Automatic plug-in updates are cool, but only when they work. I made attempts to understand what’s wrong with the “update automatically” feature several times, and always hit the same message after entering my FTP details: “Unable to locate WordPress Plugin directory”.

As a computer geek, I know why it needs FTP, but it wasn’t really clear what exactly it was looking for in the root of the FTP directory and why it didn’t find it. I figured that my server setup is a bit different from what they expected, and scanned the sources for clues.

Apparently, they are looking for the wp-settings.php file which is sitting in the root of the WP installation. So when they find the file, they know where to start looking for plug-ins folder. In my case, it was light years away from the FTP root, so here’s what I did:

  • Created an FTP user specifically for the blog
  • Made the root folder of the blog be the home directory of this user
  • Fed the user name and the password to WP when it asked for the FTP again

All went very nicely and hassle-free. Now you know what to do when you see “Unable to locate WordPress Plugin directory” when attempting to update your plug-ins automatically.