Why Can’t I Add or Install Plugins in WordPress?

One of the most common questions we are asked by WordPress beginners is: “Why can’t I add plugins in WordPress?”. It usually follows up with how the user is seeing an upgrade message or that their admin area doesn’t have the plugins menu. If you’re encountering this issue, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we will explain why you cannot add or install plugins in WordPress.

1. You are On WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a blog hosting service that offers a limited version of the popular self-hosted WordPress software. See our guide on the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org for more details.

WordPress.com users cannot install plugins unless they upgrade to the business plan which costs about $299 per year. If you are on a free, personal, or premium plan, then you cannot install third-party plugins.

WordPress.com plugins

If you don’t want to pay the $299 per year, then you can move your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. If you need assistance in doing that, then use our free WordPress blog setup service (just make a note that you want us to transfer your site, and we will do it for free).

2. You are Facing Memory Limit Issue

The second most common scenario is that you can see and access the plugins menu but unable to install plugins.

The failure notice is usually caused by the PHP memory limit. There are settings in your WordPress hosting and inside your WordPress core that define the amount of memory a PHP script can use. When a process reaches this limit, it either gets terminated or it gives an error like this:

Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 67108864 bytes exhausted

The quick fix to this problem is increasing your PHP memory limit. You can do that by adding this line to your wp-config.php file:

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

For more detailed instructions, see our guide on how to fix WordPress memory exhausted error.

3. User Role Restrictions

WordPress comes with a built-in user role management system. Sometimes web developers don’t give administrator access to their clients. Instead, they create an editor account for them.

Administrator vs Editor dashboard in WordPress

Only administrators can install and activate plugins on a WordPress site. If you are the owner of the website, then you need to ask your developer to make sure that you have administrator permissions.

4. You are on a Multi Site Network

Another possible reason as to why you can’t see the plugins menu in WordPress could be that your site is part of a WordPress multi-site network, and the network admin has disabled the plugins menu item on network sites.

Installing plugins on multisite network

It is pretty much the same scenario as WordPress.com. The network admins need to consider the server stability, WordPress security, and load balancing issues. To solve this problem, you can ask your network administrator to install plugins for you.

For more on this topic, see our guide on why do you not see all plugins on WordPress multisite installs

We hope this article helped you learn why you can’t add or install plugins in WordPress. You may also want to see our list of must have WordPress plugins for your website.

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