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How to Install a WordPress Plugin – Step by Step for Beginners

After installing WordPress, the first thing every beginner needs to learn is how to install a WordPress plugin.

In simple words, WordPress plugins are like apps for your WordPress website. They allow you to add new features to WordPress like a contact form, slideshow, shopping cart, and more.

There are thousands of free and paid plugins available for WordPress. In this step by step guide, we will show you how to install a WordPress plugin.

Installing a WordPress plugin - A beginner's guide

Before You Start

If you are using WordPress.com, then you cannot install plugins.

We often get complaints from users saying that they can’t see the plugins menu in their WordPress dashboard. It is because you are using WordPress.com, which has its limitations.

You cannot install plugins on WordPress.com unless you upgrade to their business plan. On the other hand, you can install any plugin you want on your self hosted WordPress.org website right out of the box (See the differences between self hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com).

If you want to switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, then read our tutorial on how to properly move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

That being said, now let’s take a look at how to install a WordPress plugin on your website.

How to Install a WordPress Plugin

To make it easy, we have created a video tutorial on how to install a WordPress plugin that you can watch below.

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However, if you just want to follow text-instructions, then you can follow our step by step tutorial on how to install a WordPress plugin.

We have covered all three methods: installing a WordPress plugin using search, uploading a WordPress plugin, and manually installing a WordPress plugin using FTP.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Install a Plugin using WordPress Plugin Search

The easiest way of installing a WordPress plugin is to use the plugin search. The only downside of this option is that a plugin must be in the WordPress plugin directory which is limited to only free plugins.

First thing you need to visit the Plugins » Add New page inside your WordPress admin area.

Searching for plugins to install in WordPress admin area

You will see a screen like the one in the screenshot above. Find the plugin by typing the plugin name or the functionality you are looking for. After that, you will see a bunch of listings like the example below:

Plugin search results

You can pick the plugin that is best for you. Since in our search, we were looking for WPForms which is the best WordPress contact form plugin, we’ll click the ‘Install Now’ button next to it.

WordPress will now download and install the plugin for you. After this, you’ll notice the ‘Install Now’ button will change into the ‘Activate’ button.

Activating a WordPress plugin

A WordPress plugin can be installed on your site, but it will not work unless you activate it. So go ahead and click on the activate button to start using that plugin on your WordPress site.

That’s all, you have successfully installed your first WordPress plugin.

The next step is to configure the plugin settings. These settings will vary for each plugin therefore we will not be covering that in this post.

Install a Plugin using the WordPress Admin Plugin Upload

Paid WordPress plugins are not listed in the WordPress plugin directory. These plugins cannot be installed using the first method.

That’s why WordPress comes with the upload method to install such plugins. We will show you how to install WordPress plugins using the upload option in the admin area.

First, you need to download the plugin from the source (which will be a zip file). Next, you need to go to WordPress admin area and visit Plugins » Add New page.

After that, click on the ‘Upload Plugin’ button on top of the page.

Upload plugin button

This will reveal the plugin upload form. Here you need to click on the ‘Choose File’ button and select the plugin file you downloaded earlier to your computer.

Select plugin zip file to upload and install in WordPress

After you have selected the file, you need to click on the ‘Install Now’ button.

WordPress will now upload the plugin file from your computer and install it for you. You will see a success message like this after the installation is finished.

Activate plugin

Once installed, you need to click on the Activate Plugin link to start using the plugin.

You would have to configure the settings to fit your needs. These settings will vary for each plugin therefore we will not be covering that in this post.

Manually Install a WordPress Plugin using FTP

In some rare cases, your WordPress hosting provider may have file restrictions that could limit your ability to install a plugin from the admin area.

In this situation, your best bet is to install the plugin manually using FTP.

The FTP manager method is the least friendly for beginners.

First you will need to download the plugin’s source file (it will be a zip file). Next, you need to extract the zip file on your computer.

Extracting the plugin zip file will create a new folder with the same name. This is the folder that you need to manually upload to your website using a FTP client.

You would need to access your host through the FTP manager. If you do not have your FTP username and password, then contact your WordPress hosting provider and ask them.

Open the FTP client on your computer and connect to your website using the login credentials provided by your web host. Once connected, you need to go to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your website.

Next, upload the folder you extracted from the zip file to the /wp-content/plugins/ folder on your web server.

