How to Fix the ‘WordPress Plugin Update Failed’ Error, and a Coupon Code for Hosting

It’s a Friday afternoon and you are almost done work for the week. You notice that there are a couple of updates available for your WordPress website. “Great!” you think to yourself, “I’ll update these real quick and then it’s on to the weekend!” You click the update button, watch the little arrows go around and then…a red error message? WordPress Plugin Update Failed, it says. Okay no problem, maybe it was just a random glitch. You click the button again. Same thing happens. Don’t panic! Your weekend is not ruined, we have a few steps below that should clear the error for you, and we have a coupon code that will save you on hosting and all kinds of other expenses in the future. Win-win!

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Guide to Fix ‘WordPress Plugin Update Failed’

Okay onto the meat of this article, how do we correct the WordPress Plugin Update Failed error message? I like to start with the simplest thing and then move onto the more complicated steps. Usually you won’t need to go through all of them, and you’ll get the error solved in under 5 mins.

Step 1: Check available storage space

Trust me on this one: you don’t want to spend a bunch of time fiddling around with FTP and PHP files, only to find out that you simply just ran out of disk space. So start here, login to your cPanel or DirectAdmin or whatever interface your hosting provider has. Usually they have the used/available storage space listed on the main page, and it will be showing up in red if you are at or near capacity. If you are on a discount hosting plan, you usually don’t get a lot of storage space. cPanel will usually email you if you are getting close to or have exceeded your storage capacity, but those messages may have been filtered into a junk or spam folder.

If everything looks fine in terms of storage space, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Check file permissions

You can probably check and modify permissions through the File Manager in your hosting companies interface software, but I prefer to use an FTP client like FileZilla. If you don’t already have your FTP login credentials you should be able to either retrieve them or set them up through the interface. Once you have connected via FTP you’ll want to check the permissions on the /wp-content/plugins/ folder, and also the folder of the plugin that you are trying to update. If it’s not set to 755, that could be your issue. If you are seeing something like 644, you can change the permissions using your FPT client, in FileZilla you can right click on Windows or hold down CTRL and click on the folder and then select ‘File Permissions’ from the bottom of the pop-up list. Don’t worry about the checkboxes, go down to the box labeled ‘Numeric Value’ and enter 755. You will also want to check the ‘recurse into subdirectories’ box. Click ‘OK’ to save your changes. You could also try changing it to 777 temporarily just to complete the update, but make sure you change it back to at least 755 after that because the 777 setting leaves your website wide-open security wise. Not a great idea.

Try your plugin update again. If it’s still failing, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Check your wp-config.php file

This step is a little more labour-intensive, but if you’ve already ruled out the simple steps then you have no choice. Using your FTP client (or the file manager if you really want to), download your wp-config.php file from the root directory. Sometimes the issue is that you don’t have a viable temp directory set up for uploading & installing new plugins. Search for ‘WP_TEMP_DIR’ to make sure that it isn’t already set. If you do find the code already in your wp-config file, make sure it’s pointing to a directory that exists, and that is writable (has permissions of 755). Sometimes if you have changed hosts recently, your wp-config file may have settings that were specific to your previous hosting company. If it’s not there, you can set it by adding the following code:

Define(‘WP_TEMP_DIR’, ABSPATH . ‘wp-content/’);

Add this above the line that says:

//**MySQL settings – You can get this info from our web host**//

Now try your upload again. If you are still getting the ‘WordPress Plugin Update Failed’ error, move on to the next step.

Step 4: Manually upload the new plugin files via FTP

First of all, go to the Plugins page in your WordPress dashboard. Scroll down to the plugin that is causing the error and deactivate it but don’t delete it. Now download the latest version of the plugin files from the developers website. They should have a link to their website on the Plugins page, or you can search them. The file will be zipped, unzip it on your local machine. Now use your FTP client (or the file manager if you really have to) and overwrite the files in the plugin’s folder. Once all of the new files have uploaded you should be able to reactivate the plugin and have a working copy of the newest version. It may ask you to do a database update, that’s fine go ahead and do it.

If for some reason upload of the new files also fails then we have no choice but to…

Last resort: contact technical support

If you have the disk space and you can’t upload files even via FTP then there is a larger issue going on, and one that is likely outside of your circle of influence. You’ll need to contact technical support at your hosting company and explain what’s going. Don’t forget to detail the steps you have already taken to correct the issue, you can send them this page if you like.