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There are some rare cases, typically with some premium plugins, where updating a plugin in the WordPress dashboard doesn’t always work. This is where a manual plugin update comes in.

How to Manually Update Plugins in WordPress

In these cases, you need to manually update the plugin by uploading the file to your WordPress plugins folder on your server. It sounds a bit daunting, but I’ve broken it down here for you to make it as easy and straightforward as possible to manually update a plugin in WordPress.

The WordPress codex describes how to manually upload a plugin, but it’s pretty dry and not overly descriptive, and hence the purpose of this guide.

Before we start, make sure you’ve got the updated plugin file on your computer’s hard drive, ready to upload. The file should be in a .zip format. Some operating systems may auto-unzip files when downloaded, so make sure that is not the case here. Now let’s manually update that plugin!

For this example I’ll be manually updating a plugin called Ad Rotate Pro.

First, go to your WordPress dashboard under Installed plugins and deactivate the plugin.

1 - Manually update plugin in WordPress - deactivate plugin

Note: Don’t delete the plugin from here in the WordPress dashboard. While deleting most plugins from the dashboard won’t have any effect, some plugins may run a process to remove settings from the database, which we don’t want, otherwise you’ll have to create all your settings again when you reinstall it. By replacing the plugin files from the server directly, we avoid this from happening.

Now you’ll need to log into your hosting providers cPanel. We love SiteGround, so the steps here will show screenshots from the SiteGround’s cPanel dashboard, but most hosting companies will have a similar file cPanel/File Manager function. After you’ve logged on, click on cPanel.

2 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - launch cPanel

Scroll down and look for and click on File Manager.

3 - Manually update wordpress plugin - launch File Manager

When the file manager opens, make sure you’re in the public_html folder, and double click on the wp-content folder.

4 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - double click wp-content folder

Now double click on the plugins folder.

5 - manually update plugin in wordpress - double click plugins folder

In this folder, search for the plugin you want to update. In our case, it’s the adrotate-pro folder. Click once to highlight it, then click on Delete.

6 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - delete plugin folder

Now click on Upload.

7 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - Click on Upload

This will open up a new window, click on the Choose file button, and select the updated plugin .zip file you have on your hard drive.

8 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - choose file

When the upload is complete you’ll see a “complete” message. Click on the Go Back message to go back to the file manager.

9 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - click back when complete

Find the uploaded plugin .zip file, click once on it to highlight it, and then click on Extract.

10 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - click to extract file

Click on the Extract File(s) button.

11 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - confirm extract files

When the extraction is complete – this should only take a second or two – click on Close.

12 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - click close

You can now click on Reload to refresh the page and see the newly extracted plugin folder.

13 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - click reload
14 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - new extracted folder

Head back to your WordPress dashboard plugin section and refresh the page. You should see the plugin listed there, still deactivated, but with a revised version number. Now click on Activate.

15 - Manually update plugin in wordpress - refresh and activate

And that’s how you manually update plugins in WordPress!

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