Uploading a plugin via FTP

After uploading the files, you need to visit the WordPress admin area and click on the Plugins link in the admin menu. You’ll see your plugin successfully installed on the plugins page.

Activate installed plugin

You need to click on the Activate link below the plugin to start using it.

Upon activating, you may need to configure the plugin settings. WordPress plugins come with their own settings which differ from one plugin to another so we will not describe them here.

FAQs About Installing WordPress Plugins

As a beginners you may have few questions about installing WordPress plugins. As the largest WordPress resource site, we have heard all of them.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about installing WordPress plugins.

1. How do I find the best WordPress plugins to install on my website?

There are more than 55,000 WordPress plugins on the free WordPress plugin directory alone. Many more are available as premium plugins. This makes it a bit difficult for beginners to find the best plugin for the feature they need.

We have compiled a list of all the essential WordPress plugins that most WordPress websites need.

We also have a detailed tutorial on choosing the best WordPress plugin where we show you what to look for when looking for a plugin.

2. What is the difference between installed and active plugins?

WordPress allows you to install a plugin and not use it at all. In order to use a plugin on your site, you need to ‘Activate’ it.

You can see active plugins by visiting the ‘Plugins’ page in the WordPress admin area. They will be highlighted with a blue background.

Installed and active plugins

Plugins with the white background are installed on your website but not active.

3. Should I delete inactive plugins?

If you are not using a plugin, then it is recommended to delete it from your website. For more on this topic, see our article on why should you delete inactive plugins in WordPress.

4. How many plugins I can install in WordPress?

You can install as many WordPress plugins as you need. It is not the number of plugins that affect your website speed, but the quality of those plugins. For more information, see our article on how many WordPress plugins you should install.

5. How do I uninstall a WordPress plugin

You can uninstall a WordPress plugin by visiting the Plugins page in the WordPress admin area. If the plugin you want to remove is currently active, then first you’ll need to deactivate it. After that, you can simply click on the delete link to remove it from your website.

Uninstall a WordPress plugin

For more detailed instructions, see our guide on how to properly uninstall a WordPress plugin.

We hope this helped you learn how to install WordPress plugins.

You may also want to see our plugins category where we write about the best WordPress plugins that you can use to accomplish whatever you’re looking to do. Each of those articles comes with step-by-step instructions on how to set up individual plugins.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. See how WPBeginner is funded, why it matters, and how you can support us.

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Reader Interactions

182 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Thank you for all your tutorials. I have learned a lot, & they’ve been instrumental to me getting my WordPress website up and going. I have a “credits” page on my site & have added you to it.

  2. Thank you for sharing this article for beginners, I remember how anxious I was when I first started my WordPress website years ago installing plugins. I also shared this on my Facebook page for others to take advantage of, I thank you again for providing this article for beginners.

    Jeff

  3. Please help me out. I have a new site but after installing and activating plugin i cant edit my header and footer. Please i need your help on how to edit the header and footer.

  4. I have the WooCommerce plugin on my online store. I have a plugins menu but it is YITH plugins and there is no other plugins menu. I want to install Partial.ly but cannot access a normal plugins menu

  5. I just purchased a personal site to build a portfolio and read your suggestions for the best builders (Elementor, Beaver, etc.) Unless I upgrade to business subscription for $299 I can’t use any of them, is that correct? No plugins for anything less than business plan?

  6. I am using WordPress.org (as confirmed by the WordPress logo in the upper left of my Dashboard), but the plugin menu is still not there. Could it be that my hosting company has a multi-tenant version that hides certain features from me?

  7. Hello, I bought a woocommerce site for real estate.
    I have properties for rental but also for sale, so I want to remove the button -book- not on my pages for sale. How can I do this? Thanks in advance

    • Hi Tom,

      WordPress has more than 50,000+ free plugins. Each one of them does different things. Depending on the plugin you are trying to install you will find instructions on how to use it on the plugins website.

      Admin

  8. Hi. I’m uploading a plugin like in the second example…. but which file do I upload? The maps one I have purchased is a folder with all the files inside i.e. documentation – I don’t know which bit to upload! Please help :(

    • Hi Rose,

      When you purchase a WordPress theme you get it in a zip file. You don’t need to unzip that file and upload it.

      You try again by downloading the plugin again.

