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I am using wordpress on my live server which only uses sftp using an ssh key.

I want to install and upgrade plugins, but it appears that you are required to enter your ftp login to install the plugins. Is there a way to install and upgrade plugins by manually uploading the files instead of having wordpress handle the entire process?

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Note that in context of filesystem access when WP says "FTP" it usually means "SSH or FTP, whatever works". –  Rarst Nov 19 '12 at 15:42
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2 Answers 2

Sure, just download the plugin and unzip it overriding the existing plugin directory in wp-content\plugins, or in a new dir named as the plugin if you want to install a new one.

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If you are being asked for the FTP credentials, check the Upgrade constants that you can include in your wp-config.php to bypass that request.

To upgrade a plugin manually, it's a matter of uploading its folder to your server in the following path: /wp-content/plugins/.

And, in the manual process, uploading and/or deleting a folder can take some time. And, if the plugin is active, this could lead to a temporary break or malfunction of the site. So to make it transparent as possible, use the following technique.

  1. Create an auxiliary folder /wp-content/to-delete/
  2. Upload your updated plugin directly in /wp-content/
  3. When finished, move the old plugin (/wp-content/plugins/the-plugin/) to the auxiliary folder
  4. Immediately, move the updated plugin folder (/wp-content/the-plugin/) to the plugins folder
  5. Delete the old plugin folder (/wp-content/to-delete/the-plugin)

All this assumes that you understand WordPress file/folder structure.

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+1. While @stefano answers the literal question being asked, this answer gets to the heart of the underlying issue, and provides the proper work-around. –  Chip Bennett Nov 21 '12 at 13:29
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