Wednesday WordPress Quick Tips-The Back Door

Welcome to my series of quick tips for WordPress bloggers! Please note that nothing I post here will be for experienced users. Instead, the series is just quick little tips that I’ve come across since moving to WordPress. If you happen to have a random question about WordPress, feel free to send me an email and I’ll do my best to hunt down an answer!

This week’s quick tip…the back door!

This is a concept that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but conquering your fear of the back door can have some pretty big benefits. Relax, I don’t have my mind in the gutter! I’m talking about the back door to your blog, also known as phpMyAdmin.

php myadmin screenshot

A lot of people spend years blogging on WordPress and never so much as glance at their Control Panel, or cPanel, but what happens if something goes wrong and you end up locked out of your dashboard with a non-functioning website? You can call your host and have them fix the problem for you (and if you have a good host, they will), but communicating the problem and waiting for support to fix it can take hours. Or, you can use another route and solve the problem yourself.

The majority of the time, the problem will be caused by a Plugin. These clever add-ons are a love-hate relationship for most people; they offer amazing functionality but they are also very often the reason that your website will stop working. So I’m going to run through the steps for accessing your WordPress files and deactivating your Plugins using phpMyAdmin. As scary as it may seem to be altering the files that make up your website, a simple Plugin deactivation is actually quite easy.

  1. Log into your cPanel. If you have no idea how to log into your cPanel¸ you’re not alone. Search your emails for one from your host. (In my case, the email is from sales@hostgator.com.) This email contains the link to your cPanel and your password. Use the info to log in.
  2. Look for an icon labelled phpMyAdmin. There will be lots of icons on your cPanel dashboard, but this one should be fairly easy to find. On Hostgator, it is under the heading Databases. Click on it to access your phpMyAdmin dashboard
  3. In the left-hand column of your phpMyAdmin homepage, you should see a file name that contains either your name or your website name followed by a _wrdp. This is your WordPress database. Click on it.
  4. From the list that opens on your left, choose the file titled wp_options and click on it
  5. From this new list, choose the table named active_plugins. There is more than one page in this list so if you don’t see it on the first page, don’t panic. I found this one on the second page. Click on the pencil icon; this will open up the table so that you can edit it.
  6. You should now see a box with some various lines of code inside. The lines of code are your active Plugins and if you look closely, you’ll be able to see the names of your Plugins within the code. Copy this code and paste it into a text file on your computer just in case. Then delete the entire box of code and hit the Go button at the bottom to save your changes.

Congratulations, you have just deactivated your Plugins! But not to fret, they are all still installed on your site, just waiting to be reactivated. If you had an issue with a Plugin that prevented you from accessing WordPress, you should now be able to log in to your WordPress dashboard and reactivate your other Plugins. Just make sure not to reactivate the one that caused your problems!

If you are not a programmer, you definitely shouldn’t be adding and deleting files in phpMyAdmin. But if you are installing or updating a Plugin and after get a fatal error message when you try to access your dashboard or look at your site, try deactivating the Plugins in phpMyAdmin before you call your host. You may be able to get your website up and running again in a matter of minutes, and if deactivating your Plugins doesn’t solve the problem, you’re no worse off than you were before!

Have you ever edited files in phpMyAdmin?

3 thoughts on “Wednesday WordPress Quick Tips-The Back Door”

  1. No surprise (lol), but I had never heard of phpMyAdmin. Is deactivating a plug-in this manner different from deactivating it on the dashboard under Plugins -> Installed Plugins -> Deactivate ?
    Once again, thanks for all the amazing information, I look forward to this post each week.

    1. VERY different and a method you should use only in an emergency! :) Sometimes updating or adding a Plugin will cause an error that makes it impossible to log in to your dashboard. If that happens, this is how you can deactivate the rouge Plugin even though you can’t log in. Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often! :)

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