How to Fix Updating File Issues with the WordPress Editor

default image

Trying to make some tweaks to your WordPress theme, only to see that frustrating "Your changes may not have saved" error? As a long-time WordPress developer and open source enthusiast, I‘ve been there too!

Not being able to save changes in the editor can completely derail your workflow. But with some targeted troubleshooting, you can get back on track.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll draw upon my over 5 years of experience with WordPress to walk you through the top reasons that error pops up, and how to resolve them.

Why Saving Fails in the Editor

Before we dig into solutions, let‘s briefly look at what causes saving to fail in the first place:


Based on my experience, there are 3 primary culprits:

  • File permissions: The web server needs write access to modify files. On local environments or shared hosting this is often configured correctly already. But on VPS or cloud hosting you may need to manually adjust.

  • Security plugins: Tools like WordFence and Sucuri do great things for security. But overly strict default settings can also block legitimate editing attempts.

  • Cloud firewall: Services like Cloudflare add an extra layer of protection. But the firewall can generate false positives and block editing access.

So with those causes in mind, let‘s walk through how to diagnose and fix each one.

Adjusting File Permissions

If you‘re running WordPress on a VPS or cloud hosting provider, file permissions could be the issue.

The web server daemon – like Nginx or Apache – needs write access to the wp-content/themes folder to modify files.

You can check the current user with a quick command:

# Nginx
ps -ef | grep nginx 

# Apache
ps -ef | grep httpd

This will likely show the user as www-data, nginx, or apache. To grant write access, use chown:

chown -R nginx:nginx /var/www/html/wp-content/themes

Replace nginx with your web server user. Test editing a file after to confirm it worked.

Pro Tip: Incorrect owners or permissions can lead to other issues too like broken images, failed updates, etc. Take time to verify they‘re configured correctly.

Security Plugins Causing Conflicts

Plugins like WordFence and iThemes Security provide important protection. But they can also block legitimate activity like editing files.

Try disabling these plugins temporarily and attempting an edit. If it works, you know a plugin is interfering.

You can then tweak their settings to allow editor access. Under iThemes Security > Settings > System Tweaks, disable the following:

  • protect_files
  • prevent_site_modifications

For WordFence, whitelist your own IP address under Blocking > IP Blocking.

If tweaking settings doesn‘t help, contact the plugin developers for assistance getting it configured correctly. Don‘t leave security disabled!

Investigating Cloud Firewall Logs

If using a cloud firewall like Cloudflare, check there too. Pull up firewall logs from around the time an edit failed.

Look for requests blocked for things like SQL injection, XSS, etc. The firewall may be detecting false positives.

To fix, whitelist your IP address in the firewall settings. You can also create firewall rules to allow editing routes like:


This will permit those requests while keeping the firewall active for other threats.

We‘re Not Done Yet!

With the power of process of elimination, you can determine what‘s blocking access and adjust things accordingly. I know it can be frustrating, but hang in there – you‘ve got this!

Here are a few more tips that can help avoid issues down the road:

  • Use SFTP: Rather than editing via the dashboard, use SFTP to modify files. No permissions or firewalls to worry about!

  • Add exceptions: Have your host or firewall proactively add exceptions for WordPress editing routes.

  • Test locally: Try edits locally to rule out server issues. Troubleshoot safely offline!

Take the time to properly diagnose and address the root cause – not just slap on a quick fix. Learning how each piece interacts will serve you well as you continue growing and managing WordPress sites.

Now get back to bringing those creative ideas to life! With a gem like WordPress at your fingertips, the possibilities are truly endless.

Written by