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Recently I got to know that my Wordpress site is automatically updating itself when a new version of Wordpress is available. I know that this automatic feature is available in Wordpress since sometimes back. But I have some questions about this:

  1. Can this be risky in any case?

  2. Does it matter how we have installed Wordpress? (e.g plugins and security settings)

  3. Does Wordpress have a way to recover our website if anything goes wrong?

  4. Does WordPress keep any backup when doing the update?

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2 Answers 2

Let me first answer your questions before giving some more info on the update process.

  1. There is always some risk. But with the default of only doing minor core release you are pretty safe. (E.g. 3.8.1 had close to 100% update success rate) Also you should think of how while being some risk itself the update also protects you from other risks by e.g. fixing security issues.

  2. You can't really answer this question generally. But WordPress does its best to check as much as possible before doing an update to be e.g. sure that file permissions make an update possible. But of course you could imagine situations like a security system that watches for file changes to cause an alarm on auto-update. But this is something specific to your install then. Default WordPress should be fine.

  3. Generally while WordPress does try to roll back a failed update of WordPress itself, there isn't a rollback mechanism for the whole site if anything is broken after the update. At least nothing automatic. But you're backing up your site in regular intervals anyway, right?

  4. WordPress doesn't do any backups on its own, so as already said in 3, your are doing backups, right?

Continuing from here there is some more info plus links on that topic:

Automatic Background Updates have been introduced in WordPress 3.7. By default only minor updates (3.9 to 3.9.1) but not major updates (3.8 to 3.9) are performed automatically. As these updates usually only fix small bugs or security issues stuff is way less likely to break on those.

Anyway you can configure WordPress Updates any way you like. Always update (also major version) or never update. Just the way you like it. Just have a look at this question or the Codex for more info on how to do that: http://codex.wordpress.org/Configuring_Automatic_Background_Updates

If you decide not to use automatic update you can still do it manually. Again you can find more info at the Codex: https://codex.wordpress.org/Updating_WordPress

And as already said before please do regular backups anyway: https://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Backups

TL;DR:
Unless you are a WordPress Pro and really know what you do I'd recommend sticking with the auto update defaults and not worry too much about stuff breaking as I believe that a lot of thought has been put in it and the advantages outmatch the drawbacks for a standard WordPress install.

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<pedantic>100% success rate just means that the upgrade had completed successfully, not that the site was functioning the same after it. </pedantic> –  Mark Kaplun Aug 11 at 13:36
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Good point. Just filed an edit trying to clarify. Feel free to propose a rewording in case you think it can still be improved. –  kraftner Aug 11 at 13:41
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I guess a different way to say it is that there was no outcry of people about their sites failing after the upgrades, or something in that spirit. –  Mark Kaplun Aug 11 at 14:10
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WordPress automatic updates actually DO have a rollback mechanism. If an update fails, it will attempt to roll back any changes made. –  Otto Aug 11 at 16:30
    
@Otto I guess I should have been more concise on this, but as the question was if the website as a whole and not only WordPress itself might break I feel that some problems that arise from an update may lie in a plugin or theme. They only way then would be to revert WordPress to the old version AND recover the DB from a backup afaik. I've now tried to make this more clear. –  kraftner Aug 11 at 16:46

These are minor version number updates that are mostly due to security. WordPress does not auto-update major version releases. You should be safe.

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Its not, It updated itself for the latest major version released rechently(3.9.2). We can manually change the this like define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false ) or define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true ) or define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', 'minor' ). If we do define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', 'minor' ) only it stop updating the major version. However' I am not sure about the risk behind this method –  Chathuraka Aug 11 at 12:45
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3.9.2 isn't a major version, 3.9 is. See my answer –  kraftner Aug 11 at 12:49

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