If you’ve come across a free theme offering premium functionality, you might have been a little curious. This might seem like an easy way to save money or try out a product before paying for it. However, these nulled WordPress themes can present serious problems for both you and developers.

Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on pirated software. By learning how to spot nulled WordPress themes and discover alternative options, you can avoid using a product that might harm your site.

In this article, we’ll cover what nulled WordPress themes are and why you shouldn’t use them. Then we’ll offer three key tips to help you select safe and functional software instead. Let’s get started!

An Introduction to Nulled WordPress Themes

A nulled WordPress theme is typically a premium theme that’s offered as a free download. The developers rarely do this themselves. In fact, it’s usually done without the creator’s permission.

You’re unlikely to find a nulled theme in the WordPress directory. This is because WordPress has a team of admins who use a robust review process to ensure that all listed themes are legitimate and operational. However, less reputable vendors may not have the same vetting standards.

Nulled themes can admittedly be appealing. Money might be tight, especially if you’re just starting your site. However, where nulled themes may ease your budget, they can also put your site at risk.

The Problem With Using a Nulled WordPress Theme

There are a variety of reasons you might want to avoid nulled themes.

For one thing, they usually come without any updates or support. This can put your website’s security at risk. Hackers can also use nulled themes as a tool to directly harm your site by injecting it with malware.

Additionally, nulled themes aren’t necessarily legal. While many themes make use of code under the General Public License, this is not always the case. Therefore, you could be downloading a product that the developer has a right to be paid for.

For these reasons, it’s important to purchase a premium theme legitimately. Not only will this help you avoid the pitfalls of illegality and insecurity, but it will also be an investment in the products. Developers can use your paid licenses to improve the tools you rely on.

If you’re not interested in paid options or don’t have the budget for it, you still don’t need a nulled theme. There is an abundance of quality, free themes available to use. Therefore, you might choose to opt for a safe, free theme until you have the budget to invest in a premium counterpart.

How to Avoid Using Nulled WordPress Themes (3 Key Tips)

Knowing how to spot a nulled WordPress theme can be tricky. Here are three key tips to help you avoid downloading pirated material.

1. Learn How to Identify a Nulled Theme

Most nulled themes share a few traits. The following aspects are not necessarily indicators of stolen software, but they may be useful as possible warning signs.

An easy place to start is with the vendor. Is the theme you’re looking at available in the official WordPress directory? If not, is it being distributed by a respected site?

To determine if a vendor is trustworthy, you can look for other instances of pirated material on the page. Alternatively, the design might also be a giveaway. Some sites might have multiple, unclear download buttons. Others might provide several download links:

A pirate site displaying several download links, which might indicate a nulled theme.

Multiple complicated download links to unsafe-looking domains can indicate a nulled theme. The person posting it anticipates being shut down, and is using alternative pages to widen the theme’s availability.

Another aspect you may want to consider is the price. You can conduct a search for the theme in question, and see if it’s being sold at a higher price elsewhere. Unfortunately, software that seems too good to be true usually is.

If you’re ever unsure about a vendor or source, we recommend that you check out the WordPress Theme Directory. All listed themes are vetted for quality before being posted on the official WordPress site:

The WordPress theme directory homepage.

Alternatively, there are third-party vendors with similarly high standards. You might choose to use a reliable site such as ThemeForest:

The homepage for ThemeForest, a reliable option to avoid nulled themes.

Another option is to go straight to developer sites for accurate information. Whatever approach you favor, choosing a reputable source and avoiding suspicious circumstances can help you avoid nulled themes. We recommend investigating these issues before you start the theme installation process.

2. Take Any Necessary Precautions

You may apply the criteria from the previous section, yet still be unsure if a theme is nulled. If this is the case, there are other steps you can take to prevent yourself from potential harm.

One way to do this is to scan the theme for malware. After you download the files but before installing them, consider running the theme through a security check. We recommend VirusTotal:

The homepage for the security scanner VirusTotal.

This tool is simple to use. You select your file, upload it to the site, and receive a summary of any threats found.

However, it bears mentioning that this tool only searches for malware. It won’t detect a nulled theme specifically. Even if a nulled theme has no viruses, it can still pose a security risk due to a lack of regular updates.

As such, you may want to shore up your site’s security in other ways as well. In addition to improving overall security, you can make frequent backups. These can serve as insurance against a worst-case scenario that crashes your site.

Once you’ve taken those steps, you can consider implementing a few precautions during the changeover as well. Swapping out themes can be tricky even when you’re using safe software. Fortunately, there are some best practices you can follow to safely change WordPress themes on a live site.

3. Be Prepared to Pay for Legitimate Products

WordPress themes with premium features often come with a price tag. If you’re not expecting this, nulled themes can seem like a better choice. However, setting a budget ahead of time based on your needs can help you find a functional option within your price range.

First, consider creating a list of all your desired theme traits. You might also want to focus on ‘must-have’ functionality. For example, you might decide that finding a search engine-friendly theme is a priority.

After you make your list, you can divide it into two categories: those you’re willing to pay for, and those you’re not. This process can help you stick within your budget, while also getting the features you need for your site.

We also recommend that you consult the premium theme marketplace to get an idea of how much you should expect to pay. As a bonus, this may make it easier to spot nulled themes that advertise typically premium content.

Finally, you can focus your search on developers that offer refunds, such as the popular Astra theme:

An image of Astra's refund policy, laying out the process and deadlines.

These can be a smart choice if you’re not ready to commit to a theme. Refund policies enable you to experiment with a fully-fledged program as a preview. This is a straightforward way to preview premium features without resorting to a nulled theme.

Conclusion

Nulled themes can seem like a budget-friendly alternative to premium themes. Nevertheless, their possible security risks and dubious legality often make them more trouble than they’re worth in the long run. Fortunately, knowing how to spot pirated software can lower the risk of using a tainted program.

In this article, we covered three tips to help you avoid nulled WordPress themes:

  1. Learn to recognize some tell-tale signs of a nulled theme.
  2. Take extra security steps such as a virus scan before installation.
  3. Research typical prices and prepare to invest a similar amount.

Do you have any questions about nulled WordPress themes? Let us know in the comments section below!

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