Support Home > Errors > Deactivate a plugin or theme without access to WP Admin

Deactivate a plugin or theme without access to WP Admin

If a plugin or theme causes a fatal or critical error in WordPress that results in loss of access to a site’s web pages or WP Admin area, there are ways to deactivate it.

This article walks you through how to disable a problematic plugin by accessing your site’s files directly on the server.

  1. Get your site’s SSH, SFTP, or FTP credentials. These credentials grant direct access your website’s files on the server powering your website. You can get these from your hosting account dashboard or with the help of your hosting provider’s support team. Note that these server access credentials are unique and different from your WP Admin login details and, in most cases, your host’s control panel or dashboard login.
  2. Download a file transfer client application like FileZilla or Transmit.
  3. Add your server credentials. FileZilla has some usage instructions that should help guide you along the way. Transmit also has a helpful guide on using their Quick Connect feature to connect to your server.
  4. Click Connect or the equivalent on the file transfer app of your choice to connect to your server.

When you have successfully connected, you will see a list of files and directories in the remote path you provided.

Here’s an example of what it looks like in Transmit:

files listed in Transmit
  1. Navigate to the /wp-content folder.
  2. Open the folder called plugins.
  3. Select the plugin causing the issue, and right-click to view more options.
  4. Click Rename or the equivalent on your chosen file transfer client.
  5. Add .deactivate to the name of the folder. It will now be called [pluginname].deactivate.

Here’s what the rename option looks like in Transmit:

renaming a plugin in Transmit

If this plugin was the cause of the critical error, you should regain access to your WordPress site and the admin area. If you navigate to WP Admin → Plugins, you should see a notification saying that the plugin has been deactivated because the plugin file does not exist.

If a theme is responsible for the critical error, follow the same steps, but open the folder called /themes in Step 6.

Still need help?

Please contact support directly. We’re happy to advise.

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