Almost every WordPress website uses plugins. While they are certainly handy, they can occasionally cause your website to malfunction. If that happens, you may need to disable them one by one until you find the cause of the problem, which can be difficult if you don’t have access to your dashboard.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways you can disable your WordPress plugins, such as through your database. In this article, we’re going to talk about why you might need to do this and teach you how it works in three steps.

Let’s get to it!

Why You Might Need to Disable Your WordPress Plugins

In some fringe cases, plugins can cause compatibility issues with each other or the theme you’re using. This can lead to all sorts of errors, from pages not displaying properly to your entire website and dashboard becoming inaccessible.

Take error codes 502 and 504, for example. You’ve probably come across both several times and while they’re not unique to WordPress, issues with plugins is a potential cause. Aside from those, if you ever run into a problem where a plugin doesn’t work as intended or one of your website’s features appears to be broken, it’s a good idea to test for compatibility issues.

The best way to see if a plugin is causing plugin issues is to disable them one by one until the problem disappears. There are three ways you can do this using WordPress:

  1. Through your dashboard, using the Plugins tab.
  2. Via FTP, by renaming your plugins’ folders.
  3. Directly from your database.

Naturally, method number one should always be your go to, but that only works if you have access to your dashboard. If your website is inaccessible due to an error, you’ll need to resort to methods two or three. We’ve talked about how to use FTP in the past, now let’s check out how the process works from your database.

How to Disable WordPress Plugins Through Your Database (In 3 Steps)

In this section, we’re going to change a few values within your database. If you follow our instructions you shouldn’t encounter any problems, but it’s always smart to have a full backup of your database ready to go just in case. After you’ve saved that backup somewhere safe, you can proceed to step number one.

Step #1: Access Your WordPress Database With phpMyAdmin

To get started, you’ll need access to your WordPress database. When you set up the platform, WordPress automatically creates a database where it stores all the information on your website. However, you can’t access your database from your dashboard. To get there, you’ll need to use a tool that enables you to interact with databases, such as phpMyAdmin.

Most web hosts these days provide you with a cPanel control panel when you sign up for a plan. If you access your control panel, you should see a section called Databases, with a phpMyAdmin option underneath:

Click on phpMyAdmin now and the program will open in your browser. You’ll now see several options in the middle of the page, a navigation menu at the top, and a list of databases to the left. If you’re hosting a single website, you should see only one database on that list. In the example below, we’re using a test server with several websites, hence the multiple items:

In most cases, you can identify WordPress databases due to the wp_ prefix. However, a lot of hosts change that default for security purposes and you can modify it too. In any case, click on your website’s database and then move on to step number two.

Step #2: Locate Your Plugin Tables

Once you open your database in phpMyAdmin, you’ll see a list of tables which contain all your website’s data, like the ones below:

You’ll notice some tables have names that make their contents easy to recognize, such as wp_options and wp_posts. However, there’s no dedicated table for plugins. Instead, WordPress stores your plugin information within the wp_options table:

Keep in mind – the tables you see in the examples above also have custom prefixes for security reasons. However, yours probably start with wp_. In any case, click on the wp_options link now and a new page will open, containing lots of rows:

The row we’re looking for is called active_plugins and that value shows up under the option_name column. If you don’t see it at first, don’t worry – there should be several pages of rows, so keep looking for it. Once you find it, move on to step number three.

Step #3: Disable Your WordPress Plugins

Here’s what the active_plugins row should look like once you find it:

To the right, you can see part of the value that row contains. Let’s go ahead and edit it by clicking on the Edit button to the far left of the row. On the next page, you’ll see all the fields the active_plugin row contains, including one called option_value. You can find a string that contains all your active plugins there, like this one:

Before you make any changes, you should go ahead and copy that entire string to a text editor, then save that file somewhere where you won’t forget about it. That way, you can restore the original values of the option_value field in case something goes wrong.

After you do that, go ahead and delete all the contents of the field and replace them with this string:


That small snippet of code tells WordPress there are zero active plugins on your website. In the example we showed you earlier, there were six plugins running, which is why it opened with an a:6 value instead. Once that’s done, hit the Go button at the lower right side of the page to save your changes.

Go ahead and try to open your WordPress website. If one of your plugins was preventing it from loading, it should be back to normal now. If so, you should be able to access your dashboard again. From here you can activate your plugins again, one by one. If your site break after you enable a plugin, you can be sure that this is the cause of your problems. You can return to your database and once again disable your plugins to bring your site back. You can then uninstall the broken plugin, and start looking for a replacement.


Troubleshooting websites can be difficult. When it comes to WordPress, plugins can sometimes malfunction, and the only way to solve the problem is to temporarily disable them. However, this can be tricky without access to your dashboard.

The good news is there are other ways to troubleshoot plugin issues. For example, you can disable plugins through your database in three steps:

  1. Access your WordPress database with phpMyAdmin.
  2. Locate your plugin tables.
  3. Disable the plugins you need to.

Do you have any questions about how to disable WordPress plugins using your database? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!

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