Girl’s Guide: Your Website Breaks After a Plugin Update

In today’s post, I’m going to show you what to do if your website breaks after you have updated your plugins after you’ve had coffee and a few sweets you should have because you’re so upset and freaking out.

With teach WordPress update, you will notice several alerts that your plugins need to be updated.  Perhaps you’ve updated them or perhaps you are waiting, holding your breath hoping you’ll log in to your website and find they have updated themselves because you are petrified something may happen once you click that update button.


First of all, I know you backed up your website before you updated those plugins, right?

But…what do you do if, after the updates, your website breaks?

So what do you do when you update a plugin and you receive what is affectionately (I use that term very loosely) known as the “white screen of death” (yes it is just as it sounds, your screen is completely white) or your website has gone a little wonky and it doesn’t quite look like it did before the update.  What’s a gal to do?

Don’t panic.

Now mind you, when I had my first experience with the white screen of death, I almost fell out my chair and passed out.  It’s a natural first reaction.  Rest assured, all is not lost.  So let out your, ” oh my gosh!”.  Let out your one scream and let’s get to work.  If you are panicking, you can’t think clearly.

Who is the culprit?  

When you updated your plugins, did you update them all at once or one by one? If it was one by one, of course, that’s easy-you know which one is causing the issue.  If you did a bulk update, you don’t know.  You will need to deactivate all plugins and activate them one by one.

What if you can’t log in after your website breaks as you have been?

You’re going to have to put on your big girl panties and get to your site using FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  The name sounds much scarier than it really is.  If you aren’t familiar with FTP, call your hosting company and ask them to assist you in finding your FTP login details or they will help you locate the file manager where all of your website files are located.

You can also login to your hosting account if you have access and go to your file manager.

So what are you looking for?

  1. You’re looking for the plugins folder located at wp-content/folders.  This folder, as it says, holds all the plugins you are using on your website.
  2. If you know which plugin is wreaking havoc on your website, just delete that one particular plugin folder.  You should then be able to log into your website as you have always done.
  3. If you don’t know which plugin is causing the issue, you’re going to have to deactivate all of them.  If this is the scenario in which you find yourself, do not delete all of the plugins; instead, rename the plugins folder to something else such as plugins-original (it doesn’t really matter what you call it just make it easy on yourself.
  4. Create another folder called plugins.  In theory, you have 2 plugin folders, but WordPress is only going to recognize the empty folder called plugin.
    1. You can move each plugin from the renamed plugin folder (plugins-original) to the plugin folder one by one.
    2. After you add a plugin to the new plugin folder, check your website.
    3. As you continue to do this with each plugin, when your site goes wonky again, you will know which one it is, delete it.
    4. Add the remaining plugins to the plugins folder.
    5. Make sure to delete the plugins-original folder once you have gone through each plugin.

If your site doesn’t go wonky again after this approach, then you may have a theme issue.  Deactivate your current theme and activate another one.  Using the theme that comes with a fresh installation of WordPress is easiest.

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  1. D on November 1, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    This is great information, even though this has not happened to me(and I hope it never will) I have bookmarked this article for future refrence if needed. Thank you for this.

    D, xo || from https://livedreamcreate-d.com

    • Lynn on November 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      D, I’m glad you haven’t had this happen to you and hope you never do! 🙂

  2. Diane@worthbeyondrubies on November 1, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    Great information! I had this happen once and my hosting company was able to restore everything. They actually told me that updates to plugins aren’t really needed (although I don’t know how true that is) and I typically dont update anymore unless it is a very well known plugin. Probably not the best plan but I am gunshy now

    • Lynn on November 2, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      Diane, so glad they could help you quickly! It’s nice to know you have someone in your corner when something like this happens.

  3. Jasmine Hewitt on November 1, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    i honestly hate updating my plugins. because i’m the one who always, always freaks when something breaks

    • Lynn on November 2, 2018 at 3:24 pm

      I completely understand, Jasmine! Don’t forget when you do update to back up your website first.

  4. Colleen on November 2, 2018 at 1:04 am

    This actually happened to me a couple weeks ago! Wordfence updated and broke my login with an HTTP 500 error. I had to call my host and the very nice CSR on the other side did the troubleshooting for me and helped me fix the problem. Thankfully I could update the plugin from the GoDaddy dashboard, and that’s what fixed it. Wordfence did a quick release-break-release but my site couldn’t handle the break.

    • Lynn on November 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm

      Eeek! Sorry that happened to you, Colleen, but so glad they were able to get this fixed for you so quickly!

  5. Jill on November 13, 2018 at 2:51 am

    This was so helpful! I was having issues with one of my plugins and this was a lifesaver. Thank you!

    • Lynn on November 27, 2018 at 6:35 pm

      So glad it helped, Jill!

  6. Lisa on November 30, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you for the tips! I greatly appreciate it! I love how you provided these great instructions. They’re so easy to follow. I haven’t had this issue, and I pray that it never happens. Should it, I know exactly where to come! Thanks again Lynn for your guidance.


    • Lynn on November 30, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      My pleasure, Lisa! I’m so glad they’re helpful. It can be so frustrating not knowing what to do when that happens and scary!

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