How to fix the ‘The plugin does not have a valid header’ error when activating a WordPress plugin

Posted: May 21, 2011 in Wordpress
Tags:

You want to extend WordPress’ functionality and decided to download some plugins found in the Official WordPress Plugin repository. After searching the repo, you’ve found two plugins that accomplishes the tasks you needed to implement in your blog. Downloading the plugins gives you two ZIP files that when double-clicked, shows you the contents in the following format:
plugin-a.zip

plugin-a-folder
---- plugin-a-main-file.php
---- plugin-a-readme.txt

plugin-b.zip

plugin-b-folder
    ---- plugin-b-subfolder
    -------- plugin-b-main-file.php
    -------- plugin-b-readme.txt

There are two ways to install a plugin. Option 1 is to unzip the file and upload the contents to wordpress_root/wp-content/plugins/ directory. Option 2 is to use the Add New -> Upload option found in the left panel bar of the administrative page of WordPress. Let’s assume the two plugins went through the two installation options.

Installing ‘plugin-a.zip’ using Option 1

  1. Unzip the file
  2. Upload the contents to wordpress_root/wp-content/plugins/
  3. Login as admin and go to Plugins -> Installed.
  4. Locate plugin and click Activate link.
  5. Result:
    Plugin activated.

Installing ‘plugin-a.zip’ using Option 2

  1. Login as admin and go to Plugins -> Add New -> Upload
  2. Locate the file plugin-a.zip by clicking the Browse button.
  3. Click Install Now button.
  4. Result:
    Unpacking the package?
    Installing the plugin?
    Plugin installed successfully.
  5. Click Activate Plugin link.
  6. Result:
    Plugin activated.

Installing ‘plugin-b.zip’ using Option 1

  1. Unzip the file
  2. Upload the contents to wordpress_root/wp-content/plugins/
  3. Login as admin and go to Plugins -> Installed.
  4. Locate plugin and click Activate link.
  5. Error: Plugin does not exists in the list.

Installing ‘plugin-b.zip’ using Option 2

  1. Login as admin and go to Plugins -> Add New -> Upload
  2. Locate the file plugin-b.zip by clicking the Browse button.
  3. Click Install Now button.
  4. Result:
    Unpacking the package?
    Installing the plugin?
    Plugin installed successfully.
  5. Click Activate Plugin link.
  6. WordPress ? Error

The plugin does not have a valid header.

Based on our testing, plugin-b.zip seems to fail on both methods of installation. To find out what is causing the error, we have to understand how the plugin installation works. Upon checking the core files I found this excerpt in get_plugins() function:

* WordPress only supports plugin files in the base plugins directory
* (wp-content/plugins) and in one directory above the plugins directory
* (wp-content/plugins/my-plugin). The file it looks for has the plugin data and
* must be found in those two locations. It is recommended that do keep your
* plugin files in directories.

The plugin data that the function is looking for can be found below:

<?php
/*
Plugin Name: Name Of The Plugin
Plugin URI: http://URI_Of_Page_Describing_Plugin_and_Updates
Description: A brief description of the Plugin.
Version: The Plugin's Version Number, e.g.: 1.0
Author: Name Of The Plugin Author
Author URI: http://URI_Of_The_Plugin_Author
License: A "Slug" license name e.g. GPL2
*/
?>

So in order to properly install and activate a plugin, the following two conditions must be satisfied:

  • that a plugin main file (.php) must be placed in plugins root folder or in first-level subdirectory within plugins folder
  • and it should contain the necessary plugin data for identification/validation purposes

In the case of plugin-b.zip, although the main PHP file contains the needed plugin data, the validate_plugin() function returned an error since neither the file can be found or check if it contains the plugin data because it is placed in the second level subdirectory, a directory location in which the function is not designed to scan the content.

To fix the plugin-b.zip file, it needs to have the following content structure:
plugin-b.zip

plugin-b-folder
---- plugin-b-main-file.php
---- plugin-b-readme.txt

I hope this post will enlighten WordPress users who wants to maximize their blog’s potential 🙂

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s