Disable a WordPress Plugin Without Access to Your Admin Area

If often happens that a plugin that you once installed becomes unnecessary. Be it that you’ve found a better one, or that the new version of your website doesn’t work well with it, you simply want to disable the current plugin. Now, doing so is fairly straightforward if you can access your admin area. But, if you cannot, disabling the plugin can be a bit trickier. So, to help you out, we are going to cover how to disable a WordPress plugin without access to your admin area.

Different methods to disable a WordPress plugin without access to your admin area

Before we get into specific ways in which you can disable a WordPress plugin without access to your admin area, we should mention that these methods can differ in difficulty. Some are relatively easy, while others require a more skillful WordPress admin. So, before you start disabling plugins, make sure to read our article thoroughly and see which method seems easiest. Also, before you implement any of these methods, we suggest that you backup your website. A simple oversight can make your website unusable.

Cloud app on a laptop.
You should always back up your website before performing any major changes.

Going through the FTP (Using FileZilla)

The first method we are going to go over is disabling a WordPress plugin through FTP. The steps that we will outline are meant for FileZilla. But, the general gist of them is pretty similar to any FTP client you plan on using. So, in order to disable a WordPress plugin without access to your admin area, here is what you need to do:

  • Use FTP to log into your website.
  • Head on to httpdoc -> wp-content -> plugins.
  • Find the folder of the plugin that you wish to disable.
  • Rename the folder to “disabled.[pluginname] by right-clicking on it and selecting the Rename option.

Doing this causes WordPress installation to not see the plugin. This will disable it within the site, which in turn should allow you to access your Admin area.

Using cPanel’s File manager

Another way to access the root folder of WordPress is to use cPanel’s File Manager. In some cases, this method is more convenient than using FileZilla, as you only need to have a browser with an internet connection. To do so you’ll need to:

  • Access your cPanel dashboard.
  • Click on the File Manager link (you can find it in the Files area of the cPanel).
  • Access the folder for wp-content.
  • Rename the folder for plugins by right-clicking on it and selecting the rename option.
  • Use “plugins.deactive” as your new name and click the rename file button.
  • Head to your WordPress admin dashboard (you should be able to do so now).
  • Go back to cPanel and rename the folder into its previous name (“plugins”).
  • Go back to the WordPress admin dashboard and activate your plugins one by one (do this if you are unsure which plugin is causing the problem. It can be that multiple are.)
  • Once you find the faulty plugin, delete it in the admin area.
  • Close cPanel.
Various plugins and apps on a laptop.
If multiple plugins are causing issues, it might be hard to find the right one to disable.

Using phpMyAdmin (for advanced users)

If you are a more experienced website manager, you can opt for using phpMyAdmin to disable your WordPress plugin. The reason for this is that you need first to know how to connect to your MySQL database. Doing so is a complicated procedure as you might into error when trying to connect with your database. So, for now, we are going to assume that you’ve managed to successfully connect to your MySQL database. Once you’ve done that, here is what is ahead:

  • Expand your WordPress database.
  • Click on the options table in the table list. (it may have a prefix in front of it)
  • Display all rows by clicking on the Show all button.
  • Find the active_plugins row in the list of table rows.
  • Click the Edit button.
  • Select all the content related to the plugin you wish to disable and delete it.
  • Click on Go at the bottom of the screen in order to save your changes.

This should disable the bad plugin and allow you to access your website.

A final thought about managing plugins in WordPress

As you can see, it is quite possible to disable a WordPress plugin without access to your admin area. But, while you can do this, we do advise you to avoid putting yourself in such a position. Managing plugins is not always easy, but there are certain things you can do to make your management a tad more straightforward. The key things to remember are:

With regular updates, you will ensure that your plugins are in sync with your version of WordPress. It does happen sometimes that plugins become incompatible. But, you can fix this easily with a reinstall, or by downloading a more up to date plugin. Certain plugins don’t crash right away, and simply cause a minor issue that can potentially be ignored. While people usually postpone dealing with problems until they are forced to face them, we advise you to not do so when it comes to plugins. If there is an issue, try to tackle it as soon as possible.

A professional working on a laptop in order to disable a WordPress plugin without access to your admin area.
If nothing else works, hire a professional to help you disable a WordPress plugin without access to your admin area.

Finally, you want to consult with a WordPress professional if there is an issue with your plugins. No online guide can substitute the years of experience that these professionals have. And, while we can help you deal with certain issues, others simply require a professional in order to get handled.