PSA for WordPress site owners

girl-announcing-vector-illustrationFor those of you who manage your own self-hosted WordPress websites:

WordPress 4.9.6 is set to release today (Thursday), and the version number is misleading.

WordPress 4.9.6 is much more than just a simple/minor maintenance release. There are brand new features in this release: GDPR tools, Gutenberg Nag screen, and even a massive bump in TinyMCE version (the WordPress editor).

New features should never be added to “maintenance releases” since most systems/sites/enterprises auto-update maintenance releases to take advantage of bug fixes and security patches. But that’s what will happen with this release.

All the sites I build or manage have auto-updates turned OFF. I never want anything to change before I can grab a manual backup! Sometimes updates to the core can cause themes and plugins to stop playing nicely together.

This update will mean you might see new settings pages, GDPR settings, and the Gutenberg Nag screen encouraging you to “try out Gutenberg” by adding the plugin by clicking this button. While in some cases Gutenberg might be a great solution, in other cases it will at the very least frustrate you and at the worst, actually, make the site no longer editable without destruction of layouts.

I strongly recommend that you grab a manual backup RIGHT NOW, and download it so you can restore it if you need to. Don’t rely on your host doing it for you. They usually back up on a schedule, not on demand. And getting a backup restored can sometimes take days. What if your site breaks?

If you want to prevent automatic updates, add these lines of code at the very end of your wp-config.php file:

/* turn off all updates */
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false); 
/* turn off the request for updates */

As for Gutenberg: that’s what the next major release (5.0) of WordPress will be called. It’s still under development. In all honesty, I have not followed the development closely during last two months. (I am still dealing with post-surgery brain mush.) I do know that the last time I played with it, I realized quickly that the major changes to the post/page editor will cause major confusion for most of my clients, and will even break a few layouts if they try to edit some existing posts or pages (not all, but enough to be worrisome).

So here’s a way to turn it off before it even arrives: install and activate the plugin Disable Gutenberg ( Not only will it prepare you to disable and control Gutenberg in the future, but it will also BLOCK the Gutenberg update nag screen that is coming in WordPress 4.9.6.

If I manage your site,both of these steps (turn off automatic updates, install Disable Gutenberg) are already done.

If you manage your own, you might want to do them now.

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