In the dynamic world of website management, particularly for those utilizing WordPress, the question of handling unused plugins is a common yet critical consideration. This article delves into the best practices for managing unused WordPress plugins, offering insights and guidelines that cater to both novice and seasoned WordPress users. The focus is on understanding the implications of removing unused plugins, weighing the security risks, and evaluating the impact on site performance. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive guide that equips you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your WordPress site’s plugin management.
Should You Remove Unused WordPress Plugins?
The short answer is – Yes, but not immediately.
You may be tempted to delete some of the plugins that may seem unused but it’s better to deactivate them first and wait for a week or two to see if some part of your site will break.
After the site is developed it’s usually left alone. There’s no documentation or anything.
For this reason it’s so easy to forget what each plugin is used for and where the licenses are from.
Each plugin adds some sort of functionality. That’s their purpose to build on top of WordPress.
You may use a plugin’s shortcode on multiple pages or you may call some plugin functions from your theme’s functions.php file e.g. from Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin the get_field() function.
If you’re doing any of the things above and you deactivate or delete the plugin some pages will start shortcodes that haven’t been replaced and in worst cases the site will likely crash and show a blank WordPress errors or but not the expected content.
e.g. [some_plugin id=1234]
The reason is because WordPress doesn’t fully load the deactivated plugin, its hooks are not firing up and it’s not loading its libraries.
After 1-2 weeks if all is good then you can proceed to delete those deactivated plugins.
Ideally, you may want to use a WordPresss Sandbox service like WPSandbox or qSandbox, so you can safely make those changes especially if it’s an eCommerce site where people are checking the site and placing orders.
If the plugins are maintenance or admin tasks or are required only during the set up or configuration then you can safely remove them after you’re done with them. For example Better Search Replace. You’d need this plugin during a backup or a migration to a staging WordPress, test, QA or a dev site.
On the other handle if you do affiliate marketing from time to time an affiliate link will become broken. In such case it totally makes sense to reinstall that plugin and do the admin tasks e.g. search and replace the broken links with the new link.
Are Inactive WordPress Plugins A Security Risk?
Normally, no because the plugin is not fully loaded but this depends on how the plugin is written and because some of its code will get loaded there’s some risk. If the plugin performs some actions regardless if it’s active or not from the main plugin file and in that code there’s a vulnerability then that will make your site vulnerable as well.
Do Inactive Plugins Slow Down your WordPress site
You may be asking this question and it’s a pretty valid one. Yes and no.
Again, deactivated plugins are only partially loaded. WordPress reads the main plugin’s file and that’s it. If the plugin does extra things or checks for a valid license then there would be a performance impact.
According to Otto (WordPress.org Tech Guy) If a plugin is installed on a site but is not activated it does not show up in the count of active installs.
This is relevant for plugin developers and theme designers how an inactive theme or plugin affects their stats in WordPress.org repository.
How to Delete Unused plugins?
Ok. You’ve waited enough time and now it’s time for some clean up.
Go to: WP-Admin > Plugins (e.g. yoursite.com/wp-admin/plugins.php)
Below each deactivated plugin there is a delete button. You need to click it and confirm and that’s it. The deletion process should be pretty quick.
if you’re a WP-CLI fan you can run this command
wp plugin uninstall --deactivate copy-delete-posts
Managing unused plugins in WordPress is a nuanced task that requires a balanced approach. While deactivating and eventually removing unnecessary plugins can streamline your website and enhance security, it’s crucial to do so thoughtfully. By temporarily deactivating plugins before permanent deletion, you safeguard your site against potential disruptions. Moreover, understanding the security and performance implications of inactive plugins is key to maintaining a robust and efficient WordPress site. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced WordPress user, these insights will help you optimize your site’s performance and security, ensuring a smooth and reliable online presence.