The last thing anyone wants to see when opening their WordPress website is a blank page. If this is happening to you, don’t panic. This WordPress error is called the “white screen of death.”

Again, don’t panic. While the name implies all hope is lost, there are multiple solutions to this common problem. Let’s troubleshoot to get your website working again.

For instance, a white screen may appear in the WordPress admin dashboard, while the rest of your website works perfectly. In other cases, you’ll find yourself locked out of the dashboard with multiple blank pages on your website.

In Google Chrome, it looks like this:

the white screen of death on ChromeImage Source

And in the Firefox browser, you’ll see this:

the white screen of death on Firefox

Image Source

What causes the WordPress white screen of death?

PHP and database errors usually cause this error. In most cases, the white screen of death is due to an unresponsive script that times out or gets interrupted by your WordPress hosting server.

For example, one plugin may be incompatible with another plugin. Or a recently installed theme could be faulty and poorly configured for your site. Memory issues can also cause the screen to appear.

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No matter the source of the white screen, here’s how to fix it:

1. Clear the WordPress cache.

To reduce load time, some websites enable browsers to locally save files. This is known as browser caching. Unfortunately, caching can result in errors if the stored files are outdated.

If you have access to your administrator dashboard and use a WordPress plugin for caching, try deleting the cache within the plugin. There should be a clearly indicated option for doing this in your plugin of choice.

After emptying the cache, check if your website is working. If not, continue reading.

2. Disable your plugins.

It’s possible that one of your plugins is causing compatibility issues with your site. A simple fix is to deactivate your plugins, then reactivate them all one at a time. If you can access the administrator account, do the following:

1. From your Administrator dashboard, select Plugins > Installed Plugins.

2. Check the box next to Plugin to select all your plugins.

3. Choose Deactivate from the Bulk Actions drop-down, then click Apply.

4. Return to your website. If this fixes the issue, start activating each plugin one by one and reloading your site after each activation to identify the faulty plugin.

If you don’t have access to the administrator controls, you will need to connect to your server using a secure file transfer protocol (SFTP). After connecting, you’ll see all your files for your WordPress website. Follow these steps:

1. Open the public_html folder, then open the wp-content folder.

2. Rename your plugins folder “plugins_old”.

3. Check your website for the white screen of death. If your site works, rename your plugins_old folder back to “plugins”.

4. Within that the plugins folder, rename each plugin folder one at a time until you find the plugin that causes the bug.

rename plugins in sftp for WordPress white screen of death

Image Source

If you find a specific plugin causing the problem, contact the plugin developer for additional help.

3. Disable your currently active theme.

Similar to plugins, your WordPress theme can become outdated or conflict with a plugin. Sometimes themes also install improperly due to corrupted files. To troubleshoot this issue, start by temporarily replacing the theme with a default WordPress theme.

If you can access to administrator controls, follow these steps:

1. Select Appearance > Themes from the WordPress dashboard.

2. Activate any default WordPress theme, such as Twenty Nineteen.

activate theme for WordPress white screen of death

3. Check your website for the white screen of death.

If you can’t get into your admin, you’ll need to open your SFTP to access the website. Then, do the following:

1. Open the public_html folder, then open the wp-content folder.

2. Open the themes folder and look for your active theme folder.

3. Add “_old” to the end of the name of your active theme folder. This disables the theme.

4. Visit your website. If the white screen of death disappeared, you’ve found the problem. Contact the theme developer about the error and ask for the latest version of the theme.

4. Change your memory limit.

When you install a plugin, it runs a set of scripts on your WordPress website. Every time the plugin runs, it uses a little bit of your server’s memory.

To avoid scripts from slowing down your website, WordPress places a memory limit on your plugins. However, when a script needs more memory, it can cause the white screen of death.

The good news is you can tell WordPress to give your plugins more memory:

1. Log into your server using SFTP.

2. Open the public_html folder and locate your wp-config.php file.

3. Right-click on wp-config.php and choose the View/Edit option.

4. Scroll to the bottom of the file and paste the following line of code:

 

define( 'WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '64M' );

This instructs WordPress to use up to 64 megabytes of memory for your scripts.

