Beginner’s guide on WordPress Theme & How to Install a WordPress Theme (in 2020)

Install WordPress Theme

In this tutorial, I’ll explain about WordPress theme and it’s advantages. Also, I’ll show you how to install a WordPress theme. There are four different methods that you can choose from to install a WordPress theme.

Along with this, I’ll be sharing some commonly asked questions related to the WordPress theme.

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is a collection of files that are used to change the design of a WordPress powered website. This change takes effect on the front-end of the website.

It is very useful for people who do not know about coding. By using a theme you can change the design of the site without doing any coding.

Theme files include index.php and style.css. It is not required but a developer can include other files also, such as Javascript, AJAX, Graphics, etc to improve the design and functionality of a site.

Wordpress Themes

One of the big advantages of using WordPress is access to thousands of free themes and plugins. As of today, there are 7,511 themes available on directory to choose from. You can use any of these and change your site design as per your need.


Before you install a new theme on your site, make sure to check the below points as it may help you to avoid crashes on your site.

If you have an already working website and want to change your theme, then you must follow the next three steps to avoid accidents with your website. And if you are installing a new theme on newly installed WordPress, then you can skip these prerequisites step and jump to the next step of installing a theme.


Backup all your website data before making any changes to your site. It is always good to have a copy of your site in case something went wrong. If you have some issues with your new theme and want to switch back to the older version, then having a backup will speed-up this process and save you from the hassle.

You can back-up your data using free available plugins like Updraft, VaultPress, etc.

Maintenance Mode

Turn on the maintenance mode. Switching to a new theme takes 20 to 30 minutes to set-up and testing everything. Meanwhile, if someone visits your site and they will see broken pages. It will give a bad impression of your site.

Putting your site on maintenance mode will help you to get rid of this kind of situation. Also, it gives you an ample amount of time to check if everything on the website is working properly.

There are a lot of free plugins on maintenance mode that you can use your site, like Coming Soon, WP Maintenance Mode, etc.

Don’t loose Custom code

In case you are using some custom codes on your site, like Google Analytics, or some other code that is added in your current theme files. Make sure to take notes of these codes because once you activate your new theme, the code on your old theme will be deactivated.

How to Install a WordPress Theme

In order to install a theme, make sure you are logged in to WordPress admin dashboard as Administrator. Any role below the Administrator does not have access to change themes on the WordPress site.

So without further due, let’s get started with theme installation.

1. Install a Theme From the WordPress Theme Directory

Installing a Theme by searching in the WordPress Theme Directory is the easiest way to install a WordPress theme.

By using this method, you can search and install any theme which is available on Theme Directory. These themes are free to install however some of them have pro features that can be purchased from the developer’s websites. These instructions are included in the particular theme’s documentation.

Step 1: Log-in to your WordPress Admin Panel.

Once you log-in to the admin panel, on the right side click on Appearance –> Themes.

WordPress Theme Dashboard

Step 2: It will open the Theme Panel of WordPress. On this page, you can manage themes of your site.

To install a new theme click on Add New.

Theme Panel

Step 3: This page will show the repository of WordPress Themes which are available to download for free.

Here, it will show suggestions as Featured Themes, Popular Themes, search for a theme or browse using filters.

Featured filter option will help you to sort the type of design you want for your site.

The third option that you can choose is to search for a theme. If you have a particular theme that you want to install on your site, you can search in this bar.

Search for theme

Step 4: In this tutorial, I’ll be using the search option to install the theme.

The theme that I want to install is GeneratePress. So, I enter the name in the search bar, it will show me the details of the theme as shown below.

Since we have selected our theme, so to install it on our site, click on Install

Search theme to install

Step 5: If you want a preview of this theme on your site, you can click on the Preview button and it will show how your site will look with this theme.

You have successfully installed your theme. Now click on Activate.

2. Upload a Zip File to the WordPress Dashboard

The next method that you can use to install a theme is using the upload function in the WordPress admin dashboard.

This method is useful when you have purchased a theme from a developer or you have downloaded theme files from some website.

To use this method, make sure you are using .zip.

Step 1: Log-in to your WordPress Admin Panel.

Once you log-in to the admin panel, on the right side click on Appearance –> Themes.

WordPress Theme Dashboard

It will open the Theme Panel of WordPress. On this page, you can manage themes of your site.

To start installing a new theme click on Add New.

Theme Panel

Step 2: On this page click on Upload Theme.

