In this WordPress beginner’s tutorial, we’ll show you three easy ways to install a WordPress plugin.
We’ve made this tutorial for folks who want to learn the best WordPress practices.
We’ve begun with the easiest and the most recommended method for installing a WordPress plugin, and then proceeded to explain the rest.
There are plenty of screenshots have been used to guide you through the process. Should you run into any trouble or have any feedback on how we can improve this, drop us a comment.
Let’s get started.
The recommended way to install a WordPress plugin
One of the easiest ways to install a WordPress plugin is using the WordPress dashboard.
In all probability, you’re going to install an official plugin, i.e. one that is available in the WordPress.org plugin repository.
So you start off by logging into your WordPress dashboard and from the left hand menu navigate to Plugins > Add New
You enter the plugin’s name in the search box. Let’s say we want to install BackWPUp. We type “backwpup” in the search box and hit Search Plugins.
The first result returned is the plugin we want to install. We simply click on Install Now.
WordPress will then download the plugin and unpack it. Once that’s over, it’ll ask you if you want to activate the plugin.
Note on plugin activation:
Up to this point, your WordPress database has not been modified by the plugin, nor does the plugin have any access to your WordPress database. This is similar to uploading the plugin folder in your wp-content/plugin directory. Only when you activate the plugin, will it have access to your database.
If you want to activate the plugin right away, click on Activate Plugin. You can also return to Plugins > Installed Plugins and click on the Activate button.
This should activate the plugin.
Manually upload the plugin via the WordPress dashboard
The second method involves a slight variation. We use the WordPress dashboard as usual, but, instead of searching for the plugin, we manually upload it. This would be applicable to:
- Premium plugins like BackupBuddy which aren’t available in the WordPress.org repository
- Free plugins hosted on GitHub or other places.
- Plugins you’ve developed – beta testing, etc.
So we goto Plugins > Add New and click on Upload.
We select the plugin zip file we want to upload by clicking on Choose File, followed by Install Now.
WordPress will then upload the plugin and unpack it. You can activate it immediately, or do so later.
Install a WordPress plugin via FTP
The most concrete and fail-proof way to install a WordPress plugin is using the FTP method. You need FTP access to your server. Most web hosts and managed WordPress hosting companies provide you with FTP access, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Login in to your FTP server using a FTP client like FileZilla and navigate to the WordPress installation directory and into the wp-content/plugins folder. The complete path would be:
Extract the plugin archive and paste the plugin folder (and not the contents of the folder) in the wp-content/plugins folder. If you upload the archive, WordPress won’t be able to recognize it.
For example, let’s say we download W3 Total Cache.To upload via FTP, we first extract the archive which yields a folder w3-total-cache irrespective of the version we use. In this tutorial, the archive name was w3-total-cache.0.9.4. We then upload the folder w3-total-cache via FTP.
To activate the plugin, we navigate to Plugins > Installed Plugins, find the plugin we uploaded, and click on Activate.
You could however upload the archive and extract it using a suitable file manager provided by your web host.
Shared hosts like HostGator and BlueHost provide you with cPanel whose powerful File Manager can extract zip archives in a breeze, amongst other essential file operations. FatCow provides a custom file management software, which also supports archive extraction.
Some friendly advice:
You should be absolutely confident about the developer’s credibility when it comes to installing plugins which aren’t available in the WordPress.com repository.
Such a precaution is necessary because plugins get unhindered access to your WordPress database. There’s no “grant permissions” kind of thing like in Android applications. Example of a trustworthy plugin, which isn’t available in the WordPress.org repository is the Envato WordPress Toolkit. It connects WordPress to your Envato account to enable you to update your purchased themes using a just a single click.
Plugins extend the functionalities of WordPress to an infinite number of possibilities. One practical advice we would like to extend to our reader is this:
Only activate the plugins you absolutely need. Lesser plugins = lesser queries = faster execution.
And, a faster site = better search engine rankings and more people will want to come back to your site.