Inactive WordPress Plugins. Keep or delete?

March 27, 2024

Ross Ross Gerring

WordPress, the powerhouse behind over 40% of all websites on the internet, offers flexibility and customization through a feature called plugins. These plugins are the gears and wheels in the vast machinery of WordPress, enabling users to extend the functionality and customize their websites beyond the basic offerings. However, managing these plugins, particularly understanding the nuances of inactive plugins, poses both opportunities and challenges for website administrators. This article delves into the world of WordPress plugins, addressing their definition, the significance of the ‘inactive’ status, and the implications of deleting such plugins from your website.

What Are WordPress Plugins?

WordPress plugins are software components that integrate with the WordPress platform to add new features or extend the functionality of a website. Ranging from simple interface tweaks to complex SEO tools, social media integrations, and e-commerce solutions, plugins empower website owners to mould their sites to meet their specific needs and preferences without the need for custom coding.

A plugin can be something as straightforward as a contact form or as comprehensive as a full-fledged online shopping system. They are designed to be modular, allowing users to pick and choose the functionalities they need, leading to a highly customized website setup.

The Meaning of ‘Inactive’ Status for Plugins

When a plugin is installed on a WordPress site, it can have two main statuses: ‘Active’ or ‘Inactive’. An active plugin is one that has been enabled and is currently operational, contributing its features to the website. Conversely, an inactive plugin is one that, although installed on the website, is not enabled and thus does not affect the website’s functionality.

The inactive status serves as a standby mode, allowing the website administrator to quickly activate the plugin when needed without going through the installation process again. This status is  useful for testing new features, updating plugins, or troubleshooting issues by selectively enabling or disabling them without removing their installation files.

Reasons for Having Inactive Plugins

Website administrators may choose to keep certain plugins inactive for several reasons:

  • Testing and Comparison: When exploring new functionalities, admins might install multiple plugins to test and compare their features before deciding which one to activate.
  • Seasonal Features: Some plugins are only relevant at certain times of the year (e.g., holiday-themed features), and thus are kept inactive until needed.
  • Future Use Planning: Sometimes, plugins are installed with the intention of using them in the future as the website grows or evolves.
  • Troubleshooting: Inactive plugins can be part of a troubleshooting process, where plugins are deactivated to identify conflicts or issues within the site.

Deleting Inactive Plugins: Pros, Cons, and Implications

The general recommendation is to delete plugins that are not in use, including those that are inactive. This practice is advised for several reasons:

  1. Security: Inactive plugins can still be exploited by hackers if they contain vulnerabilities, as they remain on your server.
  2. Performance: While inactive plugins do not directly affect site performance, they take up server space and contribute to clutter, potentially impacting backup sizes and management efficiency.
  3. Updates and Maintenance: Keeping inactive plugins means additional work to maintain and update them, even if they are not actively contributing to your site.

However, there are cons to consider:

  1. Future Use: If you plan to use the plugin again soon, or it’s deactivated temporarily for testing or troubleshooting, you might want to keep it. Reinstalling a plugin later can be more time-consuming, especially if it requires complex configuration.
  2. Data Loss: Some plugins store data that you might not want to lose. Deleting the plugin could remove this data permanently. If you think you might need the data in the future, consider checking if it’s possible to export the data or if it remains stored even after the plugin is deactivated.
  3. Dependency Issues: Rarely, some plugins or themes might depend on functionality provided by another plugin, even if that plugin is inactive. This is not common practice and is considered poor design, but it’s something to be mindful of in complex sites with custom functionalities.
  4. License and Subscription Plugins: For plugins that require a license or subscription, ensure that you won’t need them in the future or that you can easily reactivate your license if you decide to reinstall.

Best Practices

  • Backup First: Before deleting any plugins, make sure to back up your WordPress site. This ensures you can restore your site if the deletion causes unexpected issues.
  • Check Plugin Documentation: Some plugins may have specific uninstallation procedures or options to retain data. Reviewing the plugin’s documentation or settings might provide useful insights.
  • Test After Removal: After deleting plugins, especially if you remove several at once, test your website thoroughly to ensure there are no adverse effects on site functionality or appearance.


WordPress plugins represent a double-edged sword; they offer unparalleled functionality and customization but require careful management to avoid potential pitfalls. Understanding the role and management of inactive plugins is important for maintaining a secure, efficient, and well-organized website. While the general advice leans towards deletion to minimize risks, it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons based on the specific context of your website. Always back up your site before making significant changes, and consider consulting with a professional if you’re unsure about the implications of deleting inactive plugins.