How To Install WordPress Plugins: Complete Guide

How To Install WordPress Plugins Complete Guide

Not sure how to Install WordPress plugins on your website? Drawing from years of expertise in WordPress development and maintenance, the FixRunner team offers this guide to simplify the process of installing WordPress plugins.

By default, WordPress comes with only the basic features you need to get your site online. With plugins, however, you can add just about any feature you imagine to your WordPress site in addition to your WordPress theme.

Want to receive payments on your site? There are plugins for that. Want to turn your site into a social network? There are plugins for that too.

In essence, most (if not all) WordPress sites rely on plugins to function, which is why you need to know how to install a plugin on WordPress.


  1. What are plugins in WordPress?
  2. Can you install plugins in
  3. Security Considerations for Installing WordPress Plugins
  4. Performance Impact of WordPress Plugins
  5. Install a plugin from your admin dashboard.
  6. How to install a plugin using the upload function in your admin dashboard.
  7. Manually install a plugin via FTP.
  8. Troubleshooting Common Issues After Plugin Installation
  9. Legal and Licensing Considerations for WordPress Plugins

What are plugins in WordPress?

Plugins are applications that you can install into your WordPress website to add new features to it, and also extend it to perform more complex functions. Plugins come in different categories which include:

  • Free plugins: These are plugins that can be found on the WordPress plugin directory, made available to the public for free.
  • Paid or premium plugins: These plugins are not available in the WordPress plugin directory. You have to pay an amount to get them.
  • Custom plugins: If your WordPress website needs to have a particular feature, or you want it to perform a particular function, you can develop a custom plugin to meet that need, if you cannot find anyone that already exists.

Can you install plugins in

There are few limits to what you can do with plugins.

However, this is applicable to users with self-hosted sites. If you are on, then you cannot install them unless you are on the business plan, which costs $300/year.

Even then, there are limits on the plugins you can install as some are not compatible with the platform.

Security Considerations for Installing WordPress Plugins

When enhancing your WordPress site with new plugins, security should be a top priority. Plugins, while incredibly useful for extending your site’s functionality, can also pose security risks if not carefully chosen and maintained. Here’s how to ensure the plugins you install are secure and won’t compromise your site.

Evaluating Plugin Sources

The first step in maintaining a secure WordPress site is to be cautious about where you download your plugins. Always prefer the official WordPress Plugin Directory, as these plugins are more likely to be reviewed and monitored for security issues. For premium plugins, download directly from reputable developers or trusted marketplaces. Be wary of free versions of premium plugins offered on third-party sites, as these can sometimes be modified to include malicious code.

Identifying Trustworthy Plugins

To determine if a plugin is trustworthy, consider the following factors:

  • Updates and Compatibility: Check when the plugin was last updated and whether it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. Regular updates are a good sign that the developer is actively maintaining the plugin and keeping it secure.
  • Active Installations and Ratings: A high number of active installations, along with positive user reviews and ratings, can indicate a reliable and secure plugin.
  • Developer Reputation: Research the plugin developer or company. Established developers with a history of producing quality plugins are generally more trustworthy.
  • Support and Documentation: Look for plugins with good documentation and active support forums. The responsiveness of developers to user queries and issues can also indicate a well-maintained plugin.

Best Practices for Plugin Security

  • Keep Plugins Updated: Regularly update your plugins to the latest versions. Updates often include security patches for vulnerabilities that have been discovered since the last version.
  • Limit the Number of Plugins: Only install the plugins you need and delete any that you’re not using. This reduces the potential entry points for hackers.
  • Use Security Plugins: Consider installing security plugins that monitor your site for malware, enforce strong passwords, and provide regular security scans.
  • Backups: Regularly back up your WordPress site. In the event of a security breach, you’ll be able to restore your site to a previous, secure state.
  • Use a Staging Site: Test new plugins on a staging site before installing them on your live site. This can help you identify any potential security issues without risking your live site’s security.

