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How to Manually Update a WordPress Plugin or Theme

by Sorin Marta

WordPress is a cornerstone for website creation in the ever-evolving digital landscape, powering an impressive share of the internet’s websites.

While its user-friendly nature and extensive functionality through plugins are commendable, WordPress site owners must know how to update a WordPress plugin manually.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through each step of this process, ensuring your site remains secure, efficient, and up-to-date.

Understanding the Importance of Regular Updates

Before delving into the manual update process, it’s essential to understand why keeping your WordPress plugins up-to-date is vital. Regular updates can:

  • Enhance security by fixing vulnerabilities.
  • Improve performance and speed.
  • Add new features and functionalities.
  • Ensure compatibility with the latest WordPress version.


Step 1: Pre-Update Preparations

Backup Your Website: The first and non-negotiable step in manually updating a WordPress plugin is creating a complete site backup. This includes all files, content, and the database. Using plugins like UpdraftPlus or manual methods through hosting services’ cPanel can be practical.

Identify the Plugin for Update: Ensure you know which plugin needs updating. Check your WordPress dashboard’s ‘Plugins’ section for any available updates.

Step 2: Download the Latest Plugin Version

Visit the plugin’s page on the WordPress Plugin Directory or the developer’s website. Download the most recent version of the plugin. This file is typically in a .zip format, which you will use in the update process.

Step 3: Safely Deactivate the Plugin

Deactivate the plugin from your WordPress dashboard to avoid conflicts and potential website errors. Go to the ‘Plugins’ section, find the plugin, and select ‘Deactivate’.

Step 4: Access Your Site’s Files

Using FTP for Access: To manually update a WordPress plugin, access your site’s backend files via an FTP client like FileZilla. Connect using your FTP credentials (host, username, password, and port) provided by your web hosting service.

Navigate to the Right Directory: In your FTP client, go to the ‘wp-content/plugins’ directory. Here, you’ll find folders for all the plugins installed on your WordPress site.

Step 5: Upload and Replace the Plugin Files

After locating the specific plugin folder, you must replace it with the updated version. To do this:

  • Unzip the downloaded plugin file on your computer.
  • Upload this unzipped folder to your FTP client’s ‘wp-content/plugins’ directory.
  • Overwrite the existing plugin folder when prompted.

Step 6: Reactivating and Testing the Plugin

Once the upload is complete, return to your WordPress Dashboard:

  • Reactivate the plugin by going to the ‘Plugins’ section and clicking ‘Activate’ on the specific plugin.
  • Test your website thoroughly to ensure the plugin functions correctly without causing any issues.

Step 7: Post-Update Maintenance

After successfully updating the plugin, it’s advisable to:

  • Clear your website’s cache if you are using a caching plugin.
  • Monitor the site for a few days for any unexpected behavior or errors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can’t I use auto-updates for plugins?

Auto-updates are convenient, but they might not always be ideal. For critical sites, manually updating allows you to test the plugin in a staging environment first, reducing the risk of breaking your live site.

What if something goes wrong during the update?

This is where your initial backup comes in handy. You can restore your website to its pre-update state and try again or seek professional help.

Can I manually update a WordPress plugin without FTP access?

Yes, you can. You can manually update a plugin by accessing your WordPress hosting’s file manager. Here, you can upload and replace the plugin files like you would do via FTP.

How do I know if a plugin update is safe to install?

Before updating, read the plugin’s changelog for any significant changes or known issues. You can also check forums, user reviews, and the WordPress support community for feedback on the latest updates.

Is it necessary to update plugins if my website is not live yet?

Updating all plugins is recommended, even on a staging or development site. This ensures you’re working with the latest features and security updates.

Can I disable the update notifications?

Although we recommend doing that only in very few cases and only to seasoned developers who know what they are doing, we have a guide called How to Hide Update Notifications in WordPress.


Learning to update a WordPress plugin manually is a valuable skill for any website owner or administrator. It ensures you have direct control over updates and maintenance, contributing to your site’s overall health and security.

Regularly check for updates and back up your site to safeguard against potential issues.


If you face any issues or questions, don't hesitate to contact us

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