TL;DR: Regarding plugins: Are there any noteworthy difference between clicking 'Update' in the WordPress backend, compared to replacing all the files with the files for a newer version?


I'm trying to control the versions of the plugins via source control (automated pipelines). So I would like to update them by simply pushing a new release, containing a newer version of the plugin.

But does some important process happen, upon clicking the 'update' button in the WordPress backend? And if so, can I trigger that automatically somehow?

Some plugins have occasional database migrations upon updating (WooCommerce, Redirection, etc.). But they usually 'just' add a notice with a button in the backend, reminding admins that this has to be done.

The plugins are currently controlled via Composer (using the Bedrocks framework).

But some of the plugins have stopped supporting premium subscriptions via Composer (cough cough WPML! cough cough), so I have to control their versions differently.

  • Clicking update will download the package from wp.org, deactivate current plugin, zip the current version to restore it in case of failure, unzip the newest version and then activate the new version. Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 6:58

1 Answer 1


Generally its all about replacing the files (old files are deleted, new files are unpacked)

The difference is:

Update throught the wordpress would / maight (depends if plugin is active or not, and if You run it from wp-admin/update-core.php or wp-admin/plugins.php site, and if it is bulk update or single)

  • turn on/off maintenance mode
  • create a lock file (to prevent parallel updates)
  • silent deactivate / activate plugin

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