Why Are My WordPress Plugin Updates Slow?

slow tortoise

We’ve all been there: you log in to your WordPress site for the first time in a while, and there are plugin updates waiting. But when you try to run the updates, you wait… and wait. Maybe your sites hangs on “updating plugins…” or you receive an error message.

Common Reasons for a Slow Dashboard

  • Your web host might be slow or overloaded.
  • Your web server might be temporarily busy. Wait and try your updates again in a little while.
  • Your web hosting might recommend different ways of triggering updates, such as from their hosting control panel.
  • Some updates (such as WooCommerce) are larger than others and have many files to overwrite.
  • If there are many plugins to update, it will take longer.
  • There could be a plugin conflict—you might want to try deactivating plugins one at a time to see if one of them in particular is causing an issue.
  • Sites that don’t get much traffic and use caching can have automated tasks pile up and attempt to run when you log in.

Let’s deal in more detail with three of the most common (and overlooked) reasons:

Your Hosting Might Be Slow

In general, cheaper hosting is going to be slower. Even if your site displays quickly to visitors, the dashboard/backend area might load slowly. If you spend a lot of time in the backend of your site and often encounter slow speeds, you might want to consider faster hosting. Hosting is not one-size-fits-all. If you’re ready to make a switch, get in touch, and we can tell you if one of the vetted hosting options we provide our clients might be right for you.

Your Host Might Recommend Other Update Methods

Some hosts recommend that you update your plugins through their hosting control panel, rather than using WordPress’s updates interface. You might have a smoother experience when updating your plugins through their control panel. With that said, good hosting shouldn’t regularly break when you try to do basic things like update your plugins. It should be able to handle normal WordPress operations.

Your Automated Tasks Are Piled Up and Try to Run When You Log In

This is less common, but can occur on sites that use caching to improve front-end performance. Caching is highly recommended and is one of the best ways to improve your site’s loading speed for visitors; however, it can cause side effects.

Why Do Scheduled Tasks Pile Up?

There are several reasons this can happen, all of which can be found with a quick web search. We’re going to discuss one common reason: By default, WordPress can only run scheduled tasks (automatic background jobs) when the site gets a visitor to an uncached page. On cached sites that don’t change much, you might be its first uncached visitor in a while. WordPress is like, “finally, an uncached visitor to trigger my scheduled tasks!”, and then it starts running the list of tasks it has piled up in its task scheduler. And (lucky you!), you’re trying to use the dashboard or update plugins during all that nonsense. If your site is cached and dashboard or updates are slow when you first log in after a while, this is probably why.

What Can I Do About This?

If you only manage a few sites, the simplest solution is to take a few minutes after logging in to visit various pages on the front end of your website while logged in. Most caching plugins do not cache logged in users, so this practice has several advantages:

  • It’s good practice anyway to look for things that are broken or out-of-date on your site
  • You may also find ways to improve user experience
  • While you’re clicking through your front-end, WordPress should be running its backlog of scheduled tasks

After WordPress Finishes Its Tasks, Run Your Updates

Eventually WordPress will finish running through its scheduled tasks, and the dashboard will start loading faster. That’s a good sign that you can now run plugin, theme, and core updates (after backing up, of course!) or move on with other things you need to do in your site’s backend.