How to Use FTP to Deactivate a Plugin That’s Breaking Your WordPress Site

fix wordpress site stuck in maintenance mode

In this text and video Quick Guide, we’ll explain how to deactivate a WordPress plugin via FTP.

When and Why to Use FTP to Disable a WordPress Plugin

Why would you need to disable a WordPress plugin via FTP? The simple answer is that, if a plugin’s broken in a certain way, it will also breaks the normal interface for disabling plugins.

Specifically, if the offending plugin is causing a PHP error that affects not only your site’s frontend, but also its backend—the wp-admin area—then you’ll find that it’s impossible to deactivate the plugin with only WordPress admin access. Without FTP or a similar tool for accessing your site’s filesystem directly, it’s impossible to fix a site that’s in this state.

Video Guide: How to Disable a WordPress Plugin via FTP

This video shows you how to use an FTP client, like FileZilla, to deactivate a plugin that’s erroring and breaking your WordPress site:

And here’s a text walkthrough of the video:

Text Guide: How to Use FTP to Disable WordPress Plugins

  1. Establish an FTP connection to the site. If you don’t know how to do this, read more about FTP. You’ll need hosting access to the site to be able to do this part.
  2. Navigate to the plugins folder of the site. By default this is /wp-content/plugins.
  3. Find the folder name of the plugin that’s breaking your site.
  4. Rename that folder. In the video example, we rename the folder wpshout-break-everything to wpshout-break-everything-RENAMED.
  5. Reload the site and both the front-end and wp-admin will be back up and working.

Doing this won’t cause the plugin to lose data (which lives in the WordPress database), so you can safely do it. It’s simply a “kill switch” for that plugin. Once you figure out the error, you’ll be able to restore the plugin folder to its original name, reactivate it, and the plugin’s data will still be there.

Bonus tip: If you don’t know which plugin is breaking your site, you can use FTP to deactivate all plugins at once, by simply renaming the plugins folder itself—for example, to plugins-RENAMED.

And, as a final note, FTP isn’t the only way to forcibly disable a WordPress plugin: you can always use SSH, your host’s “File Manager” program in cPanel, or another tool to do this same thing. Whatever tool you choose just needs to be able to rename folders on the server where your website is hosted.

Thanks for reading!


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