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Why Can’t I Add or Install Plugins in WordPress?

Last updated on by
Elegant Themes
Why Can’t I Add or Install Plugins in WordPress?

One of the most common questions we get asked by WordPress beginners is: “Why can’t I add plugins in WordPress?”. It usually follows up with a long paragraph saying how the user could not find the plugins menu in WordPress, and they have been trying to look everywhere. In this article, we will explain why you cannot add or install plugins in WordPress.

1. You are on WordPress.com

WordPress.com users can not install plugins. There is no plugins menu in the admin area of WordPress.com. However, there are some essential plugins pre-installed in each WordPress.com blog for common tasks such as adding a contact form, or adding social sharing buttons. If you want to install plugins, customize your WordPress themes or have more monetization freedom, then you would need to switch to WordPress.org. We have a feature comparison of WordPress.org vs Free WordPress.com.

We also have a step by step guide on how to properly move your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. If you need assistance in doing that, then use our free WordPress blog setup (just make a note that you want us to transfer your site, and we will do it for free).

2. You are Facing Memory Limit Issue

The second most common scenario is that on a self hosted WordPress site, the user can see and access the plugins menu but is unable to install the plugin. The failure notice is usually caused by the PHP memory limit. On your web hosting, and inside WordPress there are settings that define the memory limit a PHP process can use. When a process reaches this limit, sometimes it gets killed and other times it gives an error like this:

Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 67108864 bytes exhausted

We wrote about this issue in an earlier post about Fixing WordPress Memory Exhausted Error. The quick fix to this problem is increasing memory limit PHP can use. To do that add this line to your wp-config.php file:

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '64M');

If this doesn’t fix it, then ask your hosting provider to increase the memory limit or find another plugin.

3. User Role Restrictions

We have noticed that some developers do not give their clients full access to their own site. In this situation, the business owner usually only has editor level permissions which basically means add/edit posts and pages, and moderate comments. Only an administrator level user has the access to add or remove plugins. If you are the owner of the site, then you need to ask your developer to make that happen.

4. You are on a Multi Site Network

Another possible reason as to why you can’t see plugins menu in WordPress could be that your site is part of a WordPress Multi Site Network and network admin has disabled the plugins menu item on network sites. It is pretty much the same scenario as WordPress.com. The network admins need to consider the server stability, security, and load balancing issues. To solve this problem you can ask your network administrator to install plugins for you.

We hope this article helps you find out the reason why you are unable to install plugins. If it does not, then we recommend that you contact your WordPress Hosting company or network administrator. Let us know how you solve this issue on your site by leaving a comment below.


Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress lovers led by Syed Balkhi. Page maintained by Syed Balkhi.

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  • Mattie

    I have managed to solve my problem by deleting the entire MYSQL database and starting over from scratch. :(

  • Josh

    what if I use xampp for local hosting? can this work to add plugins?

  • Joey Ayoub

    This really ruins the WordPress experience for me. All I wanted was to be able to write my own meta descriptions and now I’m told I have to pay even more to do just that? For goodness’ sake.

    • http://www.wpbeginner.com/ WPBeginner Support

      if you are using WordPress.com, then yes you can not install plugins or modify themes on your own. However, using a self-hosted WordPress site you can make all these changes using free plugins and themes.

  • Ryan Naylor

    I was having this problem yesterday. I wanted to install the Gravity Forms Directory plugin, which I did and activated. Yet, I couldn’t find it within my dashboard and even following the plugin directions, was not able to follow. My only conclusion is that I need to actually purchase Gravity Form in order to install and use the G.F. directory plugin.?

    • http://www.wpbeginner.com Editorial Staff

      Yes, you have to purchase GF first.

  • Ignacio

    One more (happened to me today):

    I forgot that I wrote this on wp-config:

    define(‘DISALLOW_FILE_MODS’,true);

    That will disable plugins install, updates…