5. Visit your website to check if it’s working properly.

5. Check the WordPress error logs.

If you changed any code in your WordPress backend but accidentally left a typo in one of your source files, this might be the source of the problem. If you think this is the case, check WordPress’ error log.

WordPress includes a built-in debug feature to help you troubleshoot. When something goes wrong, the error log will report the specifics of the problem.

The debugging tool is disabled by default, so you’ll first need to enable it with the steps below:

1. Access your website via SFTP.

2. Open your public_html folder.

3. Locate and right-click the wp-config.php file, then choose the View/Edit option.

4. Scroll to the bottom of the file and paste the following line of code:

 

define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );

This tells WordPress to log an error on your website.

5. Save your changes and visit your website again. You will still see the white screen of death, but WordPress will log the error for you.

With the debugger enabled, you can now access your error logs:

1. Open your SFTP client.

2. Open the folder public_html, then open the folder wp-content.

3. Locate the debug.log file and open the file using the View/Edit option.

4. At the bottom of the file, you’ll see the last error logged. It might look something like this:

review error logs for WordPress white screen of death

Image Source

If you can identify which file caused the problem, locate the file in your SFTP. If you don’t feel comfortable digging in your WordPress files, contact your hosting provider and provide them with a screenshot of your log errors.

6. Restore your website from a backup.

If you’ve tried all the methods on this list to no avail, one more option is a complete restoration of your site files. For this, you’ll need a recent backup of your WordPress site.

It may seem counterintuitive, but you should first create a current backup of your website files before restoring your recent backup. If a problem occurs with the restoration, you can revert back to how your site was before. You’ll still have the white screen of death, but at least you won’t lose your data and can continue to diagnose the issue.

What If Nothing Fixes the WordPress White Screen of Death?

If none of the solutions above resolve the problem, contact your web hosting provider for further assistance. Provide your support representative with a detailed explanation of your problem and describe the different ways you attempted to troubleshoot the error. They will offer the next steps to resolve the issue.

If this issue continues to occur, you might want to switch your hosting provider. You need a reliable platform without server management issues. Consider these hosts:

  • Flywheel is a WordPress managing solution built specifically for agencies and in-house teams. If a problem ever pops up, you can speak with a WordPress expert at any time.
  • WP Engine is one of the best tools for developing and hosting a secure WordPress site. You’ll enjoy simple site setups and effortless maintenance.
  • For fully-dedicated, fully-managed WordPress hosting, try WPMU DEV. They offer nightly backups with one-click restores, an easy solution to the white screen of death.

How to Prevent the WordPress white screen of death

It’s important to take proactive measures to avoid the white screen of death in the future. Here are a few tips:

  • Always back up your website: Daily backups ensure you can quickly restore your website if it ever goes down.
  • Only install reputable plugins and themes: All marketplaces will provide popularity metrics, reviews, and the date of the most recent update for every plugin and theme available. Only choose add-ons that are well-reviewed and frequently updated, as they are less likely to cause compatibility bugs with your existing setup.
  • Use a staging site: When installing plugins, themes, or anything else that changes your site, it’s best to first test your modifications in a staging environment, a private copy of your public site. Doing this keeps any compatibility issues from affecting your live site.
  • Read software notifications: Don’t ignore those notifications in your dashboard. They contain critical information about updating your plugins and themes.
  • Keep strict user controls: It’s hard to keep track of website changes when multiple people have access. Limit user permissions to required team members only.

The WordPress white screen of death sounds terrifying, but we honestly think the name is a bit dramatic. The solutions above can fix the issue and get your website up and running again. If all else fails, contact your web hosting provider for one-on-one assistance, and use caution when making future changes on your site.

Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms  without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

 Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms  without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

Originally published Aug 16, 2019 3:05:11 PM, updated July 17 2020

Topics:

WordPress Website