One of the best things about WordPress is the built-in upgrade options for the core files. WordPress pops up a notice when you log into the Admin panel that an upgrade is ready. You click on the automatic upgrade link and wait a few minutes and your core wordpress files are updated automatically with ease…. most of the time.

On some occasions, this procedure unfortunately fails with an error similar to the ones below


Downloading update from…

Unpacking the update…

Could not copy file.: /wp-content/upgrade/wordpress-3.tmp/wordpress/wp-content/themes/twentyeleven/header.php

Installation Failed


Failed upgrade error – Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 262144 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 122880 bytes) in

/wp-admin/includes/dashboard.php on line 88


Now what do you do?

Memory Limit Issues

In the case of the allowed memory size error, this can actually be a memory problem.

If your hosting company allows you to increase memory size, you can allocate more memory, by putting this code somewhere in your wp-config.php.

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '64M');

For more info, please visit codex.

Corrupted or Incompatible Plugins

In some cases, an incompatible or corrupted plugin can cause problems after a WordPress upgrade.

In these cases, if you can log into your admin interface, disable all plugins and test the site. If the site works now, go back in and enable one plugin at a time to find the culprit. Once a troublesome plugin is found, see if there is an updated version available or uninstall the plugin and reinstall it to fix the issue.

If you cannot log into the admin interface, you may have to use an FTP program to log in and rename the wp-content/plugins directory to something else and then try to login. If this works, then rename the plugins directory through FTP and change the name of each plugin folder to test which plugin is causing the issue. This is a much more tedious process manually than through the admin interface but will still do the job.

Other Issues Needing Manual Upgrade of WordPress

If the above solutions don’t fix the problem, you may have to simply download the latest WordPress version and using an FTP program, transfer the files to your host manually.

For a simple straightforward approach to this manual upgrade visit my WordPress Recovery page or check out another Could Not Copy file solution.


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Filed under: ErrorsTutorials

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