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I am currently patching Magento with the latest patches and wondered whether it is worth applying the patches or upgrading to the latest version?

As far as I can tell the only changes seem to be the patches being included in the Magento files? Or should I just upgrade from 1.9.1.1 to 1.9.2.1?

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Magento updates need thorough testing and often adjustments in custom modules and themes. Patches on the other hand should be applied as fast as possible to close the (now public) vulnerabilities.

That's why my recommendation is to always apply patches immediatly, even if you plan to update early.

You may make an exception if your current version is just a "bugfix" release away from the latest version (like 1.9.1.0 vs. 1.9.1.1), but even "minor" updates, like from 1.9.1 to 1.9.2 often introduce big changes.

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    Its noteworthy to mention that both upgrades and patches often require thorough testing and adjustment in custom modules & themes (see magento.stackexchange.com/q/73481/4021), SUPEE-6285 for example patched a bunch of theme files which you'd also need to do with any custom theme if it overwrites any of the 7 template files mention there. – Moose Aug 27 '15 at 9:41
  • True, thanks for mentioning it. But I'd say this is on a different scale, so it does not change my recommendation. – Fabian Schmengler Aug 27 '15 at 9:43
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    Patching affects things on a limited scale, is reasonably reverisble. Upgrade overwrites the entire core, makes database changes and leaves no room if you do not have a recovery plan in place. And the process for either tends to be less painful if you have a test server so you can find the gotcha's. – Fiasco Labs Sep 8 '15 at 16:43
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Let's say you built your shop in the best-practice way without changing any core classes or base template files definitely go for an upgrade. Patches are just there for urgent security issues, the upgrade will give you a lot more like code improvements and functionalities.

Next to that, upgrading minor versions rarely goes wrong, do that every new version and you'll always be up to date.

As always: make sure you have a backup and DON'T do this on a live environment. Set up a dev :)

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    "upgrading minor versions rarely goes wrong" - not true for Magento (see magento.stackexchange.com/q/69215/243, veterans will also remember the update from 1.4.1 to 1.4.2) – Fabian Schmengler Aug 27 '15 at 9:31
  • @fschmengler you're right, older versions made life... well interesting. But later versions (1.8.x and up i'd say) go pretty well – Sander Mangel Aug 27 '15 at 9:40
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This is an old question, but I'd like to clear some points, after reading previous answers. This is at least the developer point of view, a business manager won't have any doubt: just upgrade!

Of course, security patches are important for a live production site. But it's not as easy as it seems. In fact, I am pretty convinced a very high % of upgraded (or patched) sites are not really protected with the version / patches they've applied, unless they've done it carefully

Let's say you built your shop in the best-practice way without changing any core classes or base template files definitely go for an upgrade

Well... About app/code changes... When you develop extending Magento classes (the nice way) you are rewriting some methods, which can be (not usual, but they can perfectly be) totally changed in Magento new version, so your rewrite loose any sense

About app/design, it's the same, or even worse... As frontend templates usually have lot of changes from version to version (as it is supposed to be), so the templates you've customized in your theme folder (nice way, again) can use different block methods, etc...

So, I'd recommend a full upgrade only for a very basic Magento project, with just some simple customizations. Just type the command in shell, check a few things & smoke your victory cigarrette

I'd never recommend a full upgrade, unless you & your customer have decided to make a new version of the site, as it is 1,000 times easier (and faster) to re-develop all the custom features you had than explore every single code rewrite & every single template you've customized, to validate if your changes are compliant with Magento new code. The same applies for any extension you had installed

Applying security patches is not a fast task, it requires validating your customizations too, but (even the heavy patches) it is usually a better idea than upgrading the full Magento project, as the working hours for doing the job well done will be kindly lower

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