How to Deactivate All Your WP Plugins Without Dashboard Access

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Picture this; you go to log in to the WordPress Admin Area for your website or blog—but can’t. All you see is the White Screen of Death (blank screen) or some error message. It’s time to troubleshoot. This guide shows how to deactivate all your WP Plugins without Dashboard access.

The two methods to approach this manually—in order of ease—are:

  1. Via File Manager (cPanel)
  2. Via phpMyAdmin (cPanel)

You can also opt to use an FTP client like FileZilla if you’re not comfortable working in cPanel.

Why Disable Plugins?

If you’re locked out of the WP Admin area, it’s probably caused by a plugin conflict. This typically occurs after the site or plugin has received a major update. The easiest way to check for plugin conflicts is to deactivate them all. It’s then a simple case of reactivating them one by one to find the offending program. You can still do this if you’re locked out of WordPress.

How Plugins Block Access to WP Admin

Talented developers are mindful about potential coding issues when they create plugins and themes. That’s why most of them work seamlessly after an update. However, sometimes, WP core or theme updates can trigger conflicts with outdated software and block access to the admin area. Security type plugins are the most likely cause.

Disable all WP Plugins Using File Manager

File Manager is a file transfer tool found inside your web hosting cPanel (control panel). It lets you upload, create, and modify WordPress files and folders without using an independent FTP client. This tutorial assumes you have access to—and basic knowledge of—cPanel. If not, please read What is cPanel | A Quick Tour for Beginners before continuing.

Log in to your website’s cPanel account.

Note: The screenshots below may look different to your cPanel account. The categories and tools should still be the same, so follow the words rather than the graphics.

Click File Manager from the FILES section.

In File Manager, locate the wp-content folder, then double-click to open it.

Now navigate to the plugins subfolder.

Right-click on the plugins folder to reveal a pop-up menu.

Select Rename from the menu.

Rename the plugins folder to plugins-old, then click the Rename File button.

You have now deactivated all your WP plugins. That’s because WordPress can no longer find the plugins folder to load the apps. Thus, it auto-disables all active plugins in your site’s database.

You should now see the login screen and be able to access your WP Admin area.

If you don’t see the login screen above, at least you know the issue isn’t plugin-related. In this case, you can rule out plugin conflicts and continue to troubleshoot in other areas.

This guide assumes the issue is plugin-related, so let’s log back into the site.

Go to Plugins => Installed Plugins from the WordPress Dashboard side menu.

The plugin screen shows a deactivated error for each of the installed apps. At the end of the list is a message that confirms no plugins are available at this time.

Not only are your plugins deactivated, but they’re also missing from view. Don’t worry; they haven’t gone anywhere. All plugins come back into view once you restore them.

Return to your File Manager screen in cPanel.

Right-click on the plugins folder to reveal the pop-up menu.

Select Rename from the menu.

Rename the plugins folder from plugins-old back to plugins.

Click Rename File to save the changes.

Return to your WP Plugins screen in Dashboard, and press F5 refresh the page.

All your plugins come back into view with deactivated status.

Troubleshooting WP Plugins

Update any out of date plugins before you continue.

The next part may take a while if you have lots of installed plugins. You can start with security-related plugins (likely culprits) or work through them all from top to bottom.

Click the Activate link for a single plugin.

A Deactivate link replaces Activate once the process is complete.

If the site breaks right away, you’ve found your faulty plugin.

If nothing bad happens, it’s still better to log out of the Admin Area to test the access issue.

This approach troubleshoots the following:

  1. The login screen is still visible—or not
  2. You can log back in successfully—or not

OK, log out of your WordPress Admin area (top right).

Log in again if the login screen is visible.

If it’s not visible, or you can’t log in, then you may have found the offending plugin already. You can then rename the plugins folder again in the cPanel File Manager. That will deactivate the problematic plugin and give you access back to your Admin Area. This time, you can reactivate all plugins aside from the one that just caused the problem.

What to do with problematic plugins

If you want to keep the offending plugin, contact its author for support. If they have no plans to update it or fix any bugs, delete the product and find an alternative if you need one.

Point to note: More than one plugin could be causing the issues, but it’s unlikely. If the problem does return, repeat the above steps until you find the other culprit.

Disable all WP Plugins Via FTP

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. An FTP client is a separate software application used to upload, download, and modify website files. File Manager in cPanel works in much the same way as a standalone FTP client. Both tools have their pros and cons. For this guide, though, the procedure for deactivating all your WordPress plugins is the same with either option.

Disable all WP Plugins Via phpMyAdmin (Advanced)

You need to access your web hosting cPanel account to disable all plugins using phpMyAdmin. Please read What is cPanel? A Quick Tour for Beginners first if you’re a cPanel novice.

PLEASE BACK UP YOUR ENTIRE WORDPRESS WEBSITE BEFORE CONTINUING.

Log in to your website’s cPanel account.

Note: The screenshots below may look different to your cPanel interface. The categories and tools should still be the same, so follow the words rather than the graphics.

Go to the cPanel DATABASES section and click phpMyAdmin.

The phpMyAdmin screen opens in a new tab.

Select your WordPress database name in the left column if it’s not already selected.

All WP tables load in the right-side column in alphabetical order after the wp_ prefix.

Note: WordPress tables have the wp_ prefix by default. Your prefix might be different if you or your developer changed it. If so, replace wp with whatever yours is when searching tables.

Click the wp_options table to open it.

Go to the option_name column and find the row for active_plugins.

Click the active_plugins Edit link (left).

The option_value field in the new screen shows all your active plugin data.

Replace the plugin data (right) with a:0:{} so it looks like the image below.

Finally, click Go to save the changes and deactivate all your WP plugins.

Close the phpMyAdmin tab and log out of cPanel.

You should now see the WP login screen and be able to gain access to your WP Admin area.

You can now follow the previous section’s steps under “Troubleshooting WP Plugins” to find the offending plugin(s).

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