First steps in WordPress – How to Install a WordPress Plugin?

First steps in WordPress - How to Install a WordPress Plugin
Author Bartosz Gajewski
Reading time:
6 minutes read

Installing plugins in WordPress is one of the most important skills for creating and developing websites. Fortunately, it is quite simple and user-friendly. In this article, you will learn how to install a plugin in WordPress in several ways, as well as get some tips on updating and removing plugins. Thus, you will acquire full knowledge of WordPress plugins and be free to develop your website or online store.  

Mastering Plugin Installation – A Comprehensive Tutorial

Before we get into specific step-by-step instructions on how to install a WP plugin, it’s worth explaining what plugins are and why you should use them. After creating a WordPress site, the next natural step would be to install plugins. Plugins provide additional functionality to your site without writing code. They can be compared to an app on your phone. The sheer number of available plugins is one of the reasons WordPress is so popular around the world. Whether you want to add a contact form, open a store, improve SEO, or increase the speed of your site, you can do it with plugins. This results in the creation of a full-fledged website or even a sizeable online store that can be created without writing code, using only WordPress and installed plugins like WooCommerce integration.

Considering so many alternatives, it might be difficult to search the WordPress Plugin Directory for the ideal plugin. With more than 58,000 plugins accessible, it’s critical to have a plan in place to make sure you select the ideal one for the requirements of your website while also streamlining your search. First, make sure your goals and criteria are well-defined. Are you trying to add new features, speed up your site, or increase SEO? Once you have a clear idea of what you want, use filters to refine your selection, such as popularity, category, and ratings. User ratings and reviews are very important sources of information about the dependability and functionality of a plugin. Additionally, take into account aspects like compatibility with your WordPress version, update frequency, and developer repute. By taking a methodical approach, leveraging the resources available and learning how to add a plugin to WordPress, you can confidently navigate the WordPress Plugin Directory and discover the ideal plugin to elevate your website’s performance and user experience.

Simple Steps to Install a Plugin via the WordPress Dashboard

The easiest way to install a plugin is through the WordPress dashboard. This way you can easily and conveniently download and install all the free plugins available in the WordPress repository. After logging in, navigate to the Plugins section and click on Add New.

add new plugin

Then, enter the name or author of the plugin you are interested in using in the search window on the right. You may also search using terms like “shipping” to install WooCommerce shipping plugin or “SEO” to boost SEO of your site.

Once you find the plugin, click on Install Now, and WordPress will take care of the rest. Activate the plugin, and you’re ready to start using it on your website.

Install a plugin via WordPress Admin Plugin Upload

There are situations when the plugin you want to install is not available in the WordPress repository. Usually these are paid versions of plugins, plugins available only on vendor sites or older versions of free plugins. In this case, you can install the plugin via WordPress Admin Plugin Upload. To do this you must have a ZIP version of the plugin (unzipped file won’t work).

Once you have your ZIP file, go back to your WordPress, tab Plugins in the sidebar menu, and click on the button Add New. Then, click on the Upload Plugin button. Next, load the ZIP file with the plugin from your computer and click Install Now.

After the installation, click the Activate Plugin button.

how to install wordpress plugin

Manual Installation – Uploading a Plugin to Your WordPress Site

For manual installation, you will need to download a plugin to your computer.  It’s crucial to remember to extract the ZIP file before uploading to the server. Now it’s time to upload the extracted plugin folder, please locate the plugin on your computer from the FTP level and transfer it to the WordPress folder wp-content → plugins.

how to install wordpress plugin

Having the plugin uploaded via FTP it’s time to activate the plugin. Open WordPress and select the Plugins menu, then go to Installed Plugins. From the list, choose the plugin you recently installed, then click Activate button to activate it.