By following these guidelines, you can significantly reduce the risk associated with installing new WordPress plugins and ensure your site remains secure and functional. Remember, the security of your WordPress site is only as strong as its weakest link, which often comes down to the plugins you choose and how well you maintain them.

Performance Impact of WordPress Plugins

While plugins are essential for adding functionality to your WordPress site, they can also have a significant impact on your site’s performance and speed. Understanding this impact and how to mitigate it is crucial for maintaining a fast and efficient website.

How Plugins Can Affect Performance

Every plugin you add to your WordPress site introduces additional code that the server has to process. Some plugins might execute additional database queries, load extra CSS and JavaScript files, or perform complex operations, all of which can increase page loading times. The more plugins you have, especially resource-intensive ones, the greater the potential impact on your site’s performance.

Selecting Lightweight Plugins

To minimize performance issues, it’s important to select lightweight plugins that are well-coded and optimized for speed. Here are some tips for choosing the right plugins:

  • Read Reviews and Ratings: Look for feedback from other users about the plugin’s performance and any issues they’ve encountered.
  • Check the Update History: Regular updates can indicate that the plugin is well-maintained, including optimizations for better performance.
  • Test Before Installing: If possible, test the plugin on a staging site to assess its impact on performance before adding it to your live site.
  • Compare Similar Plugins: If multiple plugins offer the functionality you need, compare their performance and choose the most efficient option.

Monitoring Site Performance Post-Installation

After installing a new plugin, it’s important to monitor your site’s performance to ensure that it hasn’t been adversely affected. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Use Performance Testing Tools: Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and Pingdom can help you measure your site’s speed and identify any performance issues.
  • Check Resource Usage: Use your hosting account’s control panel or tools like Query Monitor to see if the new plugin is consuming an excessive amount of server resources.
  • Monitor Load Times: Keep an eye on your site’s load times before and after installing the plugin to gauge its impact.

Best Practices for Maintaining Performance

  • Keep Plugins to a Minimum: Only use plugins that are absolutely necessary for your site’s functionality to minimize the potential for performance issues.
  • Regularly Update Plugins: Ensure all your plugins are up to date to benefit from performance improvements and optimizations provided by the developers.
  • Use Caching Plugins: Caching plugins can significantly improve your site’s performance by storing a static version of your pages and reducing the need to execute PHP and database queries for every visit.
  • Optimize Plugin Settings: Some plugins offer settings that can be adjusted to reduce their impact on performance. Take the time to configure these settings for optimal efficiency.

By carefully selecting plugins and monitoring their impact on your site’s performance, you can enjoy the added functionality they provide without sacrificing speed and efficiency. Remember, a fast-loading site is crucial for providing a good user experience and maintaining high search engine rankings.

How to install a plugin from the admin dashboard

Go to your WordPress admin dashboard and click on Plugins, then click on Add New.

add new plugin

Note: You may search for the plugin of your choice using the plugin’s keyword or its author’s name.

In the ‘search plugin’ text box, type the name for the plugin you want. In this case, we are searching for a plugin named Preferred Languages. This brings up the plugin as shown below.

press install now

Next, locate the Install Now button and click on it to install the plugin. When the plugin is installed, the button label will change from Install Now to Activate.

activate plugin

Click on the Activate button to get the plugin activated. This will open the page with all the installed plugins. You can view your newly installed plugin from there.

view plugins in plugins page

Use the upload function in your admin dashboard to install it

To install a WordPress plugin, the first thing you need to do is to download the plugin of your choice. Then go to your WordPress dashboard, select Plugins, then click on the Add New button.


add new plugin on plugins page

In the “Add Plugins” page, click on Upload Plugin.

upload the plugin

Next click Choose File to select the plugin you downloaded from your computer.

chose file upload and install

When selected, click Install Now.

It will take some time before the plugin is installed. When it is done installing, you will see an Activate Plugin button.

install and active the plugin that is installed

Finally, click on this button to activate your plugin.