Upload Theme Files

Step 3: Now click on Choose File.

Choose Theme Files To Upload

Step 4: It will pop-up a new window. Now browse to the location and select the file (.zip format) you want to upload and click on Open.

Select File From Computer to Upload

Step 5: It will show the name of the file that you have selected. Now click on Install Now to start installing the theme.

Install new theme

Step 6: Once you click on install, it will show the message of unpacking files and theme installing.

You have now successfully installed a new theme. To activate it Click on Activate, also you can check preview by clicking Live Preview.

Theme Installed Successfullly

3. Adding Themes using cPanel

Installing a Theme using cPanel is not a commonly used method. However, this can be used to I included it in this tutorial.

Step 1: Open cPanel using the logins given by your hosting provider.

Once you reach on HomePage of cPanel, look for Menu option File –> File Manager.

Note: You might be using different theme or version of cPanel, so icon and appearance might look different.

cPanel - File Manager

Step 2: Once you can access your files, now navigate to the themes folder.

By default, its Home > username > public_html > wp-content > themes

cPanel - Theme Folder Path

Step 3: Once you in the theme folder. On the top menu, you need to click on Upload.

cPanel - Theme File Upload

Step 4: It will open a new tab to upload files. Click on Select File.

cPanel - Select Button

Step 5: Now browse the theme file location on your computer. Select the file and click on Open.

cPanel - Select File From Computer to Upload

Step 6: It will start to upload the file that you have selected. After completing the file, it will show a success message like this. Now close this tab and go back to previous page.

cPanel - Theme Upload Complete

Step 7: Select the .zip file that you have uploaded. Click on the Extract option.

Note: If your uploaded file is not visible, then Refresh or Reload the page.

cPanel - Extract Theme Files

Step 8: It will ask for the path to extract the theme files. Leave it default and click on Extract File(s).

cPanel - Confirmation Message

Step 9: Once extraction is completed, then it will show the confirmation message. Now go back to your WordPress admin Dashboard –> Appearance –> Themes.

Here, it will show the theme that you just installed using cPanel. Now you can activate it or check the Live Preview.

4. Adding Themes Manually using FTP

The last method that you can use to install a theme is using FTP software.  There are many free  Softwares available to download. In this tutorial, I’ll be using FileZilla.

Step 1: Log-in to your FTP software.

Enter the following details to connect to your server: Hostname, Username, Password & Port.

After this click on Quickconnect.

Note: If you do not have these details, then ask to your hosting provider for this information.

FTP - Login

Step 2: Now you need to navigate to your themes folder.

Under the Remote site section, search for public_html and double click to open it.

FTP - Open Path Public-html

Step 3: Inside public_html search for the wp-content folder and open it.

FTP - Open Path wp-content

Step 4: Inside the wp-content folder search for themes folder and open it.

FTP - Open Path themes

Step 5: Now on the Local site tab, open the file location of your theme.

Right-click on the theme folder and click on Upload.

FTP - Upload Theme files

Step 6: On the bottom of the FileZilla, it will show the status of the file upload.

Once all the theme files have been upload, it will show the message of Successfully transfers.

FTP - Theme files Uploaded Successfully

Step 7: Once extraction is completed, then it will show the confirmation message. Now go back to your WordPress admin Dashboard –> Appearance –> Themes.

Here, it will show the theme that you just installed using cPanel. Now you can activate it or check the Live Preview.

Activating the Theme

Once you have Uploaded or Installed the theme files in your WordPress. Now it’s time to activate the theme.

To do so, open WordPress admin Dashboard –> Appearance –> Themes.

WordPress Theme Dashboard

It will show all the installed themes on your site.

Like in this case, I have two themes, one is Neve and the other is GeneratePress.

In order to activate the GeneratePress theme, Click on Activate. If you want to see the preview before activating it on your site, you can click on Live Preview.

Remember, if you check Live Preview here, it will show basic design. To check the full potential of the theme, you need to customize it.

Activate WordPress Theme


Difference Between Install Theme and Activate Theme?

Once you have installed a theme using any of the four methods, it will appear in the Themes section.

These all the installed themes on your site. In order to use the theme design on your site, you have to activate it. You can find this activate button right next to the theme name.

Installing a paid theme. Is there any difference?

When you purchase a theme from a developer like ithemes or sites like ThemeForest. They provide you a bunch of extra files along with your theme files. For example:

  • Installable WordPress file
  • License certificate and purchase code (PDF)
  • License certificate and purchase code (text), etc.

