How to Remove Plugins in WordPress When They Break Your Site

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

Plugins are the bread and butter of most WordPress websites. They can offer a slew of features for nearly any type of audience. But what happens when one stops your site from working? Today, let’s remove those plugins when they break WordPress.

In this tutorial, I’m talking about when a plugin completely disables logging in directly. This is when you don’t have access to the admin screen and are unable to install or uninstall plugins normally.

Also, I’m focusing on using cPanel for self-hosted WordPress websites.

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Remove Plugins from WordPress Through cPanel

For the sake of this tutorial, let’s say you install something like WPS Hide Login. But for some unknown reason, the plugin breaks your site or you’re otherwise unable to access the WordPress login screen.

Step 1: Click “File Manager” from cPanel

Log into your cPanel account (provided by your web host) and click the “File Manager” option under the Files section.

Use File Manager to Remove Plugins

This will launch a second browser tab for the cPanel File Manager screen.

Step 2: Locate Your Plugins Folder in WordPress

Click or expand the “public_html” folder for your WordPress site. It should be available in the left column of File Manager.

Open Public Folder

When you click the folder on the left, the contents will show in the right panel. This is all of the folders and files related to your web hosting account.

Double-click into the “wp-content” folder.

Open wp-content Folder

From here, double-click into the “plugins” folder.

Open WordPress Plugins Folder

Step 3: Find and Delete the Bad Plugin

Click the plugin you want to remove from WordPress once. In this case, we’re deleting the WPS Hide Login plugin.

Remember, we’re only clicking the plugin once. We don’t want to open the folder, just select it.

Select Bad Plugin

Now, we have a couple of ways we can delete the plugin in question. We can right-click the plugin and click “Delete.”

Right Click Delete

Or, you can use the “Delete” button in File Manager when the plugin is highlighted.

Remove Plugins in File Manager

Once the plugin is deleted, you should be able to access the login screen of WordPress. If you’re still unable to access the login screen, there may be other plugins causing an issue, or you may have to do a bit of troubleshooting to find the problem.

What if you don’t know what plugin broke your website?

So, what should you do if you’re not sure which plugin is breaking your website? Well, you have a couple of options.

To remove plugins from WordPress, you can:

  • Rename the plugins folder name to “plugins-old” and create a new empty “plugins” folder. Then, you can move plugins over from the “old” folder to the new one at a time to see which one breaks the site.
  • Go into the plugins folder, write down what you have, delete them all, and then re-install them one by one and test the site with each install.
  • Or, delete each plugin folder one at a time while testing the site until you come across the bad plugin.

When deleting the plugins, WordPress will save its settings in the database. This means the plugin should function normally after re-installing it.

Do Plugins Normally Break WordPress?

Although WordPress itself is a relatively stable platform, sometimes problems can arise. This is often due to the very nature of WordPress: customization.

Virtually anyone can create a plugin or theme for WordPress, and not everyone uses the same standard for writing code. Sometimes, these coded elements can create conflicts that can disable each other or completely stop WordPress from functioning properly.

While this problem isn’t very common, it usually happens when you’re using two plugins that deliver similar functions. For example, I know a couple of caching plugins that do not play well together.

I’ve also seen two SEO plugins crash each other. And in one case, I had an image optimizer use up all of the CPU and memory resources of my account. This made the site incredibly slow to the point where some of the files wouldn’t load.

The point is that with the sheer volume of plugins you can use in WordPress, it’s easy to go overboard when you add or remove them. Try to install plugins sparingly and only keep the ones you absolutely want to use.

Not only does it save the drive space of your web hosting account, but it’ll limit conflicts from happening.

Backup WordPress Before You Add or Remove Plugins

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to revert changes is to always have a current backup of your WordPress website before you add or remove plugins. This way, should something happen, you can quickly restore from the backup and continue on.

It’s always a good idea to keep routine backups of your website, anyway. It can save you from a great deal of stress should your site get hacked and damaged. Of course, you want to make sure you scan the file system to prevent the hack from happening after you restore from a backup.

Otherwise, the hacker could access it again in the same way.

Using something like Wordfence is great in this regard. It’ll help by protecting the site from brute force attacks, geo-location blocking, and scanning the files of WordPress to ensure nothing was changed.

In any case, never underestimate the easiness and flexibility of a backup.

What About Using FTP Software to Remove WordPress Plugins?

When using FTP programs, such as FileZilla, the process works the same way as it does through cPanel’s File Manager. Essentially, you’ll connect to your web hosting account, access the wp-content folder, and proceed to remove the bad plugins from WordPress.

It’s a bit more convoluted process, though. For one thing, you’ll need FTP access to your web hosting account. Most providers I’ve used provide this and even have tutorials on how to connect.

Using FTP in this manner is quick and convenient if you know what you’re doing. Plus, you’re able to create a backup duplicate of your entire website just by downloading the contents of the public_html folder.

Though, you will still need to download the database for it to be a true backup.

In any case, if you have the time, I suggest learning a bit about what FTP can do for you. Especially if you plan on doing a lot of customization and building in the WordPress platform.

Now, you don’t need to learn FTP to build an amazing website. It just makes certain things a lot easier to manage down the road.

What Are Your Favorite Plugins for WordPress?

Every website is unique, and what can work brilliantly for one person may prove problematic for another. When plugins break your site, simply remove them from WordPress and move on.

Since there are so many to choose from, you might find a plugin that offers a similar feature that won’t cause your site to stop working.

Just remember to keep the add-ons to those you absolutely need. When it comes to plugins and themes, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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