Changing the Name and Path of the Active WordPress Theme Without Breaking Theme Settings

After changing a brand name, but little else, on a WordPress site we can end up with a WordPress theme called “oldbrand” on a site called “New Brand.” This leads to weird things like the brand’s logo being at the URL newbrand.com/wp-content/themes/oldbrand/img/newbrand-logo.png. Oops. SEOs must cry a little when they see something like that. This is a situation one of my clients ended up in after a name change, but it ends now.

We can’t simply change the theme directory from themes/oldbrand to themes/newbrand and update the active theme in the Appearance section of the wp-admin because theme-related settings are tied to the theme directory in the database. This includes things like widget placement; a different theme probably has very different widget areas so widget placement should be stored per-theme. The same goes for any theme settings & customizations. To get around this we need to update the database so WordPress thinks that the new theme name is the theme name we’ve always been using.

A word of caution: back up your database before trying this. We’re going to run raw queries. If something breaks you may end up in an in-between limbo, and restoring from backup is the quickest way out.

After diving through the database of a few sites this morning these queries make it possible to rename the theme directory, and optionally rename the theme in style.css:

# Update the main theme options
UPDATE wp_options SET option_value='new-theme-directory' WHERE option_name='template';
UPDATE wp_options SET option_value='new-theme-directory' WHERE option_name='stylesheet';
UPDATE wp_options SET option_name='theme_mods_new-theme-directory' WHERE option_name='theme_mods_old-theme-directory';

# If also updating the Theme Name in the theme's style.css
UPDATE wp_options SET option_value='New Theme Name' WHERE option_name='current_theme';  

# If any posts reference assets in the theme such as images or logos.
UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content=REPLACE(post_content, 'themes/old-theme-directory', 'themes/new-theme-directory' );
UPDATE wp_postmeta SET meta_value=REPLACE(meta_value, 'themes/old-theme-directory', 'themes/new-theme-directory');

# If WordFence is used
UPDATE wp_wfConfig SET val=REPLACE(val, 'themes/old-theme-directory', 'themes/new-theme-directory');

# Delete a couple of transients that store references to the old theme directory.
DELETE FROM wp_options WHERE option_value='_site_transient_theme_roots';
DELETE FROM wp_options WHERE option_value='_site_transient_update_themes';

Protips:

  • Try to run these queries at nearly the same time as the theme directory is renamed. Bonus points for making a script that does it all nearly instantly.
  • If an installation stores transients somewhere other than the DB, then clearing them in the DB won’t work, (clearing the transients may not be strictly required).
  • The sample code uses the default wp_ table prefix. When working on a site with a different prefix, use that.

Hopefully this helps someone finish their Googling session and get on with a rename!

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