WordPress is used by over 64 million websites. It is one of the most popular content management systems on the web, famous for its ease of use, convenience, and scalability. But, it’s definitely not without its problems, and if there is one problem that developers dread, it is the WordPress white screen of death.
The white screen of death locks administrators out of the dashboard, and visitors are also greeted with a plain white screen. And, while it might not seem like it the first time you experience the white screen of death, it’s easily salvageable.
In this article, we’ll explain what the WordPress white screen of death is, the causes behind it, and most importantly, different methods to help you fix this dreaded error.
What Is the WordPress White Screen of Death?
Windows users already know about the blue screen of death, and it’s probably where this one got its name from. The white screen of death simply indicates that there’s an error on your site.
On some browsers, like Google Chrome, you might see an error saying, “This page isn’t working and is unable to handle the request.” On other browsers, like Firefox, you’ll just see a white screen. The worst part is that there’s no error on the site to indicate what’s wrong.
In most cases, the white screen of death is caused due to any of the following factors:
- Memory limit
- An error or conflict in a WordPress plugin
- A faulty code or error in your theme
- A database error
In most cases, it’s probably an issue with your plugin or your theme. Thankfully, it’s also easy to fix. Here are several methods that you can try to fix the issue.
6 Simple Ways to Fix the WordPress Screen of Death
As soon as you encounter the white screen of death, you need to work on fixing it. Run through each one of these in turn, and if you still can’t figure out what’s wrong after trying everything, we’ve included a section at the bottom to help you out.
1. Use Fatal Error Recovery Mode
Fatal Error Recovery Mode was introduced back in 2019 with WordPress 5.2. This feature is a godsend for administrators, as it allows them to access the admin dashboard even if the site went down to a fatal error like the white screen of death. With FERM, you will have the option of logging into your site to figure out what’s wrong.
All you have to do is to log into your admin email inbox. You’ll find an email with “Recovery Mode” as the subject, and details inside on how to log in. Here’s how the admin backend looks while you are in Recovery mode:
Once you are in, you can individually disable each plugin and see if that fixes the problem. The dashboard also highlights themes and plugins that were paused due to the fatal error. You can then individually deactivate each plugin to isolate the malfunctioning one.
If the error is caused by a theme, you can change that or fix the problem before you activate it again. Unless you have technical knowledge, it might be a wise idea to hire a developer to help you find the culprit.
But, if the recovery mode is not an option, you will have to find and fix the error manually.
2. Disabling Plugins Manually
The wp-content folder is the most important folder on your website and is found in the root directory. Unless you have made some major changes to the file structure, the folder is created by default and named wp-content. You need a File Transfer Protocol client to gain access to the file directory for your website.
Once you log into your FTP server, just find your website’s directory and open wp-content. Here, you need to look for the plugins folder. You will also see two other directories in most cases: uploads and themes. Some hosts, or cloud server management solutions like RunCloud offer built-in file management to make this even easier to do without having to access your server via FTP or SFTP:
To disable all the plugins, just rename the file to anything else, like “plugins_paused” or something similar. This will automatically pause all plugins. Now, try visiting your website. If it starts loading, you will know that the problem lies with one of your plugins.
To find the faulty plugin, you have to rename each one in the plugins folder and check individually until you isolate the problem.
Note: If you are in FERM, it will automatically pause any code that’s causing an issue with your site. It automatically diagnoses the problem and identifies the faulty plugin for you. The plugin must be reactivated manually by the administrator.
3. Extend WordPress Memory Limit
You are likely to run into this problem if your WordPress website is growing rapidly. Memory issues arise when there simply isn’t enough memory for the amount of traffic your website is receiving. To manually increase the memory limit, you need to tinker with a bit of code.
In the WordPress content folder, you need to first find a file named wp-config.php. You’ll see something like this:
Now, all you have to do is to add a line of code. If you already see the following code, just edit it to increase the number:
define (‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT,’ ‘64M’);
This code sets the limit to “64M.” If that’s not enough, you can increase it to 96M. Try checking your website afterwards. If it’s a memory limit issue, it should be resolved by now.
4. Deactivate Your WP Theme
If you have already tested the plugins, the issue might be related to your WP theme. If you recently updated a theme or switched to a new one, then it’s probably an issue with the theme. Ideally, you should test the theme or even a minor update in a staging environment before you take it live.
To disable the theme, you need to look for the themes folder in wp-content. Just like with the plugins, you need to find the theme you recently installed, rename it to something similar, and then it’ll be disabled.
You can then check your website to see if this fixes the problem. When the original theme is unavailable, WordPress automatically switches to a default theme like Twenty Twenty-One. If the issue is caused by a faulty theme, have a developer look at the code, or find a quality theme and thoroughly vet its code before taking it live.
Note: If you can access the dashboard, go to Themes and switch to a default theme on WordPress before checking your website.
5. Fixing Errors in Core WordPress Files
Editing core WordPress files is always risky, but sometimes necessary. If you were making changes to any core WP file and encountered this error soon after, it’s probably best to retrace your steps. Sometimes, an accidental mistype is all it takes to break your website!
Ideally, you can resolve the problem by uploading an unedited version of the file you were just editing. For instance, if you were meddling with a core file, you can download a fresh copy of the CMS from the official WordPress website.
Just unzip the files on your computer, then look for the file on your server that you recently edited. Delete it and replace it with the fresh copy you just downloaded.
Check your website and see if that fixes the problem.
6. Enable Debugging Mode
The debugging mode, or wp_debug, is designed to display any specific errors that show on your website. To enable debugging mode, open your wp_config file and find the wp_debug code. Here’s how it looks:
By default, it’s set to false, but you have to change the value to true, as shown above. Once you save the file, you will automatically begin to see errors on your website. It might be difficult to decipher the errors at first, but you will get some important insights.
For instance, you might get the name of a plugin or the file that’s causing an issue, such as plugin.php. It’s not going to fix the problem for you, but it will give you some information into what’s causing the issue.
Note: Make sure you disable wp_debug by changing the value to “false” when you are done with the troubleshooting.
What if the Problem Still Persists?
While the fixes given above will fix the white screen of death in more than 99% of cases, there are always other possibilities that may require you to reach out to your web hosting company or contact a technical lead. For instance, a malware infection on your site or a corrupted drive could result in the white screen of death.
Server-side issues on the part of your web host could also lead to this problem. It’s best to reach out to your web hosting support and see what they have to say before you call in a technical expert. The best way to circumvent this problem is to run regular backups on your site.
In case none of these fixes work, you will always have the option of reverting back to a functioning version of your website – provided you’ve backed up your WordPress files.
Summary – The WordPress White Screen Shouldn’t Make You Panic
Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ve realized that the WordPress screen of death really isn’t anything to be afraid of. There are many ways for you to fix it, and if none of those work you can always contact technical support to help out.
It’s always stressful when things go wrong, especially when it comes to your clients’ websites, which is why we built Atarim to make handling multiple web design projects a breeze.
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