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Delete a WordPress Plugin – There’s More to Uninstalling Than You Think

by: Hostwinds Team  /  September 1, 2017


Tags: plugins 

WordPress is a fantastic, easy-to-use CMS and the most popular one for many reasons. However, if you don't keep your themes and plugins in check, it can evolve into a resource hog.

Having unnecessary plugins (and themes) can also pose a security risk. So it's essential to clean the house from time to time. But when you do, remember that there's more to safely uninstalling plugins than just clicking deactivate and delete.

Deactivate the Plugin

This part is pretty simple, and you've probably done it a hundred times (unless you're brand new to running a WordPress site). Click Plugins on the admin dashboard (customarily found along the left-hand navigation area). Hover over the plugin you want to delete, and you should see the deactivate option.

Delete the Plugin

Now that it's deactivated go to it again and hit Delete.

This is where most people stop. Delete. Voila. It's gone. No more.

But unfortunately, this might not always be the case. It might just be messy coding. It might be that they've done this, so if you were to decide you needed it and installed it again, you'd still have old data for it to use.

For instance, it's well known that simply deleting WooCommerce won't eliminate all the databases it has created. They do this on purpose because most people using it are running a business. And obviously, if data stored were unintentionally deleted by someone hitting the delete button, that could be very bad.

But, probably the majority of the time, there's no reason to hang on to data from plugins you no longer need. That's when it's nice if the developer has included an uninstall option. You'll get some notice asking you to confirm if you want to delete that particular plugin AND all its data. This isn't the same popup that WordPress gives when you hit delete:

That popup from WP is just making sure you're aware that you're removing something, and you'll get that for any plugin you delete. It doesn't guarantee that all the data associated with that something is also going to be deleted.

Completely, Correctly Uninstall a Plugin

First, go to the plugin settings to look for an uninstall option or instructions.

If no uninstallation procedure can be found within the plugin itself, you can check with the developer. If you're in a hurry, you can check Google to see if it's been a problem for others in the past. If so, you'll probably find info about it or a guide made for it.

For instance, if you were to Google "How to uninstall W3 Total Cache", you'd find that ShoutMeLoud has a guide written for it (and it's NOT just hitting delete!).

That can be helpful if you've not used and deleted a ton of plugins in the past. If you're trying to make sure you uninstall this one plugin correctly. But what if you've been running your WP site for a few years and have repeatedly just hit delete?

You may have tons of stale data lying around that's not needed. While yes, it'd typically take quite a bit to affect your site's performance, it's best to keep things as clean and up to date as possible.

So how do you do that? If you aren't used to messing around with databases, how on earth do you tell what's what? What's old and what's still being used?

Luckily some plugins identify this old data for you. Before you attempt to use any of these (or any other method of removing orphaned databases and tables), please make sure you have a current backup of your site. You never know when something might go wrong, so why chance it?

Once you're sure you have just-in-case backups in place, you can use one of these plugins:

There are other plugins I found, but they haven't been updated in years. Therefore, they aren't listed, but there may well be others out there if you do some searching.

Written by Hostwinds Team  /  September 1, 2017

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