SOLVED: Easily Reactivate Deactivated Plugins in WordPress Manually

wp-ssl-cloudflare-errorThere are several WordPress plugins that will break your website if they are disabled.  Once disabled, you are likely in a catch-22 situation in that you cannot activate them because the site is broken and the site is broken because you cannot activate them.

disabled cloudflare cannot login

In our case, we took down our sister site by disabling the Cloudflare Flexible SSL.  After goofing with scripts found on several WordPress support sites but getting nowhere for an hour we gave up and called our host, but after 30 minutes it became apparently they could not/would not help either.  Then after another hour of playing we found the fix.

There are two easy solutions to manually activate plugins in WordPress:


Yes, there is such a thing.  A long time ago WordPress developers came up with a ‘secret’ folder (ok… that is a bit much, it is not a secret but it is not well known at all) that automatically runs any plugin that is in that folder.  It appears to have been designed for web hosting companies because any plug-in in that folder:

  1. is NOT shown by the WordPress interface
  2. is NOT able to be disabled by WordPress users
  3. must be manually updated

So, where is this magic folder?  You have to create it:

  1. mandatory-must-use-pluginsUsing FileZilla or some other FTP tool, connect to your WordPress site
  2. Expand WP-CONTENT folder
  3. Create a new folder named MU-PLUGINS
    1. it MUST be that exact name and likely in lower case
  4. Expand the folder of the plugin that is not activated and copy the CONTENTS of that folder into the MU-PLUGINS folder
    1. WordPress will NOT take action on items in subfolders of the MU-PLUGINS folder
  5. Enjoy your site, you are done

You do NOT have to restart any services or wait an hour.  It seems to take effect immediately.  Damn WordPress is awesome.

2 – Restore The Database From Backup

After we used the MU-PLUGINS folder to fix our SSL nightmare, we found that we could not activate the Cloudflare Flexible SSL that was still in the normal PLUGINS folder.  We tried removing the contents of the MU-PLUGINS folder then quickly pressing ACTIVATE on the Cloudflare Flexible SSL and a dozen other little twists but nothing worked.

We were very happy to have our site back really did not want to have to deal with remembering to manually update the Cloudflare Flexible SSL in the MU-PLUGINS folder so we considered a database restore.

Remember that while all of the files for WordPress are stored in a file system you can see in FileZilla (or whatever FTP client you are using), all of the configuration settings including which plugins are activated is stored in the database.  Unfortunately in this case, the database is also what stores all of your posts and pages.  So if you perform a restore you will loose whatever posts/pages you have created since that backup.

Fortunately, your site is up.  This means you can manually copy into Word, any of the posts you have created since your last backup.  That is what we did.

Our last backup was only a week ago so we only had a few posts to deal with.  Also several hosts automatically backup your sites everyday or you may have a service that backs up your sites everyday, which means you may loose even less.

restore wordpress databaseIn our case, we:

  1. performed the database restore,
  2. used FileZilla to remove the MU-PLUGINS folder
    1. we actually just renamed it
  3. recreated a few posts
  4. Bingo, was back to full health

Manually Activate Deactivated Plugins To Recover WordPress Site Summary

If this type of problem occurs again in the future, we could resolve it and be back to 100% health within an hour by:

  1. reactivating the deactivated plugin using the MU-PLUGINS folder
  2. manually copying the contents of recent posts/pages to MS Word
  3. restoring the database
  4. removing the MU-PLUGINS folder
  5. recreating the recent posts/pages


Questions or Comments?