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Be careful when deleting users in WordPress!

September 7, 2022 Gabriel WordPress

It’s an easy mistake to make – you have an extra admin, editor or author on your WordPress website and need to delete their account. Click ‘delete’ and confirm your choice on the next screen and they are gone. Problem solved! Or did you just create a bigger problem?

If your WordPress admin, editor or author has created a page, post or other content type, their account is tied to that content. That means when you delete the user, their content will be delete too. UNLESS you reassign ownership of that content.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to do this but it’s also an easy step to overlook.

Deleting a WordPress user

If a WordPress user is the owner of any content, you’ll see this after clicking ‘delete’:

Deleting a WordPress user and reassigning content ownership
This is where a lot of WordPress administrators make a mistake and choose the first option: ‘Delete all content’. Don’t do that!

Be sure to choose the second option: ‘Attribute all content to: [username]’. That will change the ownership of the content from the user you are deleting to the user you are selecting. Now you can proceed and confirm deletion.

What happens if you delete a WordPress user and their content

Any pages, posts or custom content types the user had created will be deleted. This can lead to broken links, missing pages or posts, menu links that don’t work, etc.

Whoops! I deleted a WordPress user and their content! How do I fix it?

There are a couple ways to solve this problem!

When you delete a user and their content, the content is moved to the trash. WordPress maintains content in the trash for 30-days (usually, but no always). If you realize your mistake before the trash is automatically emptied, you can restore content from the trash back. Keep in mind that when you restore content from the trash, it will be in a Draft format until you re-publish it (don’t forget that step!).

Another way to quickly fix this problem is to revert the entire website to a recent backup. You should have nightly backups running automatically and it’s easy to restore your website to a backed up version. The downside to a backup restore is that your website may have changed in many ways since the backup was created. For instance, your website may have new pages, blog posts, comments, users, form submissions, WooCommerce orders, etc. in the time since the nightly backup was created. If you revert to a backup, the website will lose any and all changes in the time since the backup was made.

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