Removing Unused WordPress Plugins

WordPress plugins are one of the primary features behind the Content Management System’s (CMS’s) popularity. With the right plugins, you can add almost any functionality you want to WordPress. Unfortunately, leaving too many unused plugins on your site can cause serious problems.

By learning how to fully uninstall plugins you no longer use, you can ensure that your website doesn’t accumulate files and data you don’t need. In practice, this means you can keep your site running smoothly and your loading times lean.

In this article, we’re going to talk a bit more about why you should clean up your plugins. Then we’ll discuss WordPress plugin deactivation and when to do it. Finally, we’ll go over two different methods for uninstalling plugins. Let’s get to work!

Why Should I Remove Unused WordPress Plugins?

There’s no reason to keep plugins around if you’ve decided you’re not going to use them. Not only do they clutter up your dashboard, but they can also impact your website in tangible ways, such as:

  • Slowing loading times down due to database bloat.
  • Adding points of vulnerability to your website.

Keep in mind – most plugins work by adding new functionality to WordPress. That means you either tweak the platform or add new code to it, which is no small thing to do. When you’re done with a plugin, your best bet is to uninstall it to avoid any issues.

Should I Deactivate or Uninstall?

As you may know, WordPress enables you to ‘deactivate’ or turn off plugins as an alternative to outright deleting them. This is a valid approach, but it’s always better to go for a full uninstall if you’re sure you won’t need that plugin again in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, if you just want to turn off specific functionality for a while, then using the deactivate option makes perfect sense. Plus, it can also come in handy when you’re debugging your website. In those cases, if deactivating a plugin solves your problem, then you know it might be time for a full uninstall.

How to Deactivate or Uninstall Plugins

Deactivating or uninstalling WordPress plugins is very simple. Start by navigating to the Plugins area of your dashboard and finding the plugin you want to remove within the list. If you look under the plugin’s name, you’ll find the Deactivate option, which just takes a click to use:

You’ll notice there’s no uninstall option listed beneath the plugin’s name. That’s because WordPress only enables you to uninstall plugins after you deactivate them. Notice the new Delete option that pops up after we deactivate the plugin:

Once you click on Delete, WordPress will ask you to confirm your choice. Do so, and you’ll have successfully uninstalled the plugin.

WordPress Cleanup After Uninstalling Plugins

Uninstalling WordPress plugins is remarkably simple. The hard part comes after, when you have to make sure they didn’t leave any extra unwanted data behind. There are a few methods for accomplishing this task, including deleting unnecessary data manually, or by using another plugin.

WordPress Cleanup Using phpMyAdmin

Most often, if uninstalled plugins have left a mess behind, you’ll find it within your database. That means after uninstalling a plugin, you might have a lot of ‘orphaned rows’ that you need to clean up. The steps below will show you how to manually remove them.

Step 1: Login to phpMyAdmin

phpMyAdmin is one of the most popular tools to access and edit your WordPress database. It’s also the one we use at WP Engine. To access it, head to your hosting control panel and look for the phpMyAdmin option within:

Keep in mind – depending on which web host you use, this option might be hidden somewhere else, so take a look around. Most web hosts should provide you with easy access to your database.

Step 2: Run a Search for Orphaned Rows

Even after you’ve uninstalled a plugin, there may be data left behind in your database tables. These are known as orphaned rows, and they can cause issues related to database bloat and security if you don’t remove them from your site.

As the name implies, there’s a lot of information stuffed within your database. Finding the rows and values that correspond to plugins you deleted can be tough. The best way to do it is to run simple searches including the uninstalled plugin’s name to see what comes up.

To do this, select your database within phpMyAdmin and jump directly to the Search tab. Inside, you can enter the terms you want to look for, how strict you want your search parameters to be, and which tables you want to sweep:

For simplicity’s sake, we recommend using the Select all option to search each table. Now try to look for variations of the names of the plugins you want to clean up after. For example, if you deleted the Jetpack plugin, you’d want to look for ‘jetpack’, and so on.

Step 3: Delete Unwanted Rows

This step is simple but delicate. If phpMyAdmin finds any orphaned rows during your search, it will come back with results that look like this:

In this example, you’d want to delete everything except the first two rows, which are part of WordPress’ core. To do that, you’d simply select the options you want to delete, and hit the Delete option.

Keep in mind, though – you should never delete any rows unless you’re absolutely sure they’re unnecessary. Deleting rows that are in use can break your website, so be extra careful. If you want to cover your bases, back up your database before hitting delete.

WordPress Cleanup Using Another Plugin

If you don’t mind installing another plugin to clean up after old ones, there are a lot of options available. One of our favorites is called Advanced Database Cleaner, which as the name implies can help you remove all sorts of unnecessary rows from your database:

To use the plugin, install and activate it, then navigate to the new WP DB Cleaner area in your dashboard. Inside, you’ll find a list of all the types of data the plugin can remove for you, including trashed drafts, spam comments, and other unnecessary information:

To cover your bases, select all the options and run a cleanup. The process shouldn’t take long, and it will delete all the data you don’t need, helping to maintain your website’s speed and security.

Keep Your Site Performing at Its Optimum Level With WP Engine

Keeping your website running smoothly should be one of your main concerns. A slow website doesn’t make for a great user experience, and it can impact your bottom line.

With WP Engine, though, you gain access to a fantastic 24/7 WordPress support team that can help you keep your website in top shape. Check out our plans to see which one is the best fit for you!

Image credit: Pixabay.

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