How to Downgrade WordPress: Effective Methods for Reverting to a Previous Version

How to Downgrade WordPress: Effective Methods for Reverting to a Previous Version

Using the latest WordPress version is considered one of the best security practices for protecting your website. Each update comes with new features and security patches, ensuring your WordPress website is up to the latest security standards and performs optimally.

However, sometimes older WordPress core, plugins, and theme versions can work better for your needs. As WordPress upgrades aren’t permanent, you can revert them to the older versions if needed.

Keep reading as we go through different methods to revert the WordPress core, plugins, and themes to their previous versions.

Why Downgrade to a Previous Version

Downgrading WordPress is one of the ways to solve some technical issues. Let’s look at the most common cases that call for a WordPress downgrade.

Your WordPress Website Is Using an Old PHP Version

As of writing this article, the latest PHP version supported by WordPress is 8.0. Meanwhile, the oldest PHP version that WordPress recommends is 7.4.

If you can’t upgrade your PHP to at least version 7.4, reverting to the previous WordPress version can temporarily solve the compatibility issue until you find a better solution.

Compatibility Issues With Your Theme or Plugins

Major changes implemented by the latest WordPress update might cause compatibility issues with your plugin or theme. Check the plugin or theme’s official page to see if it supports your current WordPress version.

How to check a WordPress plugin's minimum PHP and WordPress version requirement to work properly.

Downgrading to a specified WordPress release that your plugin or theme supports can keep it functional. Once the developers update their software’s code, you can re-upgrade your WordPress core.

Your WordPress Website Is Using Outdated Themes or Plugins

Some developers abandon their plugins and themes, meaning their code isn’t updated to work with the latest version of WordPress.

For plugins and themes listed on the WordPress official directory, the last updated date can be seen on their official page. A warning message usually appears above the banner if the plugin or theme hasn’t been updated for a long time.

An example of an outdated WordPress plugin

If the problematic plugin or theme is essential to your site, you can downgrade the WordPress core to meet its compatibility standards.

Pro Tip

We recommend looking for alternative software with frequent updates, as outdated plugins and themes tend to have many security vulnerabilities.

Downgrade WordPress Version Manually

Downgrading WordPress manually is the best solution if you can’t access your WordPress dashboard.

However, this method requires setting up an FTP client like FileZilla and the basic WordPress file structure knowledge.

Important! Backup your WordPress site before making any major changes. This way, you don’t lose important data if you encounter website-breaking errors during the downgrade process.

Here’s how to downgrade WordPress to its previous version manually:

  1. Go to the WordPress Release Archive and download the ZIP file of the WordPress version that fits your needs.
  2. Connect to your server via an FTP client and access your root directory (public_html).
  3. Navigate to wp-content and rename the themes and plugins folders to “xthemes” and “xplugins”. Doing so will deactivate plugins and themes manually.
Deactivating plugins and themes manually via FTP
  1. Go back to your root directory and delete the wp-admin and wp-includes directories.
  2. Unzip the compressed file of the previous WordPress version you downloaded earlier and upload all the files except for the wp-content directory. Agree to overwrite files when asked.
  3. You should now be able to access your WordPress dashboard. Check if the WordPress site is running on your chosen version.
The WordPress core should revert to the older version if the manual downgrade process is successful.
  1. Change the names of the plugins and themes directories to their original version via FTP. It doesn’t automatically re-activate all your plugins and themes, so you need to activate them one by one in WordPress.
  2. Disable automatic WordPress updates by editing the wp-config file, so your WordPress core doesn’t revert to the new version.

Downgrade Your WordPress Version Using a Plugin

This is a great way to downgrade WordPress versions for those who don’t want to use an FTP client and still have access to their WordPress dashboard.

