How to Install or Update a WordPress Plugin from a ZIP File

This Quick Guide will show you how to both install and update WordPress plugins from a ZIP file.

Installing a WordPress plugin from a ZIP file is one of the two main ways to add a plugin to WordPress. In particular, to install a premium WordPress plugin, you’ll almost always be uploading the plugin as a ZIP file, since premium plugins aren’t listed in the free-only WordPress repository.

The video below covers how to add a WordPress plugin by uploading it from a ZIP file:

And here’s a text walkthrough on the information covered in the video:

How to Upload and Install a WordPress Plugin from a ZIP File

  1. Go to the “Plugins > Add New” screen.
  2. At the top, right next to the work “Add New” is a button labelled “Upload Plugin”. Click that button, and a new area of the page should become visible to you.
  3. Into that area you can either drag-and-drop of use the “Choose File” button to use your system’s file browser to find the ZIP file. It should have a .zip file extension.
  4. Once you’ve found the file, click “Install Now.” This will trigger WordPress to upload and unzip the ZIP file and register the plugin on your WordPress site.
  5. On the next screen that shows up, you can then click the “Activate” button to turn on the plugin.

How to Update a WordPress Plugin from a ZIP File

If you need to update a WordPress plugin that’s already installed on your WordPress site to a new version, you can replace an old version of the plugin with a new version using a ZIP file upload. Again, you’ll be using this method mainly for premium plugins, as plugins listed in the WordPress repository have one-click updating directly from Plugins > Installed Plugins, no ZIP files required.

The steps for updating a WordPress plugin from a ZIP file are the same as above, except there’s an additional step at the beginning:

  1. Start by deleting the old version of the plugin by going to “Plugins > Installed Plugins” and clicking first “Deactivate” and then “Delete.”

From there, you can follow the steps above as normal to upload the plugin in its newer version from a ZIP file. Don’t worry, you won’t have lost your plugin’s settings by deleting its old version: those settings are stored in the WordPress database, which won’t change when you delete things from the filesystem.

As a note, if you’re worried that the new version may not work properly (which you should usually be—you never know), you may want to use FTP to download the old version of the plugin to your computer first before deleting it.

Lastly, if this sounds like a crude way to update software to you, it is: it’s one of the weirder things about premium WordPress plugins. It’s also true that many of the more advanced premium plugins, like WooCommerce or Advanced Custom Fields, have created more sophisticated updating methods based around license keys.

You Can Install Any Plugin By Uploading it as a ZIP File

As one last note, you can upload any plugin as a ZIP file, even plugins in the WordPress plugin repository. Just go to the plugin’s page in the WordPress repository (do a Google search for “wordpress plugin [plugin name]”), click the blue “Download” button to download the plugin as a ZIP file, and follow the steps above.

Thanks for reading!


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