      Alternately, you can upload the plugin folder to your WordPress website manually using FTP. You will need to upload the folder to /wp-content/plugins/ folder.

      Admin

  9. Thanks for the guide, very helpful.
    Upload via WordPress directory gives error to me, so I used the FTP method to upload a downloaded plugin and it worked.

  10. I am trying to upload a plugin onto my site. I have followed it up to the point where you click “Upload Plugin” on the Add New section of the plugin page. However, whenever I click the button nothing happens at all.

  11. Thanks for a great page
    BUT: When I have installed and activated, what do I do then to use the plugin??

    • Hi Niels,

      It actually depends on the plugin you are using. Some plugins add a new page where you can configure plugin settings. This page is typically located under Settings menu in your WordPress admin bar. Other plugins may place it under other menu items in admin area. Check the plugin’s details page for instructions.

      Admin

  12. I installed and activated Email Subscribers. I filled in the contact/subscribers list. I posted a blog…but no mail was sent out? what am I leaving out?

  13. Hello,

    I would love some assistance with a plugin please. I have uploadd a new theme to my site with all of the required plugins, all of which have successfuly installed, but one (Revolution Slider).
    I am getting the following message:

    Unpacking the package…
    Installing the plugin…
    Destination folder already exists…./public_html/wp-content/plugins/revslider/
    Plugin install failed.

    I have gone into my file manager and can see that there is already a folder with the required plugin installed, however when I try to access the plugin from the WP dashboard, it still says it’s not been installed (and I can’t find it in inactive either).

    If anyone has any advice, I’d be super grateful! Thanks!

  14. Hi

    How do I install a plugin in localhost?

    I’ve tried adding it manually in : xampp/htdocs/mywebsite/wp-content/plugins

    but when I got back to the site plugins area its still not there. I’ve cleared cache just in case there was a bit of a lag but still nothing.

    I used this process to add a new theme and it worked fine.

    Is there something else I should be doing?

    Thanks

    • Hey Deborah,

      May be the plugin you are trying to add has incorrect plugin header which could stop WordPress from showing it as a plugin. Try adding some other plugin, to make sure this isn’t the case.

      Admin

  15. I just want to say that I am 52 and pretty much computer illiterate and I was just able to install a plug in from this. So so easy!!!

  16. HI, I am receiving following error when i try to test contact for i add: “site is currently unable to handle this request.
    HTTP ERROR 500” . I checked e mail address and it is ok , so could you suggest how to solve
    Thank you !

  17. Hello,

    After successfully installing and configuring the header and footer plug in, I was wondering how I can go back and change what appeara in the header after i saved and exited the plug in? Can’t find a way to do this

  18. Hello, thanks for the great info. I’ve purchased Yoast premium, downloaded it, but then when i try to upload to my site, its has broken the download into a bunch of individual folders. I’m certain i probably need all of them, but it will only let me choose one?
    So how should i proceed?

    • Hi Brock,

      Premium plugins come as a zip file. After downloading it to your computer, you don’t need to unzip or open that file. If you do that, then you will see individual folders packed inside the plugin.

      If for some reason you cannot locate the plugin’s zip file, then you can try uploading it using FTP.

      Admin

  19. I DID IT!!! I manually uploaded a plugin for the very first time and I DID IT. The video was excellent! Thank you!

  20. Hi,

    I have installed your plugin “insert-headers-and-footers”, and this broken my website (don’t load).
    This get back the error:
    Fatal error: Can’t use function return value in write context in /home2/gnastac/public_html/topbusinessgrowth.com/wp-content/plugins/insert-headers-and-footers/ihaf.php on line 102
    Could you help me to fix it?

  21. what could be the reason for the add new button for the new plugin istall area showing this message “unexpected error occurred. Something may be wrong with WordPress.org or this server’s configuration.

  22. Thanks! Your website has helped this newbie and I just wanted you to know that you are appreciated. This is a long way from how I learned to build a website back in the early 2k’s. You’ve made my life better knowing there is a place to find information that doesn’t talk down to me but shows me in plain, step-by-step, English.

  23. Hello,
    I want to create my site through my android tab, but please is there any mobile Ftp to use for uploading files. And is it possible to create site through android tab?
    Thanks

    • Hi Apata,

      Yes, you can do it using a tab. However, it will be a little difficult and you may not be able to do certain things. Some plugins and themes may be difficult to setup.

