Why is my WordPress theme completely different after updating it?

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Maybe you have experienced this before – WordPress tells you your theme has an update and you update it only to discover your theme looks completely different than it did before the update.

I don’t mean little differences in layout or color scheme. I mean completely different like it has a new layout, design, and features.

Chances are it is a different theme, but with the same name as the one you had before, which makes it even more confusing as you try to figure out what happened. 

It’s not that uncommon. For instance, imagine you download a theme from a marketplace like Theme Forest or a developer’s website. After installation WordPress tells you there is an update available for the theme. After updating you discover, it’s not the same one.

For beginners it can be hard to tell what is going on. It might be difficult to realize its actually not the same theme. 

Why does this happen?

When WordPress looks for updates to themes it will check the theme repository for the name of your installed theme. It will also compare the version numbers to determine if those in the repository are newer than the one installed on your website. If so, it will perform an update. Your theme files will then be replaced with the updated ones. That is why changes made to a theme without the use of a child theme will result in them being lost when an update occurs

If you happen to have a theme on your website that has the same name but an older version number than a theme in the WordPress repository your theme will be replaced.  There is a way for theme developers to prevent this from happening by adding certain code to the theme files but some don’t always do that. 

There is a way for theme developers to prevent this from happening by adding certain code to the theme files but that doesn’t always happen.

How do you fix it?

Delete and re-upload the theme. 

When this happens and your theme is replaced the best thing to do is delete the theme from your WordPress website and upload it again. Once you re-upload it, this will return it to the original theme.

If your theme isn’t available in the WordPress repository don’t update it when WordPress says there is an update for it. You can check this by searching for it here, if you can’t find it there it’s not in the repository.

The theme developer or marketplace should contact you when an update is available and they will provide instructions to do so. 

I build and maintain multiple WordPress websites. By using the experience gained from building these sites I help others create and customize their own websites.
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