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Plugin review: WP Rollback

WP Update plugin logo

Sometimes after a plugin updates itself, you find the new version is causing a problem, either because it has a bug, or because it’s now in conflict with the theme or with another plugin.

Finding out the cause of the problem can be tricky, but once you’ve determined a particular update is the problem, what are you supposed to do about it?

You can report the issue to the plugin developers, but fixing it might take an unknown amount of time. Often the solution is to undo the update — go back to a previous plugin version that doesn’t have the problem.

The WP Rollback plugin makes that simple. Without the plugin, the task is… not simple.

Determining which plugins changed when

If the problem doesn’t obviously involve a specific plugin, the first step is figuring out which plugin is at fault. One important hint is to compare the time the problem began (as best you can tell) to the times plugins were last updated. The WordPress dashboard doesn’t show this date by default, but you can add this ability with the Plugins Condition plugin. Or, if you keep the emails your website sends you when things are updated, refer back to those.

Backup versus rollback

Restoring your site from a backup is an alternative to using WP Rollback, assuming you have a backup of the exact right vintage. If you restore the whole site, it can be hard to know what else you’re overwriting besides the recently updated plugin. This is why the surgical change of WP Rollback is generally better than rolling back the entire site.

Data reformatting considerations

Sometimes a plugin’s new version will want to reformat or “optimize” the data associated with that plugin. For instance a “contact form” plugin will have a list of contact forms, and it manages that data. Usually the plugin will ask permission before it does this, meanwhile continuing to operate with the old data.

It’s often not the case that the past version of the plugin will accept the newer version’s data. So if the plugin updates, then you let it update its data, then you discover there’s a problem with the new version, you might be out of luck. Before permitting the data reformatting, it’s a good idea to make a backup and maybe test that the new plugin version is working with the old data.

Note: Manually initiate a backup before making any risky change.


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