      Admin

  24. What if the plugin failed to install? I actually tried to install the contact form 7 plugin but it didn’t worked.

  25. hello i have installed a questionnaire plugin in a word press website that was developed by someone else, and i don’t know how to view them from the front end? am not well conversant with word press… need help

  26. I would like to ask for help on plugins. I’m new to this area and I’m currently taking an online course. However, I haven’t gotten an answer from them yet.

    I’m trying to activate/add my first plugin. I understand a plugin can be 1 file. In my case it’s a php file and its contents is just comments at this point.

    When I go to plugins in my admin site I dont see the file. so I’ve tried using the ‘add new’ link and I proceed to upload the file both as a singe file and as a zip file and here are the errors I get:

    Unpacking the package…

    Installing the plugin…

    The package could not be installed. No valid plugins were found.

    Plugin install failed.

    OR i get this error:

    Unpacking the package…

    The package could not be installed. PCLZIP_ERR_BAD_FORMAT (-10) : Unable to find End of Central Dir Record signature

    I’ve installed XAMPP and WordPress on my local host

    Why am i getting these errors and how do I correct it?

    How do I add my plugins that I develop myself to my site? I’m using my localhost with XAMPP to do testing

  27. Hiya,
    I also cannot see the plug-in menu on my dashboard. I’ve recently moved from wordpress.com to .net (which, I’ve been told, is essentially the same as .org, right?) How do I fix this? My site has not been hacked or anything.
    Thank you.

    • If you cannot see the plugins menu, then most probably your site is still redirecting you to the WordPress.com dashboard. It is also possible that your site is still hosted with WordPress.com and you just added a domain name to your existing WordPress.com blog.

      Admin

  28. Hi,
    i downloaded few slider plugins and activated.

    .where i place the shortcode ?.Thereby i can see the plugin in page div.

    Please help

  29. Hi – I followed your tutorial on how to dump wordpress.com for wordpress.org.

    I hosted my site on bluehost.com and downloaded wordpress on bluest (per another one of your tutorials… Thanks!)

    But now i am logging into wordpress as an admin through the bluehost cPanel and still no plugging tab showing on my dashboard… any ideas what I could have done wrong?

  30. I do NOT have a “plugins” menu item between Appearance and Users! Why not?

    ?

    John

    PS So how can and WHERE do *I* install any WP plugins?

  31. I installed the lite version and now I want to enter the contest for the full version but I don’t see where. I tried putting in the address provided but it says “page not found”.

  32. Do you know if there are any way we may filter the search result? If I could filter out those plugins that are not updated to my version of WordPress, and sort by for instance grade or popularity, I might find the plugin I need!

  33. I install plugin, but how can access it on wordpress theme or page or post.
    plugin name is easy randome quotes. How codes write and where write for calling this plugin.

  34. After upgrade wordpress its looking for ajaxformpro-es_ES.mo. and showing this errors:

  35. I’ve installed and activated a plugin, but it’s not popping up on my dashboard the way others have, nor is it listed under Appearance. I get the sense I somehow need to register it in functions.php the same way I registered the nav menu, but I just can’t figure out what functions I need to call. Are there any general guidelines about how to start using a plugin that doesn’t appear on the dashboard after it’s been activated? Thanks!

    • No, you do not need to register a plugin anywhere. Not all plugins will add menu items into your WordPress admin bar. If there is a settings page for the plugin you are using then the most like position for it is under the Settings menu. Check the plugin’s website for screenshots.

      Admin

  36. Hi,
    I am new sto wordpress. i downloaded few slider plugins and activated.
    But how i can enable it on my favorite pages?

    it’s showing suggestions like below. where i have to keep this code?

    Add this Short code [display_fade_slider] from your page.

    For template

    • Dear Anilina

      Add the given short code by the slider plugin into that page where you want to show the slider. Go to post or page> click on Edit > Paste it. Now it depends on you.

      Thanks and Regards

  37. Hello, thank you for the step-by-step instructions. Unfortunately, I also do not have the “Add New” plugin as an option, and I am working from a WordPress.org site. My site has recently been hacked and I’m wondering if this has anything to do with it. I wanted to download the Sucuri scanner plugin, but I can’t do that without the plugin menu.

    Could you point me in the right direction to get this functionality back?

    Thanks,
    Carolyn

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