How To Install WordPress Plugins Manually via FTP

You can access your site files using FTP, and upload/install your plugins directly with our FTP method. Here’s how.

Download the plugins .zip file of the plugin to your computer and extract the files from the archive to a well-named folder.

Access your hosted site using an FTP client. In this tutorial, we are using FileZilla to upload a plugin named Featured Video Plus.

On the left side of FileZilla, search through the folders on your computer to locate the folder containing your new (extracted) plugin folder. In this case, it is in the Downloads folder.

extracted plugin folder - how to install wordpress plugins

On the right side, locate and double click to open the folder containing your WordPress site files. This is usually “public_html” folder.

open public html folder

Double-click to open the wp-content folder.

open wp content folder - install wordpress plugins

Then double click plugins folder to open it, and stay in this folder.

open plugins folder

Next, right-click on the extracted plugin folder in your local site on the left and select upload plugin using FTP.

upload plugin to the folder

The plugin will be uploaded to the plugins folder on your remote site. Finally, go to Dashboard > Plugins > Installed Plugins, locate the plugin, and activate it.

Yes! You have successfully install a WordPress plugin manually.

Troubleshooting Common Issues After Plugin Installation

Installing new plugins on your WordPress site can sometimes lead to unexpected issues that affect your site’s functionality or accessibility. Recognizing these common problems and knowing how to troubleshoot them can help you maintain a smooth and efficient website experience. Here are some typical issues encountered after plugin installation and steps to resolve them.

White Screen of Death (WSOD)

The White Screen of Death is a common WordPress error that results in a blank white screen with no error message, often caused by a problematic plugin.

Troubleshooting Steps:

  • Deactivate All Plugins: Access your site via FTP or your hosting file manager, navigate to the wp-content folder, and rename the plugins folder to something like plugins_old. This deactivates all plugins. If your site returns to normal, the issue is likely with one of the plugins.
  • Reactivate Plugins One by One: Rename the folder back to plugins and then activate each plugin one at a time in the WordPress dashboard, refreshing your site after each activation to identify the problematic plugin.

Broken Functionality or Layout

Sometimes, a plugin can conflict with your theme or other plugins, leading to broken functionality or layout issues on your site.

Troubleshooting Steps:

  • Identify the Plugin: Deactivate the recently installed or updated plugins one at a time to see if the issue resolves, indicating the source of the conflict.
  • Check for Updates: Ensure that all your themes and plugins are updated to their latest versions, as updates may contain fixes for known conflicts.
  • Consult Plugin Support: If the issue persists, reach out to the plugin’s support forum or documentation for specific troubleshooting tips or conflict resolutions.

Access Issues

In some cases, installing a plugin can lead to access issues, such as being locked out of the WordPress admin dashboard.

Troubleshooting Steps:

  • Deactivate the Plugin via FTP: Use FTP or your hosting file manager to access the wp-content/plugins directory and rename the folder of the suspected plugin. This deactivation often restores access to your admin area.
  • Check .htaccess File: Incorrect configurations in the .htaccess file can cause access issues. Restore the .htaccess file to the default WordPress settings to see if it resolves the problem.

Performance Slowdowns

A newly installed plugin can sometimes slow down your website, affecting page load times and overall performance.

Troubleshooting Steps:

  • Deactivate and Test: Deactivate the plugin and test your site’s performance using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix. If performance improves without the plugin, consider seeking a more lightweight alternative.
  • Optimize Plugin Settings: Some plugins offer performance-related settings that can be optimized to reduce their impact on your site.

Plugin Conflicts

Plugins can sometimes interfere with each other’s functionality, leading to unexpected behavior or errors.

Troubleshooting Steps:

  • Deactivate Other Plugins: Temporarily deactivate other plugins to identify any conflicts with the newly installed plugin.
  • Enable Debug Mode: Enable WordPress debug mode by adding define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true ); to your wp-config.php file to reveal any specific error messages related to the conflict.

