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Background:

We've inherited care of a WP Networks install with many individualized sites. Most of them have some type of directly customized theme. If I begin updating themes, clients will lose customization. We've since disallowed direct theme customization; opting instead for child themes. Going forward we'll be okay; however, I need to tackle these legacy sites.

Question:

How might I update themes in place and at the same time save and/or re-implement clients' customization? I will need something that I can automate at some point.

Brainstorm:

My first idea was to download the currently running version of their theme from a codeplex and do a diff across both folders. Next activate that unaltered version in the unaltered theme and moving the diff'ed files to a child theme. Once that is in place, I'll issue wp theme update --all.

But I still fear this will be a load of manual work.

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    I think your brainstorm is the best option. You should get them all child themes and then going forward it will be way less of a hassle to update. It shouldn't take too long. Just figure out which files were customized, through them in a child theme, back up the customized parent theme just in case, and then update the parent theme. Then it should be way better. Not only will you need to do a long manual theme update but in the future you can just update instead of transferring customizations. – matthew Oct 6 '15 at 13:26
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As per comments, courtesy Matthew, this seems to be the best option:

I think your brainstorm is the best option. You should get them all child themes and then going forward it will be way less of a hassle to update. It shouldn't take too long. Just figure out which files were customized, through them in a child theme, back up the customized parent theme just in case, and then update the parent theme. Then it should be way better. Not only will you need to do a long manual theme update but in the future you can just update instead of transferring customizations.

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