Troubleshooting Common Installation Issues

While installing plugins is usually a straightforward process, you may encounter some challenges along the way. Among the most common ones are:

  • Permission denied or write error: The write error, also known as permission refused, blocks the installation of plugins and themes. This issue arises when WordPress does not have the necessary rights to write files or directories.
  • Out of PHP memory: If your website uses more memory than PHP has allotted, you may have difficulties installing or activating new plugins.
  • PHP version compatibility issues: A certain version of PHP is needed for some plugins and themes to work. Installation problems might arise from incompatibility.
  • Error establishing database connection: This issue is more serious and can be caused by a number of things, including mistyped login information or issues with the database server.
  • Execution time limit exceeded:  If the operation takes longer than the maximum amount of time specified in your PHP setup, an error will occur during the installation of a plugin or theme.

These problems are usually related to installations via the WordPress dashboard. If you encounter these problems, try installing the plugin manually using FTP. 

Updating Plugins – Keeping Your WordPress Site Secure and Functional

Regularly updating plugins is crucial for maintaining the security and functionality of your WordPress site. Outdated plugins can pose security risks and may not work optimally with the latest version of WordPress or PHP. Plugin developers often release updates to enhance performance, add new functionalities, or fix bugs that could be affecting your site. By keeping your plugins up to date, you ensure that your WordPress site is running smoothly and taking advantage of the latest technological advancements.

Tips for updating WordPress plugins

Use a copy of your website

A good practice to protect our site on WordPress is to create a copy of the site where we can update plugins to see if they cause any conflicts. A copy can be easily made using a dedicated plugin like Duplicator. Having a copy, we can update the plugins and check carefully if any conflicts have appeared. We can update them on our “production” site if nothing is detected.

Analyze the plugin’s changelog

If you don’t want to create a copy of the site or it seems like too much work, you can update directly on your site. In that case, however, it is worth analyzing the size of the changes and, thus, the risk of conflict. Every WordPress plugin has a Changelog. You can find it on the plugin’s official site in the WordPress Repository. Plugin versions in WordPress usually have an x.x.x pattern. If the last element of the version is changed, it’s usually a small change with little chance of breaking something on our site. Changing the middle element of the version is usually something bigger already, so the risk of errors increases. This is usually the addition of new options, which are unlikely to cause critical situations. On the other hand, changing the first version element of a plugin or theme is a completely different matter. Such an update certainly involves considerable changes that have a good chance of messing up your site. 

Uninstalling Plugins – Properly Removing Unwanted Extensions

Uninstalling plugins may be necessary if you no longer need specific functionality or a plugin is causing conflicts. When it comes to uninstalling plugins, it’s crucial to understand that simply deleting the plugin files is not enough. Properly uninstalling a plugin involves deactivating it first to ensure that any associated database tables or settings are also removed. Failing to deactivate a plugin before deletion can lead to orphaned data in your database, potentially causing performance issues or conflicts with other plugins.

The difference between deactivating and deleting a WordPress plugin

When you no longer need a WordPress plugin, you have the option of deactivating or deleting it. So what’s the difference?

  • Plugin deactivation is like turning off a light. The electrical wiring is still in place, but the energy to the lightbulb has been momentarily cut off. Regarding plugins, this means that while all the files are still on your website, WordPress stops them from operating until you reactivate the plugin.
  • When you delete a plugin, all of its files are removed from your website and it is removed from your list of installed plugins.

When debugging an issue on your website, deactivating plugins might be useful. You can isolate possible conflicts by temporarily deactivating one plugin at a time. However, it’s advisable to remove a rogue plugin entirely if you come across one.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that some plugins may leave behind residual files or settings even after being uninstalled. To thoroughly clean up your site, consider using a plugin that specializes in plugin removal to scan for any leftover traces. This extra step can help you ensure that your WordPress site remains clutter-free and optimized for performance.


By mastering plugin installation, you can enhance your WordPress website’s functionality and tailor its features to your specific needs. Whether you install plugins via the WordPress dashboard or manually upload plugin files, this guide has provided you with the necessary steps and troubleshooting tips to ensure a seamless installation experience. Regularly update your plugins and properly uninstall unwanted extensions to maintain a secure and efficient WordPress site. Happy plugin exploring!

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