How to Update WordPress Plugins Manually – Complete Guide

learn to update WordPress plugins

Plugins are widely used extensions of WordPress. You can create a WordPress website successfully but you can hardly manage it without using plugins. Plugins make your WordPress life easy and more powerful. To know more about plugins, you should definitely read previous tutorial – How to install WordPress plugins. Chances are you have already done it many times, but I am sure that these tutorials will help you in many different ways. Here, you will learn more about plugin updates not just —How to Update WordPress Plugins Manually. So get ready!

About WordPress Plugin Updates

Updates are always one more step towards better WordPress.

The WordPress program updates are released time to time to help users manage their websites in better way. You should never miss an update as they are made to enhance website performance, options and functionality and most important security system. This is also important for plugin authors to update their codes to make them compatible with WordPress version update. Author may also update their plugins to make them more productive and less stressful.

wordpress plugins changelog button

You should always review “Changelog” of a plugin on WordPress Plugins Repository page before installing one. Generally three or more updates in a year make a plugin reliable and safe. Last Updated Date indicates freshness of code and compatibility.

Importance of WordPress Plugin Updates

Updates are always one more step towards better WordPress. Let’s dig more about plugin updates and become master of the subject. An enthusiast developer always listens to his fans and modifies his plugin if errors are reported. These plugin errors or flaws put your website into danger when they become public on support forums. In this case, ignoring an update might be your biggest mistake as this could lead to attacks in website security.

Users also ask for additional features to authors for their specific needs and authors add them if they like users’ suggestions. This is recommended that you always update to new version instantly whenever it’s available. Sometimes plugins are re-invented to perform faster and better with less server load.

Best Practices to Update WordPress Plugins Safely

This is always advisable that you take full backup of your WordPress website and database before making important changes to the website. A small act of plugin update can take your whole website down if new enhanced version conflicts and proves to be faulty. I am free to install automatic updates as my website is safe and backed up by online paid services.

Not all plugins are necessarily well-coded. Install plugins those are written by noted Developers.

wordpress plugin version update details

A message is displayed on Installed Plugins page along with Plugin Description when changes are made to the plugin – “There is a new version of same plugin is available”. Click on View Version Details to know more about the update. Also view changelogs, support forum and visit plugin’s original site (see description tab) to get the idea or update warnings from the author himself. I personally don’t rely on plugins stability until I am satisfied with author’s reputation. WordPress itself helps you decide to take right approach —

plugin compatibility checker

Go to concerning plugin page on WordPress.org Plugin Repository and scroll down to Compatibility voting stats. The plugin compatibility checker represents a kind of meter to determine the success of plugin usability. You can download updated version and try your luck if enough people have already installed the plugin on their websites and voted for it by clicking on Works Button.

Or if Compatibility voting doesn’t send a green signal, you can optionally choose to wait for a while until enough votes are received. I suggest you not to wait because for most plugins, there is never enough data available for WordPress compatibility meter to send a signal. I will rather appreciate your efforts of (1) taking website backups, (2) installing and testing the plugin and (3) share your experience by voting on plugin page.

Few Things to Remember Before You Update WordPress Plugins Manually

  • Always have a fresh backup of your WordPress website
  • Install WordPress Plugins that are developed by noted authors
  • Upgrade to new version releases and keep your website up-to-date
  • Visit support forum or contact the author for any kind of help
  • If the upgrade is broken, roll back to previous version of plugin

How to Update WordPress Plugins Safely

Recognize the update signals

wordpress dashboard updates notification

You can easily recognize the signals whenever updates are available for WordPress. When you log in to your WordPress website, the Dashboard home page appears as first screen. If you notice black dots on Dashboard menu with numbers, that means you are missing some updates on your website. The Updates button under Dashboard menu shows total number of available updates including WordPress software update and Plugin updates. The Plugins menu shows updates only when new versions are released for your installed plugins.

Update using WordPress Plugin Installer

list of installed plugins

Click on the Plugins button to see the list of installed plugins. Then click on the Update Available option on the plugin installer page. There you see the list of those plugins which are due for updates. Click Update now to update a plugin automatically. Simple is that.

You have no reason to worry if you love keeping your website backups regularly.

How to Update WordPress Plugins Manually using FTP Client

You can rely on Automatic Plugin Installer but you should not rely on plugins. They can do unexpected things to your site. We are going to learn -Update WordPress plugins manually, for such critical situations. Go to plugin page on wordpress.org website and download the latest plugin version on your computer in .zip format. Unzip the file and get the native plugin package. This package contains all plugin files. Install FileZilla or Cyberduck program (any one of them) and open the FTP client software. Enter hosting details in blank fields to connect to the remote server, where WordPress files are hosted.

FileZilla window to show remote server files

Within FTP remote server frame, navigate down to the /wp-content/plugins… directory of WordPress website, where you can find all your installed plugins-packages by their names. Select the plugin directory which you want to update and choose delete option to remove the outdated version first. You will not loose plugin settings/data, most likely. Now, select the unzipped package that is still on your PC and drag it to the FTP window. Before you drop, make sure that cursor is inside remote location frame view and /wp-content/plugins/ directory is highlighted. This is how you upload the fresh version of plugin in place of previous version, inside the /wp-content/plugins directory.

Go to website dashboard, visit the installed plugins page and refresh browser window. Activate newly updated plugin if Activate button is displayed instead of Deactivate button. Your plugin is now up-to-date and should be working correctly. Plugin settings would have been restored. Go to previous tutorial for detailed version of handling FTP upload.

WordPress Plugin Update Troubleshooting

Oops! Something is wrong with the update? You have lost access to your WordPress Dashboard or you are seeing errors on the screen! Of course, there is something wrong with the new version which collided. The situation is not horrible for those who can restore their websites from backups. However, before you restore, you can opt for shorter method and try fixing the issue – revert/undo your plugin version.

Revert back to older version of WordPress plugin

wordpress plugin developers tab

Connect to the remote server using FTP Client and navigate to /wp-content/plugins directory to find the problematic plugin package. Remove it from your website by delete command. Then, visit the plugin page on WordPress.org and browse previous versions under Developers tab. Click on version number to download previous version in .zip format. Unzip the file to get back the older plugin package on your PC. Go to FTP client and upload this package to /wp-content/plugins directory. You have reverted to the normal WordPress screen. Still feeling sad because WordPress plugin update failed and you are back on older version! Well, visit support page and try to find others’ update experiences. Or keep blogging and wait for the next version release.

External Links » Read more on this topic »

Upgrade WordPress Plugin Manually Using cPanel
Dashboard → WordPress Updates → Plugins

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3 comments
Jorge O.
Jorge O.

It's so sad how little documentation Wordpress has about the plugin update process. It's hindering when you try to implement an enterprise network of WP-powered sites. Oh well

Jesin
Jesin

Shouldn't the plugin be deactivated before being deleted via FTP?

Jorge O.
Jorge O.

That's what people tend to do but in my experience it makes no difference.