When was the last time you went through all your WordPress plugins?
If the answer doesn’t pop right up, it’s been too long.
As a WordPress site owner, you might have installed various plugins to improve your site’s performance. However, not all of them were worth sticking with, and more often than not, they ended up outstaying their welcome.
In this article, we will discuss how inactive WordPress plugins can negatively impact your site’s speed and performance and how to go about them in a fast, effective way.
Inactive WordPress plugins are the ones you have installed on your website but are not currently in use.
WordPress plugins can become inactive for various reasons, such as not meeting your website's requirements, conflicts with other plugins, the website's overall goals have changed, or the plugin’s simply no longer supported.
In short, yes! Inactive plugins can negatively impact your website's speed and performance in several ways:
It’s pretty straightforward.
To find which plugins are inactive in your WordPress dashboard, simply navigate to the “Plugins” section. There, you will see a list of all Installed plugins on your website.
Click on the Inactive tab to see a list of all the unused WordPress plugins:
While you’re at it, we recommend you also flip through the active plugins too. Determine if there are any that are no longer useful or may simply be overlapping with another plugin’s features.
For example, you’ve installed EWWW Image Optimizer in the past, but now you get all your images optimized (+ code, fonts, and other resources) by a more advanced solution, like NitroPack.
Consider parting with such plugins the same way as you would with inactive ones.
Before removing any plugin, it is essential to take a backup of your website to ensure you can restore it in case of any issues.
Deactivating a plugin will simply turn off its functionality, but the plugin files will still be on your server.
On the other hand, deleting a plugin will completely remove all its files.
In general, it is better to delete inactive plugins rather than just deactivate them, as it can free up space and improve website performance.
However, if you think you might need the plugin again in the future, you can deactivate it and keep it on your server. As long as you keep these to a minimum, your site’s performance and speed shouldn’t be harmed.
To deactivate a plugin, click on “Deactivate” under the name of the plugin:
Removing inactive plugins is a one-step process.
Once the plugin is deactivated, click “Delete” to remove it completely from the directory and server.
Repeat the process for all inactive plugins you no longer need or if you have a long list in the Inactive tab, perform a bulk delete.
You can deal with unused plugins in bulk using the “Bulk Actions” dropdown menu in your Plugins section. Simply select all the inactive plugins you’d like to remove and hit “Delete.”
You might think that hitting the “Delete” button on an unused WordPress plugin is enough to call it quits.
Although this usually uninstalls any files and folders linked to the plugin, sometimes files, tables, and shortcodes may get left behind outside the /wp-content/plugins/ directory. In the long run, this may start taking extra space in your server and harm your site’s performance and speed.
Note: A properly-developed plugin will have an option for a complete uninstall inside its settings. For example, the NitroPack plugin will never work on your website’s original files and instead will make copies. When you decide to uninstall the plugin, there won’t be any leftovers to harm your site’s speed and performance.
To remove any traces an inactive WordPress plugin might have created, you need access to the files and folders on your WordPress server.
Depending on your host, you can delete unwanted files via File Transfer Protocol (FTP)/ Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) or use a file manager.
Generally, when you first install WordPress, it will create two subfolders in the "wp-content" folder: plugins and themes. As you develop your website and start growing your tech stack, other subfolders will appear, like: cache, upgrade, uploads, updrafts, etc.
Some plugins will add their dedicated subfolders to the list and these will remain there even after you delete the plugin from your library, like the Shield Security plugin below:
To delete them permanently, simply right-click on the subfolders and select “Delete.”
Using phpMyAdmin in your hosting admin dashboard, you can control all database tables that WordPress plugins might have created.
There are 12 standard database tables every WordPress site owner begins with:
Extra tables may be created by plugins in your tech stack, like Yoast SEO, Social Snap, WP Forms, etc.
These would usually start with a different prefix than “wp_”, in the example below it’s “icwp_wpsf_.”
To delete a leftover table, right-click on it and choose the “Drop” or “Delete” options (depending on your menu). Confirm your choice, and voilà!
A lot of the plugins on your WordPress site will use shortcodes (bits of code) to add functionality and features.
You might have seen this before: you go to a contact page, and instead of a contact form, you see the actual shortcode tag displayed.
This happens because a plugin for contact forms was deleted but the leftover shortcode was not. To avoid such user experience hiccups, simply edit the pages and remove the code.
To make sure you haven’t missed any orphan shortcodes, consider installing the Shortcodes Finder plugin. This will allow you to automatically find and remove unwanted tags across your website.
After deleting unused WordPress plugins, it’s generally good practice to check for broken links on your website and update them if necessary.
Then, scan if any of your active plugins have an update pending. Additionally, consider flipping through our top picks for WordPress plugins in 2023 for potential hidden gems to optimize your tech stack with.
By following these steps, you can effectively keep your website secure, fast, and efficient.
Lora has 7+ years of experience developing in-depth, specialized content for SaaS companies in the CEE region. She has sourced and collaborated with subject-matter experts on site speed optimization for WordPress, Core Web Vitals, and the future of web performance. "If you can't explain it to a 7-year-old, you've not researched it well enough" is Lora's guiding principle when publishing professional insight for complex technical topics.