This post is part of the WordPress Weekend Projects series. In this series, you will find bite-size tips to enhance, secure, or optimize your website. Each tip should take an hour or less, and can be done without interrupting your precious weekend time too much. See all of the WordPress Weekend Projects posts at https://beyondtheoffice.com/blog/wordpress-weekend-projects.
When I say to get rid of them, I mean deleting them from your site. Deactivating them is good for troubleshooting or testing for optimization, but if the files are still on your server, then any relevant security risks could still affect you.
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Before making any changes to your site, I always recommend making a backup of your site. There’s several backup methods listed in this post if you’re not familiar with how to do that. Make a complete backup is a good idea in case you accidentally get rid of a plugin that you actually do need for your site.
When I’m doing a plugin audit, my first step (after making a backup) is to delete any deactivated plugins. Deactivated plugins are not in use on your site and should be safe to delete with no impact on your site. Many times, I’ve seen site owners or developers deactivate the default plugins like Akismet or Hello Dolly, but leave them on the site. Often times, there are updates available for these when I see them languishing in a deactivated state because they are seen as not worthy of an update if they’re not being used. Other plugins that fall in the languishing deactivated category are those three optimization or several image gallery plugins that you tried and didn’t like before you found the one that you are currently using. Get them out of your site!
You can delete them all at once, or one a time – whatever is your preference. However you do it, I recommend doing a quick run-through of your site to make sure everything’s still working properly after this step. Deleting the deactivated plugins makes the next step easier.
Once you’ve cleared all of the unused plugins, now it’s time to go through your list of active plugins and make sure they are all plugins you’re still using. Got a gallery plugin left lying around from an old theme? How about the optin form plugin for your previous email service provider? Or that time you thought you’d add WooCommerce but decided not to use it? Deactivate all the unneeded plugins, and do another quick run-through of your site to make sure everything’s still working before you delete them.
A note about “suggested plugins.” Some themes will recommend or suggest plugins that you should install to make your site work like the demo site. I’ve seen this suggestion for event plugins, or multiple types of slider plugins, visual page builder plugins, and more. The same rule of thumb applies here – if you don’t need them, or you’re not using them, there’s no reason to have them installed, even if the theme developer suggests/recommends them. If you deactivate them and your site is still working fine, then you should be okay. (But, again, this is why you should make a complete backup before making any changes – in case something goes wrong.)