By following these troubleshooting steps, you can effectively resolve common issues that arise from plugin installations, ensuring your WordPress site remains functional and accessible.

Remember, regular backups and cautious plugin selection are key to preventing and mitigating these issues.

When enhancing your WordPress site with plugins, it’s crucial to understand the legal and licensing implications associated with using free and premium plugins. This knowledge ensures you comply with the terms set by plugin developers and avoid potential legal issues.

Free Plugins

Most free WordPress plugins are available through the WordPress Plugin Directory and are typically released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL allows users to freely use, modify, and redistribute the software. However, there are a few key points to consider:

  • Derivative Works: While GPL-licensed plugins can be modified, any derivative works you create are also bound by the GPL, meaning you must also release them under the same license.
  • Attribution: Some plugins may require you to give credit to the original developer or maintain a link back to their website. Always check the plugin’s documentation or license file for specific attribution requirements.

Premium Plugins

Premium, or commercial, plugins come with their own set of licensing terms, which can vary significantly from one developer to another. Understanding these terms is essential to ensure lawful use.

  • License Keys: Many premium plugins use license keys to manage usage. A single-site license means you can only use the plugin on one WordPress installation, whereas multi-site or unlimited licenses offer more flexibility at a higher cost.
  • Restrictions: Some premium plugins may impose restrictions on the types of websites where the plugin can be used (e.g., personal vs. commercial use) or prohibit the redistribution of the plugin.
  • Support and Updates: Premium licenses often include access to support and updates for a limited time. Understanding the duration of this access and the cost of renewal is important for long-term planning.

Understanding Terms of Use

Before installing any plugin, carefully review its terms of use, license agreement, or end-user license agreement (EULA). Pay special attention to:

  • Usage Rights: Clarify where and how you’re allowed to use the plugin, including on how many sites and in what contexts (e.g., personal, commercial).
  • Modification Rights: Check if you’re permitted to modify the plugin and under what conditions any modified versions can be used or distributed.
  • Warranty and Liability: Understand the developer’s stance on warranty and liability. Most plugins are provided “as is” without any warranty, and developers often disclaim liability for any damages arising from the use of the plugin.

Compliance and Best Practices

  • Keep Records: Maintain records of all plugin licenses, receipts, and terms of use agreements for future reference.
  • Regularly Review Licenses: Plugin licenses can change, especially during updates. Regularly review the terms to ensure ongoing compliance.
  • Seek Clarification: If you’re unsure about the licensing terms or have specific use cases in mind, don’t hesitate to contact the plugin developer for clarification.

By adhering to legal and licensing considerations, you not only respect the rights of plugin developers but also protect your WordPress site from potential legal complications. Always invest the time to understand the terms of use for each plugin you integrate into your website, ensuring a lawful and respectful use of the software provided.


This tutorial has shown you the various methods to install WordPress plugins. Also, you can check our best WordPress plugins that we highly recommend for all sites.

Additionally, you can check our security plugins to secure your website. And we also highly recommend backup plugins so you can protect and backup your data.

When installing plugins, be careful to choose those that have good reviews, and that do not have known serious issues. Some plugins can break your site, so it is wise to spend some time learning about the plugin before installing. As a reminder, if you are making major changes to your site, whether with a plugin or some other means, it is wise to perform a backup first.

We hope beginners guide was helpful. Please, let us know what’s your favorite way to install your WordPress plugins in the comments below. For more WordPress tutorials, check our WordPress blog.

 This post was written by Mesheal Fegor

Mesheal Fegor is a Web/WordPress Developer and technical writer. His WordPress help articles have been featured on Kinsta and other sites. Mesheal holds a master's degree in computer science. His writing focuses on technical WordPress issues, ranging from core WordPress problems, to issues with WooCommerce, and more.

Last edited by: FixRunner Team