How to Install and Update Joomla Templates and Extensions

In Joomla, you can install templates and extensions in an easy way, but things are trickier for updating them.

This tutorial introduces all the available methods for installing Joomla templates and extensions, and discusses how to complete an upgrade safely.

Install Joomla Templates & Extensions

Both templates and extensions should be installed through the installer included in Joomla Extension Manager. Therefore, you need to log into the Joomla control panel and go to Extensions > Extension Manager at first. The default menu opened in the Extension Manager is Install.

You are now given four options. Follow the instructions below to choose the most suitable method for you.

Joomla Extension Manager

Install from Web

This is a new feature introduced in Joomla 3 that integrates the official extension directory with Joomla control panel. You can use the search box to find the extension you want, and then install it quickly by clicking on the “Install” button. This is so far the most convenient way.

Install from Web

Note that this feature is only designed for extension installation and does not apply to templates.

Upload Package File

This method is suitable for both extensions and templates. You need to download the zip file to your local computer, and then simply select it to upload. The system will upload the file and install the extension/template automatically.

This is currently the best option for installing templates and those extensions that are not included in Joomla extension directory.

Upload Package File

Install from Directory

This option is for large templates and extensions which cannot be uploaded with the method above due to the PHP upload file size limitation.

When you have downloaded such an extension/template, you have to extract them locally and then upload the folder to the server with FTP or File Manager. After completing these tasks, fill the path of the folder in the box after “Install Directory” and click on “Install”. Joomla will check the server and install the extension/template.

Install from Directory

Install from URL
For this option, you only need to give a download URL, and then the extension/template will be downloaded and installed automatically. Installing from URL is easy, but you have to make sure that your server is properly configured to allow this.

Install from URL

Update Joomla Extensions

In the Extension Manager, under the Install link there is an Update option which manages the extension updates. On the screen, Joomla shows a list of the extensions, plugins and packages with available updates. You can select any extension and click on the “Update” button in the toolbar to get it updated automatically.

Update Joomla Extensions

The “Find Updates” option allows you to check the Joomla installation to find other extensions that need an update.

Note that not all Joomla extensions can be updated with the built-in updater. As the updater needs to connect to a remote update server to download the update files, only those extensions with an update server location included in the extension.xml file can be updated automatically.

Fortunately, many commercial extensions also support the feature now, so there should be no big problem if you are using a popular extension. In the case that you are not very sure, visit the extension developer’s site to find a solution.

Update Joomla Templates

Updating a Joomla template falls into two possibilities: updating a customized template, and updating one with no custom changes. For the two situations, the solutions are different.

For a template whose core files have not been changed:

In the case that you have made no changes to the template files, you can update the template in the same way as the installation: downloading the new template zip file, and then uploading it under the “Upload Package File” tab in Extension Manager.

When the uploading and installation are done, a message will appear telling you that the template is updated successfully.

For a template which has been customized:

In this case, you cannot upload and install the new template file directly because the changes made to the old template will be overwritten if you do so. Below is a step-by-step tutorial for this situation.

  1. Download the new template file from the theme provider’s website and extract it.
  2. Download the old template files from your server. If you use cPanel File Manager to do this, you will need to compress the template folder first before you can download.
  3. Download Old Template Folder

  4. Copy the custom code in the old template files to the corresponding files in the new template if you remember all the changes you have made. If you cannot remember, move to the next step.
  5. Download a file comparison program like WinMerge (for Windows user) or DiffMerge (for both Windows and Mac OS users).
  6. Use the program to compare the differences between the new template files and the old ones, and copy your customizations to the new template.
  7. Compress the new template files, and upload the zip file in Extension Manager to install the new template.

Tips for Template and Extension Updates

  • Always back up your Joomla website and database before giving any update. This helps you stay away from the risk brought by update failure or other unexpected issues.
  • Always keep all your templates and extensions up-to-date in order to reduce vulnerabilities and increase Joomla security.