Manually Updating WordPress Plugins

This tutorial gives you an introduction to manually updating WordPress plugins using FTP / SFTP or within the WordPress dashboard from version 5.5 onwards.

In this article we’re taking a look at how to manually update WordPress plugins and when you might need to. Most plugins will show an update button when they’re due for an update within the plugins section of WordPress. In most cases it’s as simple as clicking update now and the plugin will run the update.

However if you’ve got a plugin that isn’t in the WordPress Repository such as a premium plugin from a developer it may not show / have the ability to automatically update. Another time this may occur is if you’ve built a plugin yourself and would like to manually update it within a website or if a plugin has broken and you need to update it to make it compatible with the latest version of WordPress / PHP / your Theme.

Methods for manually updating your plugins:

Within the WordPress Dashboard:

Since WordPress version 5.5 there has been the ability to upload a plugin zip file to the plugins section. To do this simply go to plugins > add new then upload your zip file.

From here once the zip has been installed it will prompt you as to whether you would like to keep the current plugin or replace it with the new zip file, if the plugin file already exists.


Connect to your site using FTP, how you do this will depend mostly on the setup that your hosting provider has. In the screenshots below we’ve demonstrated the process with a fairly standard CPanel setup.

Once you’ve got access to the file manager open your public_html folder and within there you will find your WP Content folder. Open this and find the plugins folder the quick version of this is:

Public_html > wp_content > plugins

Once you’ve opened your plugins folder, rename the plugin that you’re looking to update, this could be something like plugin_name_old for example.

Next you’ll need to locally download the zip file of the plugins latest version that you’re looking to update if you haven’t already.

Once the ZIP file is downloaded extract the contents and make sure the name stays as it should e.g. to plugin_name.

From here you can upload the plugin to your plugins file using your FTP connection. Once it’s uploaded it should be enabled still (assuming the original plugin was enabled) within your dashboard. Be sure to take a look at the plugin settings and the areas that the plugin influences on your site to be sure it’s all as it should be.

If it is you can delete the old version of the plugin via FTP/SFTP as it is now updated!

Using a Hosting Panel File Manager:

Whilst we would highly recommend using FTP / SFTP over using the in-built hosting file manager it can still be done this way and it’s worth taking a look at.

The location of your file manager will depend on your hosting setup, once you’ve navigated to it follow the same steps as with FTP / SFTP so:

Public_html > wp_content > plugins

Once you’re in the plugins folder, again rename the plugin file for example plugin_name becomes plugin_name_old. From here you will normally need to upload a Zip version of the plugin to the plugins folder.

Once you’ve uploaded the zip file, extract the contents into the same file using the hosting tools. You should now have a plugin with the same name as your original was. This is your updated plugin.

You can then navigate to the WordPress dashboard and check that the plugin is activated and that everything is as it should be.

Once you’ve confirmed this, the zip file for the updated plugin and the file for the old plugin can be deleted ensuring only the new plugin that was extracted from the zip is within the plugins folder.

Further Reading:

Customising the WordPress Dashboard


We’ve looked at 3 different methods for manually updating your plugins within WordPress, each has its own merits and will depend primarily on your hosting setup as to which is the easiest. If you found this helpful we’d really appreciate a comment or a share thanks!

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