Should You Delete or Deactivate Inactive WordPress Plugins

WordPress plugins allow us to extend the basic functionality of the WordPress framework. One question that comes up often is that what is the best practice around handling old or disabled plugins you do not use? Do inactive WordPress plugins slow down your site or do they have a negative effect on your website? What are the thins to consider and what are the best practices around handling them. In this post, we are going to consider exactly that, the effects and best practices around managing these plugins.

As a general background about plugins, WordPress Plugins are bits of software that can be uploaded to your server to extend and expand the functionality of your WordPress site. Currently, there are over 45,000 WordPress Plugins with 1 billion total downloads in the world.

Typically, to install a new plugin, you download the plugin, visit the settings tab in your dashboard and then click the `Activate` button. Most plugins make certain changes to the database on activation, some (generally the good ones) reserves these changes when deactivated.

One of the reasons why plugins are deactivated or deleted is to improve performance, so the question is that does it make a difference to either delete or deactivate a plugin? The simple answer is No! in general, inactive or deactivated WordPress plugins do not slow down WordPress or have an adverse effect on your website.

With that said, we need to understand how the WordPress code processes HTTP requests under the hood. When a new request for a page comes in for your WordPress site, WordPress starts a loading a PHP process.

During the load process, it only loads active plugins installed on your website. All active plugins are marked in the database and as such the process knows which files to load. All inactive plugins are ignored and are not loaded.

Even if you have a lot of inactive plugins installed on your website, it would not affect the performance of your site or make it slow. The only place where WordPress looks for the inactive plugins on your site is the ‘Plugins’ page itself within the admin dashboard. Even then, it only looks for plugin’s header file and does not load the entire plugin code themselves.

If your WordPress site is slow, then inactive plugins are definitely not the reason. There might be other reasons why you might be experiencing such issues. One of the areas we specialise in here at WP Lobster is WordPress speed and optimisation. You can sign up for a free website review and we can point you in the right direction.

At this point we know there are not performance issues caused by deactivated WordPress Plugins, so, is there a reason for keeping inactive plugins around? If you plan on using that plugin in the near future, and you fear that deleting the plugin will delete its settings, then you should definitely keep it.

Ultimately, there is really no reason for keeping the inactive plugins installed on your website. In fact, they can be quite problematic at times.
For example, whether or not you are using that plugin, WordPress will still show you updates for those plugins. This can be a bit annoying particularly if you have many regularly updated plugins installed on your site.

There’s also another very important reason why you might want to delete Inactive plugins, Inactive plugins can be a security vulnerability which can be harmful to your website. This is because they are still executable files.

In the case of a hacking attempt, these inactive plugin files can get infected or can be used to install malware on your site. As a WordPress security precaution, you should delete any inactive plugins that you do not intend to use.

We hope this article helped answer your questions and give you a general idea of what to consider when thinking about deactivated WordPress and inactive plugins.

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