How to Disable WordPress Plugins Manually

There’s a few instances where you’ll find yourself needing to disable a WordPress plugin manually. The most common situations are:

  1. You updated a plugin and now your site doesn’t work.
  2. You installed a new plugin, it created a conflict, and your site doesn’t work.
  3. The white screen of death.

Basically, something went wrong!

It’s a rare day that you can’t get into the Plugins manager to deal with issues. I have only had to manually disable plugins a handful of times over my years of using WordPress, but knowing how to when you need to is crucial.

The why of it doesn’t matter though. If it’s a plugin messing things up then how you manually disable it is the same regardless. First though, you need to figure out what plugin is causing the issue, assuming it’s not a blatant error message being shown on your site.

error_log

Here’s a tip. If you aren’t sure what plugin is misbehaving, and in turn what one to disable, then your best bet is to look at your error_log.

To do this you will need FTP access to your web host.

  1. FTP into your site.
  2. Navigate to your public directory, typically: public_html or www depending on your hosting environment.
  3. Look for a file called error_log and download it.error_log
  4. Open the error_log file in any text editor and look at the bottom of the file. Look for references to plugins with errors. Hopefully you’ll see the culprit.
  5. If you don’t see anything that gives away the problematic plugin, then proceed to disable all plugins as shown below.

Manually Disabling Plugins

You’ve got two methods available to you. An easy one (FTP), and an annoying one (database). If you don’t have access to your site either through FTP, or the database, then you will need to contact your web host to have them help you out. The easiest way for your web host to help you out, if this is uncharted territory for them too, would be to provide them the FTP directions below. It’s the simplest method to do.

Speaking of web hosts, I have a list of some in my blogging resources area if you’re after one.

FTP

This is the easiest method and the one I recommend.

  1. FTP into your web host and navigate to: /wp-content/plugins/
  2. Look for the folder of the plugin you want to disable and rename the folder. I often just append -disabled to it, IE: better-search-replace-disabled.Disable by FTP
  3. Go to your WordPress Admin area and your plugins will now be disabled. Verify by visiting the Plugins manager.
  4. Rename the folder back to the original name and the plugin will remain inactive.

Now you can figure out what’s going on with the plugin and have your site working in the meantime. Once you figure out the issue you can just turn the plugin back on the normal way in the Plugins manager.

All Plugins

Sometimes you aren’t sure which plugin is the issue, so you’re left with disabling them all. Now, you can rename them as mentioned above, one at a time, if you don’t have a lot of them. However, if you have a lot of plugins (like I do), then you need a faster method.

  1. FTP into your web host and navigate to: /wp-content/
  2. Rename the plugins folder, IE: plugins-disabled
  3. Go to your WordPress Admin area and your plugins will now be disabled. Verify by visiting the Plugins manager.
  4. Rename the folder back to plugins. The plugins will remain disabled until you turn them on in the Plugins manager.
  5. My recommendation would be to turn one plugin on at a time and keep checking your site after each activation. Eventually you’ll figure out which plugin is causing the issue. Once you do, just disable that one plugin as explained above.

Database

This method takes longer and is tedious unless you want to disable all plugins at once.

These directions are for using phpMyAdmin. If you’re using a different interface then the steps are the same really, just the screenshots below may not be of much use to you.

  1. Go to your database and the wp_options table.MySQL Tables
  2. Run the following query.

    SELECT * FROM `wp_options` WHERE option_name = 'active_plugins'

    Plugin Query

  3. You will get one record returned. Click on Edit.Query Result

Disable All Plugins

  1. First, copy the data from the option_value field in case something goes wonky and save it in a text file somewhere. It will look something like this:Active Plugins Entry
  2. Delete all the text in the option_value field and replace it with this:

    a:0:{}
  3. Hit the Go button to save. Now, all your plugins are disabled.

Disable One Plugin

  1. First, be sure to copy everything in the option_value field and save it somewhere in case something happens.
  2. Now, look for reference to the plugin you want to disable in the text of the option_value field.
  3. The entire part you want will look like this – we’re disabling Jetpack in this example:

    i:15;s:19:"jetpack/jetpack.php";

    What you find won’t look exactly like that, but it will look very similar, just with different numbers.

  4. Delete that line.
  5. Now, the annoying part. You will need to adjust all the values that are i:some-number so the sequence is correct. So, you’ll have entries like: i:1, i:2, i:3, etc. From my example, I deleted i:15. So, I’ll need to see if anything came after it, like i:16 and rename that to i:15. If there was an i:17 then that now becomes i:16. See what I mean? Super annoying.
  6. Hit the Go button to save.

That’s it. You’ve now disabled all the plugins, or the one you needed.

Once you figure out the issue you can turn the plugin(s) on in WordPress Admin->Plugins like usual.

Conclusion

Hopefully you found that useful and it answered your question. If you’re still having issues then feel free to drop me a comment below and I’ll try my best to help you out.

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How to Disable WordPress Plugins Manually
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Author: Thor

I started blogging in 2009 for my gaming blog Creative Twilight. I've been blogging ever since.

I later created Command Center, a tool for 40K. I've also set up, maintain, and run my wife's site ecoLifestyle for her business.

I'm also a PHP programmer for a local web hosting company where I develop WordPress plugins.

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