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Getting WordPress Background Updates to Work

Getting WordPress Background Updates to Work

The new background updates feature in WordPress 3.7 is great for security and productivity, but it can be tricky getting it to work. This post explains how the same technique posted here also worked for enabling background updates.

After upgrading to WordPress 3.7, I was excited to try out the new background updates feature. But it didn’t work out of the box. Instead, a message displayed with something like:

This site is not able to apply these updates automatically. But we’ll email you when there is a new security release.

Informative but not a lot of help in the “why isn’t it working” department. Thankfully it didn’t take long before a plugin was available to help further diagnose the background update failure. The first time running the plugin provided these results:

WordPress Background Update Tester Plugin Fail

Automatic background updates require a number of conditions to be met.
Your hosting company, support forum volunteers, or a friendly developer may be able to use this information to help you:

PASS: Your WordPress install can communicate with securely.
PASS: No version control systems were detected.
FAIL: Your installation of WordPress prompts for FTP credentials to perform updates. (Your site is performing updates over FTP due to file ownership. Talk to your hosting company.)
This site is not able to apply these updates automatically. But we’ll email when there is a new security release.

If you experience any issues or need support, the volunteers in the support forums may be able to help.

Rather than change anything on the server, I tried adding a few upgrade constants to the site’s wp-config file:

define('FTP_USER', 'username');
define('FTP_PASS', 'password');
define('FTP_HOST', 'localhost');

And it worked! After adding that snippet the results returned this:

WordPress Background Update Tester Plugin Pass Results

I’m looking forward to some auto-update action. Leave a comment if there are other tips or tricks that you have for getting auto-updates to work on your site. Cheers!

9 responses

  1. Wow, thanks!

  2. The trouble with automatic updates I’ve run into is not being able to update the local sites on MAMP. Till WP 3.7.1 everything was fine, but all of a sudden I get an error, also by Background Update Checker. Described it on

    Of course, it’s not all that tragic, but I like having the exact copy locally of what I’m doing online..

    • Are automatic updates possible on a local machine? I think that the computer running MAMP would need an open port or something to make your site available online.. but that’s just a guess, it’s late and I’ve been soaking in code for the past 12 hours ;)

  3. Bingo!

    But Jeff, you’re not gonna believe this, been a while since wordpress updated to 3.7.1 but I’m still hesitant. Many of my mates updated but are complaining that their plugins broke down.

    Are you experiencing the same thing or did it just go smoothly?

    • On the sites that have auto-updates enabled, yes things seem to go smoothly.. but as mentioned in the article, it took some fiddling to get them to work.

  4. I don’t even know that WP has background update feature, thanks for useful information.

  5. Thank you, this has save me so much time…Cheers

  6. Any chance that anyone knows the opposite to this hint – ie, preventing WP from auto-updating?

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