can cause problems when your site tries to update. Making sure you can disable Safe Mode is one of the many things you should do when a WooCommerce update fails.

Edit the FTP Variables

If you want to get super technical, you can edit the FTP variables. FTP stands for file transfer protocol, and this probably isn’t the best option for beginners. You don’t want to do anything wrong with FTP variables that could further hurt your website.

Defining and editing FTP variables should only be done by people with knowledge of FTP and how it works. If you have this knowledge, you can change the variables. Or if you work with a web developer, you can ask what their FTP skills are.

Editing the FTP variables is hard since not all sites will work with the same variables. There are different variations you can use, and there are different definitions to test out. Once you find one that works, input it in your wp-config.php file.

Perform a Backup

The next thing to do after a WooCommerce update fails is to backup your website. You should backup your website regularly, whether an update fails or not. However, a failed update might mean your site needs a backup.

Before you perform any kind of update to your website, backup everything. Backup your files, themes, plugins, and the database. You can then set your site to back up everything automatically and on a schedule.

Of course, updates can and will happen if your site isn’t backed up. However, you can lose all of your data if something goes awry. There are plenty of plugins you can use to backup your website, and many are free.

Depending on your website traffic, you may want to update your website every week or two. If you have a lot of orders or make a lot of changes, consider updating your site every week. You can learn more about updating your website here.

Check Plugins and Extensions

Your website can only work so well if your plugins or extensions have issues themselves. If you haven’t updated your plugins in a while, check to see if there are updates for each of them. Do the same if you also have WooCommerce extensions.

  • Go to the Plugins page in your WordPress Dashboard. Here, you’ll see a list of all the plugins you have installed on your website.
  • If one or more of your plugins have an update, you should be able to see that information, too.
  • Under the plugins with updates, you’ll see Update as an option, next to Settings and Deactivate.
  • Click on Update to update each plugin one at a time. This might be a good option if you have an unusually large plugin.
  • You can also select all of the plugins with updates. Under Bulk Actions, select Update to do all of them at once.

The process is similar for updating extensions in WooCommerce. You may see a warning under your WooCommerce plugin about extensions that haven’t been tested with your version of WooCommerce. That’s a good sign that you should probably update those extensions.

Disable Auto-Updates

While automatic updates can be helpful, they aren’t necessary to running a successful WooCommerce store. In fact, updating your site manually means that you’ll have control over when and how you update your website. If you have automatic updates enabled, you’ll have to disable them.

The exact steps for disabling automatic updates depends on a few factors. Some website hosting companies have automatic updates included as part of your hosting service. If this is the case, you may receive an email notification before and after your website is updated.

In that case, you can change the automatic update settings within your website hosting account. You can also ask your hosting company for help with changing the settings. If you somehow have your website set to update automatically, you may need to go into your settings to disable that feature.

While disabling automatic updates isn’t required after a WooCommerce update fails, it can give you time to perform a backup and do whatever you need to do before your site updates. If you want to learn more about how to backup your website, this link has some helpful tips.

Prepare for Future Updates

One of the most important things you can do when a WooCommerce update fails is to prepare for future updates. After all, new features are always being created, and bugs will always have to be fixed. That means that there will always be a new update coming sooner or later.

To prepare for future updates to WooCommerce, make sure that you keep all of your plugins, extensions, and themes up to date. That way, they will more likely be compatible with WooCommerce updates. You should also update WooCommerce and WordPress itself when you can.

Of course, before you make any major updates to your website, backup your site. Be sure you backup everything and that you download the backup so you can access it outside of your admin panel. You can also check with your hosting company to see what kind of help they can offer for updates and updates gone wrong.

The more you learn about updating your website, the easier it will be for you to run it. If problems occur, you can quickly solve them. And you won’t even need the help of a developer or other website professional.

Final Thoughts

WooCommerce is a fantastic platform for building an online store, but it’s not perfect. If your WooCommerce site fails to update, you should figure out what caused the problem. Fix that and then determine other potential issues so that you can plan ahead for the next update.

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