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How to Install/Uninstall WordPress Plugins

There are two ways to install a WordPress plugin via the WordPress dashboard, either by plugin search or plugin upload. You can also manually install it into the plugins folder of your WordPress site via FTP. 

As always, before making any changes to your site, we recommend that you create a complete backup of your site before proceeding. You can trust our professional service, CodeGuard, to create automatic backups of your website.

This article discusses the following topics:


Installing a WordPress plugin via the WordPress dashboard

There are two options for installing and activating WordPress plugins. You may also watch our webinar about WordPress plugins below.

Option 1: WordPress Admin Plugin Search

  1. Go to your WordPress admin panel.
  2. On the left-side menu, click Plugins, then select Add New.

    WordPress - Plugins - Add New

  3. Using the Search field, type in the name of the WordPress plugin. To narrow your search, you can select options from the Keyword dropdown, then type a descriptive keyword, author, or tag in the search field. You can also use the categories tabs - Featured, Popular, Recommended, or Favorites - to search for your preferred plugin.

    WordPress - Plugins - Search plugins

  4. Select your preferred plugin, then click More Details for more information about the plugin and instructions you may wish to print or save to help set up the plugin.

    WordPress - Plugins - More Details

  5. Click Install Now to download and install the plugin.

    WordPress - Plugins - Install Now

  6. The button will show an Installing status.

    Plugins - Installing status

    It will show Activate once installed.

    Plugins - Activate status

  7. Click Activate. Once installed, some plugins will return you to the Installed Plugins page or redirect you to a new tab to set up or begin using the new plugin.

Option 2: WordPress Admin Plugin Upload

There are some plugins, especially the paid ones, that come in a .zip file. To install this plugin, make sure that you get the complete plugin core files from a reliable source. You need to upload it into your WordPress admin area while still in a .zip file, then activate it within your dashboard.

  1. In your WordPress dashboard, click Plugins from the left menu, then select Add New.
  2. Click the Upload Plugin button at the top.

    WordPress - Upload Plugin

  3. The upload form will be displayed. Click Choose File, then select the plugin's .zip file.

    Plugins - Choose File

  4. Once the file is uploaded, click Install Now.

    WordPress - Plugins - Install Now

  5. WordPress will initiate the upload and installation of the plugin. A status message will be displayed with the Activate Plugin and Return to Plugin Installer buttons.
  6. Click Activate Plugin to start using the plugin.

You may need to set up or modify some settings on your plugin depending on your website needs. These settings may vary for each plugin.

Video Tutorial

Our team created this great webinar about WordPress Plugins and Widgets. We've queued up the portion about finding and installing plugins, but you can start it from the beginning to learn that and much more!

Note: Some WordPress plugins require further customization. The More Details button should contain step-by-step instructions. After installation, this information is available on the plugins panel for each plugin.


Installing a WordPress Plugin manually via FTP

Manual installation of a WordPress plugin requires FTP familiarity and the awareness that you may put your site at risk if you install a WordPress plugin that is incompatible with the current version of WordPress or if it's from an unreliable source.

  1. Download the WordPress plugin to your desktop.
  2. If downloaded as a zip file, extract the plugin folder to your desktop. This is very important as files must be extracted to be uploaded properly to the wp-content/plugins folder.
  3. Read through the Details "readme" file thoroughly to ensure you follow the installation instructions.
  4. With your FTP program, upload the plugin folder to the wp-content/plugins folder in your WordPress directory. Make sure you're on the document root of your website.
    For more information on how to upload a file using an FTP client, please check out the FTP Settings and Connection and How to Transfer Files with FileZilla articles for the complete set of instructions.
  5. Once uploaded, log in to your WordPress dashboard.
  6. On the left menu, click Plugins, then select Installed Plugins to find the newly uploaded plugin in the list.
  7. Click the Activate button to activate it.

As always, be sure to check the readme file (usually in a .txt file) for customization instructions and further information.


Deactivating a WordPress plugin

Deactivating a plugin without permanently deleting it is usually for debugging and bug fixes or when the plugin is not in use at the current time. It keeps your website settings and configuration just in case you decide to reactivate it.

Please note that deactivating a plugin means you are not using that plugin temporarily. Deactivated WordPress plugins can make a website vulnerable as they can be used to run malicious codes on your website. If you have no plans to use a plugin any time soon, we suggest uninstalling the plugin.

To deactivate a plugin:

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin panel.
  2. Go to Plugins.
  3. Click Installed Plugins, then locate the plugin you wish to deactivate.

    WordPress - Installed Plugins

  4. Click Deactivate underneath the name of the plugin. The plugin will initiate the deactivation on its own.

    WordPress - Plugins - Deactivate

Most WordPress plugins have the option to uninstall themselves completely, though not all of them have this option.


Uninstalling a WordPress plugin permanently

Be aware that the installation and removal of plugins can alter your WordPress installation as they can modify the code in your theme or your overall WordPress installation.

Most plugins can be removed by following the steps below, but you may need to check the plugin's readme file's instructions to learn how to uninstall some plugins correctly. For instance, if the WordPress plugin installation requires adding code to the WordPress theme, then you may have to edit the theme files to remove them manually.

To uninstall a plugin:

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin panel.
  2. Go to Plugins.
  3. Click Installed Plugins, then locate the plugin you want to uninstall.
    WordPress - Installed Plugins
  4. Click Delete below the plugin name.

    WordPress Plugin Delete

  5. A pop-up warning box will appear. Click OK to proceed.

    Pop-warning box

Some plugins create extra files, database tables, etc., when activated. To remove all traces of a plugin, read the instructions below.


Removing extra files added by the WordPress plugin

Most of the time, uninstalling a WordPress plugin removes the plugin completely. However, there are some plugins that create files, folders, or extra databases or tables outside the plugins folder. They were already created in your server, and simply uninstalling the plugin will not delete these files. This is especially so for WordPress backup plugins and gallery plugins, which store files inside the wp-content folder. To completely remove these files, you may need to remove them manually through your File Manager or FTP.

The steps below are optional and are not recommended if you are not familiar with your WordPress core files. You would not want to make any changes to your core files if you are unaware of their use.

Option 1: via the File Manager

  1. Uninstall the plugin. (See instructions above.)
  2. Log in to your cPanel. 
  3. Look for the File Manager icon, then navigate to your website's document root and look for the wp-content folder.
    For databases, click the MySQL Databases icon. For more details, please refer to the article, How To Delete a MySQL Database.
  4. Once the file(s) is located, select the file, then click the Delete button on the top menu, or right-click, then select Delete.

Option 2: via FTP

  1. Uninstall the plugin. (See instructions above.)
  2. Log in to your server via your FTP program.
  3. Look for your website's document root.
  4. Access the wp-content folder and locate the folders or files you need to delete.
  5. Delete the WordPress plugin folder and/or files from your server.

Tips for removing plugins

The following tips can help you to minimize unwanted changes to your site while removing plugins:

  1. Upgrading WordPress may change the code, which could conflict with your WordPress theme modifications. Use a child theme or manually check the plugin's code to ensure it is still active.
  2. Your changes will not automatically carry over to the new theme if you change themes. You will need to copy or add them manually to the new WordPress theme (even if you use a child theme since it is not associated with the new theme).
  3. Updates to the WordPress theme may remove the plugin modification code. Use a child theme or make notes to remind yourself to re-add the plugin code to the updated theme.
  4. As always, make sure to create a backup of your website before making ANY changes to ensure you have something to restore in case something unexpected happens. You can rely on CodeGuard, our trusted professional backup partner, as your automatic backup solution.


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