Here’s how to roll back WordPress to a specific core version using the WP Downgrade plugin:

  1. Install and activate the WP Downgrade plugin.
WP Downgrade plugin banner on the WordPress plugin directory.
  1. Go to Settings -> WP Downgrade and enter the version of WordPress you want to use into the WordPress Target Version textbox.
  2. Click Save Changes.
The interface of the WP Downgrade plugin. The target version is entered into the WordPress Target Version textbox.
  1. Here’s what you see if the plugin recognizes the WP version you entered earlier. In this example, we’ll revert WordPress to the 5.9.3 version.
The interface of WP Downgrade after being activated and recognizing the WordPress version entered in the previous step
  1. Navigate to Dashboard -> Updates. WordPress should now list the 5.9.3 version as the target version for the core update. Select the Re-install version 5.9.3 button to begin the downgrade process.
WordPress recognizing the older version as the target version for core update thanks to WP Downgrade.
  1. If the process is successful, you will see the welcome message from your chosen version of WordPress.
The welcome message from the installed WordPress version.

Downgrade WordPress Version by Restoring a Site Backup

Restoring your backup is another way of reverting WordPress to the previous version. The only catch is that you need the backup file from when your website was running on your desired version of WordPress.

If you haven’t installed a backup system yet, check if your hosting provider can generate automatic backups for you.

Hostinger includes a backup service at different intervals, depending on the hosting plan. Here are the steps to restore your backup via hPanel:

  1. Go to Files -> Backups from your hPanel dashboard.
  2. Click Select under the Generate new backup section to create a backup of your live site. This way, you don’t lose important WordPress files added after the last backup was created. The backup process may take up to an hour to complete.
Generating a new backup using the Hostinger's built-in backup system.
  1. Pick a date from the dropdown menu and click Next Step.
Picking a date when the backup file was created
  1. Check the box next to the files that belong to your domain, then click Restore files.
Restoring files from the chosen backup point
  1. Access your WordPress dashboard. Click Update WordPress Database if you see a popup page asking for your permission.
WordPress requires a database update after restoring a backup
  1. Go to the Updates page to check if your site runs on an older version of WordPress.
Checking the active WordPress version after restoring the backup

Downgrade WordPress Plugins or Themes

If you want to install an older plugin or a theme version instead of downgrading the WordPress core, you can use WP Rollback to do the job. This method is ideal for reverting an individual plugin or theme to solve compatibility issues.

Here’s how to use the WP Rollback plugin for downgrading plugins or themes:

  1. Install and activate the WP Rollback plugin.
The WP Rollback plugin banner in the WordPress plugin directory
  1. If you go to Plugins -> Installed Plugins, you’ll notice that a Rollback button now exists under each plugin. Click on the one under the plugin you want to downgrade. For this tutorial, we’ll be downgrading the WooCommerce plugin.
The list of installed plugins have a rollback button under each plugin
  1. Pick the desired target version and click Rollback.
Choosing the target version of the chosen plugin you want to downgrade using WP Rollback
  1. To downgrade a specific WordPress theme, go to Appearance -> Themes and hover over the target plugin. Then, select Theme Details and choose the version you want to downgrade to.
The rollback button appears in the theme details section, allowing you to revert a specific theme to an earlier version

Keep in mind that WP Rollback only works with themes and plugins listed on the WordPress official directory. For this reason, you might not see a rollback button next to premium plugins and themes.

Conclusion

Downgrading WordPress might not be a recommended practice due to security reasons. However, if the latest core update broke your site or one of your plugins or themes encounters compatibility issues, you can revert WordPress to an earlier version.

Let’s recap the downgrade methods we’ve gone through in this article:

  • Manually downgrade WordPress using an FTP client.
  • Install WP Downgrade to revert WordPress to the previous version.
  • Restore a site backup.
  • Install WP Rollback to downgrade specific themes and plugins.

If you still have questions about downgrading WordPress, leave us a comment below. Good luck!

Author
The author

Jordana A.

Jordana is a digital marketing and web development enthusiast. When she's not in front of her laptop, you can see her traveling in the search of best sushi.