Download Page of Plugin

But WordPress only allows you to upload .zip files. So if you have the option to download an Installable file then do so. And if not then open the package and search for the theme files in it. If the file is in .zip format, you can upload that file using method-2. If not in .zip format then you use method-3 that we discussed above.

Why do I need to update the theme?

Sometimes in your WordPress Admin Dashboard, you see a notification that says: “A newer version of the theme is available to download.”

Update Notification

This notification appears when the theme developers update the core files of the theme. These changes may be a new bug that has been fixed or maybe a security issue that recently been discovered and fixed. So to keep yourself safe from bugs and security issues, I highly recommend you to update your theme to the latest version.

How to Update Theme

Log in to your WordPress Admin Dashboard and navigate to Dashboard –> Updates or Dashboard –> Appearance –> Themes.

You can see in the below example that the New version of the theme is available. Click on Update Now to update the theme to the new version.

Also, you can click on View Version Details to check the details that are updated in this new version.

Update Theme version

How can I trust that the theme does not contain a Virus?

WordPress repository always verifies the theme and plugin before any developer upload it to their server. However, there are people who hack codes and upload malware in the script.

Also, there might be a chance that you have downloaded your theme files from an unknown source.

So, before uploading these files to your server, make sure to check it on It will scan for any suspicious code in it and share the detailed report with you.

Theme scan result for viruses

How to Uninstall a Theme?

To uninstall a theme, you need to activate another theme and it will automatically deactivate currently active theme. Now you can proceed to uninstall theme.

-Uninstallation using WordPress Dashboard:

Step 1: Log in to your WordPress Admin Dashboard.

Navigate to Dashboard –> Appearance –> Themes.

WordPress Theme Dashboard

Here you’ll see all the installed themes. Click on Theme Details that you want to Uninstall. In this tutorial, I’ll be uninstalling Twenty Nineteen.

WordPress Theme Dashboard

Step 2: To uninstall, click on Delete. It will uninstall and delete all the files from your hosting server.

Delete WordPress Theme

-Manual Uninstallation:

Theme manually can be uninstalled in two ways. One is from cPanel and the other is using FTP.

To uninstall using cPanel, navigate to File Path: Home > username > public_html > wp-content > themes.

Select the theme folder that you want to install. Click on Delete and its done.

cPanel - Delete Theme

To uninstall using FTP, navigate to Path: public_html > wp-content > themes.

Right-Click on theme folder, you want to delete and select the Delete option.

FTP - Delete Theme

Should I delete inactive themes

I recommend you to delete inactive themes for the following reasons:

  • The main reason is that these are PHP files. Even though you are not using them, but they are still on your website. In case of a hacking attempt, these files can get infected and used to upload malware to your site.
  • Inactive themes also show update notification and sometimes it feels so irritating.
  • It is possible that you are using a limited hosting plan. Keeping unwanted files on your server is a waste. It is better to delete them.

What is the difference between a plugin and a theme?

A plugin controls the features of the site. Any function that you want to add or change will be done using plugins.

A Theme controls the front-end design of the site. To change to the look of your site, you need to edit or install a theme as per your need.

How many themes I can install in WordPress?

You can install any number of themes on your site. However, you can only use one theme at a time.

As soon as you activate your new theme, the old themes become inactive at the same time.

Effect of Theme on site speed

A theme makes a huge difference in site loading speed. The theme with less executable script like AJAX and JavaScript will load much faster.

There are a lot of themes that you can choose from that are awsome looking and contains less executable code which will help you to load your site fast.

In case if your site is loading slow, you can check tools like GTMatrix, Page Speed Insight or Pingdom. These tools will help you to identify and resolve the issue which is causing your site to load slower.


Congratulation! You have successfully installed WordPress Theme. Now you just need to keep everything updated.

There are a number of steps that you can do after installing a new theme:

Customize your theme: A newly installed theme is pretty basic. You have to changes its setting to work perfectly as per your needs. We have a guide you can use to customizing your theme.

Install plugins: Once you have set-up your website design, you can then tweak its functionality by installing new plugins. You can check this guide to install WordPress Plugin.

Explore more: After activating if you didn’t like the design, you can always explore more themes and try different themes for your site.

I hope this tutorial helped you learn to install WordPress themes and other questions related to it.

My favorite method to install a plugin is using “Search Plugin” in the dashboard. Let me know in the comments which method you liked the most.

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