Have you ever done a WordPress plugin update that catapulted your website into the black hole of material possessions – while simultaneously locking you out of your WordPress admin area? Sometimes, a simple plugin update will wreak bloodsucking carnage on a website, leaving you wondering how to restore your WordPress site.
If this happens to you, take a deep breath and relax; there’s an easy fix to this problem. Well, providing, of course, that you know how to access your site via FTP or your cPanel. If not, you can always contact me and I’ll be happy to take care of this for you.
Did You Push the “update now” Button for a Plugin?
As you know, WordPress, as well as the plugins you’re using (and hopefully you’re not using any more than you absolutely NEED to use), are constantly being updated. Sometimes, when there’s an update to WordPress core one or more of your plugins will also have an update available. Reason being is that most developers make sure their plugins are compatible with the latest version of WordPress. And by the way, you should always be running the latest version of WordPress and your plugins!
Restore Your Temporarily Lost Website
Since you know your site was alive and well prior to updating the plugin, the first thing you’ll need to do is disable the plugin. If you’re not sure which plugin upgrade caused the problem, then you will need to disable all of them and enable one at a time until you figure out which one is the culprit.
Here’s how to do disable a plugin when Admin access is not an option:
- Login to your site’s files using the file manager provided by your web hosting company or using an FTP program.
- Browse to the folder called /wp-content/plugins/
- Find the folder of the plugin you wish to disable.
- Rename that folder to something else. I usually just append the word “backup” to the plugin name.
Once you rename the plugin it automatically gets deactivated. You can then log into your site the usual way.
Go to your Plugins area in the dashboard. The first thing you’ll see at the top of the screen is a warning message informing you that the appropriate plugin has been disabled because the file was not found.
Keep in mind that changing the name of the plugin back to its original name will not automatically activate the plugin. You have to manually activate it. But then again, why would you want to activate a plugin that just crashed your site? If you really need that plugin, you can reinstall a previous version of it, since it was working just fine prior to the plugin update.
What if you’re not sure which plugin caused the problem? In that case, you would want to deactivate ALL plugins, then reactivate them one at a time until you find the culprit. To deactivate all plugins at once, follow the same procedure as above except change the name of the entire plugin folder; instead of the individual plugin.
Another option is to use your cPanel and edit PHPMYadmin; meaning going into MYSQL (the database where WordPress resides) and execute a SQL statement to deactivate and disable plugins. But this method is rather technical and somewhat risky.
All of the above speaks volumes as to why you should ALWAYS BACKUP your website! Backup your site on a regular basis, and backup before doing an update. For WordPress sites, I highly recommend VaultPress.com for backing up your site (not an affiliate) It’s not a free service, but they do have a low monthly plan for small to medium-sized sites. For larger sites, you’ll want one of their more robust programs. It’s definitely worth it for those times when you’ll need to restore your entire site from a backup copy and your web hosting company can’t, or won’t, restore the site for you!
About WordPress Plugins
Make sure that you install Plugins from a reliable source with a good reputation, and are recently updated. Also, always check the reviews on the plugins. Look at their support forums to see who’s saying what about the plugin, and how well the developer resolves issues.
Themes and Plugins work together to deliver the look and the functionality of your overall website, so sometimes the issue could be from the actual theme and not the plugin (or it could be that you installed a plugin that does not play well with one of your other plugins). Make sure you’re not using an out-dated theme that is no longer compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
NOTE: If your site has been hacked, which is an entirely different matter, unless you find and fix the vulnerability that allowed this to happen in the first place, you will remain susceptible to continued hacks.