WordPress Plugin Update Failed: How to Fix It

WordPress Plugin Update Failed: How to Fix It

WordPress powers around 37% of the internet. The attraction for many is the control it gives the user, and how user-friendly the design process is. WordPress is able to offer this feature via plugins. Plugins need updating, however, a common problem many users experience is to find their WordPress plugin update has failed.

Whether it is for your business, brand, or hobby, as a WordPress user you need to be sure that your website is up to date. This is not just for design and operational reasons, but also for security. An out of date plugin is a liability to your WordPress site.

If you come across an error while updating that states your WordPress plugin update failed, what can you do?

Fortunately, there are fixes for this problem. Let’s now examine the different solutions in this article created by our team at wpDataTables.

DISCLAIMER: It is always a good idea to make a backup of your entire WordPress site before attempting any changes to your site! Search “WordPress site backup” in your search engine for a step by step guide on how to do this.

WordPress Plugin Update Failed: Solutions

Define a WP_TEMP_DIR in Your Wp-Config.Php File:

If your WordPress plugin update failed, you may see one of these error messages:

“Download failed”

 “An error occurred while updating (Plugin Name).”

 “Download failed. Destination directory for file streaming does not exist or is not writable.”

In these cases, follow these steps to resolve the problem:

  • Open your wp-config.php file with the cPanel File Manager Code Editor
  • You should see this code towards the top of the file:
*@package WordPress


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

/**The name of the database for WordPress*/

define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘demo_wpdt’);
  • Place this definition of define (‘WP_TEMP_DIR’, ABSPATH . ‘wp-content/’); in-between the lines mentioned above, it will look like this when completed:
*@package WordPress


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

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

/**The name of the database for WordPress*/

define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘demo_wpdt’);
  • Now Save your wp-config.php file.

Try updating again. If the same error appears, check the file permission for your wp-content folder and ensure it’s set to 755 so that the server can write to it.

Change the File and Directory Permissions

Set the File Permission to 755

Alternatively, the problem might not be due to the plugin itself, but rather the file permission on your server. This can lead to WordPress not being able to access the plugin folders and update the plugin correctly, leading to a plugin update failure.

Before suggesting some solutions, this is what your default permissions should already be set to:

  • 755 for all folders and sub-folders
  •  644 for all files

Understanding File Permissions

These numbers control who is able to access, change, or manipulate files. These three classes of permission are known as Owner, Group, and Others.

To understand this clearly, it’s important to know that there are three types of permission that can be assigned to these classes. These are read, write, and execute. These are normally shown as:

  • r” if reading is permitted, “-” if it is not 
  • “w” if writing is permitted, “-” if it is not 
  • “x” if the execution is permitted, “-” if it is not

Numerically this translates to:

  • OWNER has permission “7” or “rwx” 
  • GROUP has permission “5” or “r-x” 
  • OTHERS has permission “5” or “r-x”

By using this logic, the file permission 755 reads as rwxr-xr-x. The first three letters show the permission for OWNER. The middle three letters show the permission for GROUP. The last three letters show the permission for OTHERS.

Change the Upgrade Directory to 777

Another possible solution for your WordPress plugin update failing is to change the permission of the field directory to 777.

This is similar to the previous suggestion, except that 777 allows your upgrade directory to read, write, and execute without restrictions.

To do this, use either your file manager in cPanel or your FTP client.

Find your upgrade directory in WordPress at wp-content/upgrade. Change the permission to 777 and update the plugin.

It’s important to remember to change your permission back to 644 once the process is complete.

If this doesn’t work, there is a work-around; delete upgrade directory and recreate it.

Simply delete the upgrade directory from the web-based file manager provided by the host or via FTP client. Once this is done, recreate it. Make sure the permission is set to 644.

Then try again to update the WordPress plugin.

Fixing a Stalled Update

Often when updating your WordPress site, a notice may appear for the public stating that the site is briefly “unavailable due to maintenance”. Usually, this will disappear once the update or installation is complete. However, there are times when this notice does not disappear.

This may be due to your update stalling, leaving your website inaccessible from both the public end and the admin end.

Simply FTP into your website (or use your web host’s file manager) and navigate to the folder where WordPress is installed. Look for a file called “.maintenance” (notice the “.” in the file name) and delete it from the server.

Now refresh your browser, you should be able to access everything once again.

Make sure that everything is working properly. Then try again to run the update process.

Lack of Hard Disk Space

While it is rare for most websites, in some cases you may have run out of web hard disk space, which could lead to your WordPress plugin update failing.

Fortunately, there are solutions.

If you receive any of the error messages:

  • Could not remove the old plugin
  • Plugin upgrade failed at unpacking the update
  • Could not copy file /public_html/wp-content/xyz

It’s time to clear out the web hard disk. Do some maintenance, delete old files, and free some space. Try the WordPress plugin update again and it will update properly if this was the problem.

Other Fixes

If you have tried all of the above-mentioned fixes and are still encountering issues, there are a few alternative solutions to try.

  • Deactivate the plugin that’s giving your trouble, but DO NOT UNINSTALL IT, or you will lose your settings.
  • Download the updated version of the plugin directly from the WP repository

  • FTP into your site and overwrite the plugin files with the updated ones you unzipped earlier (usually found in [path]/wp-contents/plugins/[plugin-in-question]/[files|dirs to overwrite])
  • Note: if you choose to do that, it’s possible it will change and therefore the same problem will appear.. (However, since you are using an FTP you shouldn’t have that problem)
  • Re-activate the plugin from within the WordPress dashboard – it will update what needs to be updated

WordPress Plugin Update Failed: Problem Solved

If you try each solution stated in this article, you should find one that works. The advantage of WordPress is that it is used by a large percentage of the internet, hence most problems have already been encountered, therefore finding a solution is easy.

Always remember that no matter the problem, there is always the option to roll your website back to a previous version of itself. This method allows you to start again or try a different potential solution until you find the one that works.

Hey, did you know data can be beautiful too?

wpDataTables can make it that way. There’s a good reason why it’s the #1 WordPress plugin for creating responsive tables and charts.

An actual example of wpDataTables in the wild

And it’s really easy to do something like this:

  1. You provide the table data
  2. Configure and customize it
  3. Publish it in a post or page

And it’s not just pretty, but also practical. You can make large tables with up to millions of rows, or you can use advanced filters and search, or you can go wild and make it editable.

“Yeah, but I just like Excel too much and there’s nothing like that on websites”. Yeah, there is. You can use conditional formatting like in Excel or Google Sheets.

Did I tell you you can create charts too with your data? And that’s only a small part. There are lots of other features for you.

If you enjoyed reading this article on WordPress plugin update failed, you should check out this one about how to fix “your connection is not private”.

We also wrote about a few related subjects like WordPress links not working, how to fix installation failed, could not create directory, how to fix the site is experiencing technical difficulties, how to fix sorry, this file type is not permitted for security reasons and the link you followed has expired.

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