How to Manually Install a WordPress Plugin?

Last Updated on October 18, 2021 by Sunny Staff

One of the things that makes WordPress attractive to writers with little or no technical skills is that it’s so darn easy to use.

During WordPress’s early days, we told people that if they knew how to use a word processor like WordPerfect (remember that one?) or MS Word, they could use WordPress. It even used the same ribbon and later, the same icons! This will change as WordPress moves to the Gutenberg editor, now available in beta test mode, but a plugin will allow stubborn users to keep the old ribbon.

And speaking of plugins, do you know how to manually install a WordPress plugin? Like manual backups, it’s a basic skill that’s helpful to have.

If you’re new to the world of WordPress and need a little more background, check out this primer on WordPress plugins.

Why Would I Install a WordPress Plugin Manually?

You want to know how to do a manual plugin install because, believe it or not; there’s a huge world of WordPress plugins that aren’t listed in the directory that comes with each WordPress installation. If you find something you like outside the directory, you’ll need to know how to manually install a plugin.

The WordPress directory is a great resource, but it might not have what you’re looking for, making it necessary to search outside it. Or it might not show a variety of plugins for a specific task, or those that meet your requirements don’t have enough reviews (or positive ones) to your liking. Check developer sites for more information, reviews, and updates.  

In addition, developers don’t always add plugin updates to the directory right away. Automattic, which owns WordPress, has about 1,500 employees, and not all of them work on WordPress (it also owns the WooCommerce, e-commerce plugin, and others). It’s unlikely that a full-time staffer is watching that part of the business 100% of the time.

If you notice a plugin hasn’t been updated since the last WordPress update, you might want to check the developer’s own site to see if there is a fresh version. We can’t overstate how important it is to ensure all your plugins are up to date, and as we’ve noted, the directory isn’t always up to date.

Manual WordPress Plugin Installs are Easy!

Do you know how to use a Zip file (or archive)? Good. Then you know how to do a manual install for a WordPress plugin.

  1. Go to the plugin page and download the plugin. It will create a Zip file/archive to send to your computer.
  2. Log into your WordPress admin site and go to the Plugins section.
  3. Click on Upload and select the zip file. WordPress will unpack everything and put files in the right place.
  4. Activate the plugin.
  5. Go back to your WordPress admin menu, scroll down, and look for the plugin settings. Make sure the default settings are correct and make any changes and additions.

You can also do this with an FTP (file transfer protocol) client like CyberDuck or Transmit (Mac’s most popular FTP client). These two have solid free versions and are quite popular with WordPress users.

  1. Repeat step one above.
  2. Log in to your FTP service.
  3. Add the plugin folder to the folder labeled wp-content/plugins folder in your WordPress directory.
  4. Go into the plugins directory to activate it. Depending on the FTP service, you may be able to check the default settings from there; otherwise, go into your WordPress admin account and follow step 5 above.

Delete the plugin zips from your hard drive; there’s no need to have it sitting there, taking up space.

Plugins are one of the things that makes WordPress so great — they replace cumbersome coding, making it possible to use the Visual Editor (almost) all the time. Knowing how to manually add them further expands your plugin universe!

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