It happened. Your site crashed. It’s officially over.
All your work is gone!
Right?! Well no. Actually everything is completely fine and your work is still there, and your site still exists.
If you ever encounter the WordPress White Screen of Death, either on the backend admin page, or on the front end user page, you know how frustrating this can be. For anybody using WordPress for an extended period of time the mythological White Screen of Death is likely encountered at some point.
Now, there are multiple causes of this White Screen of Death, diagnosing and finding the issue is usually a lot simpler than you think. Fear not, there is a solution to the problem and your work is not gone.
What is the White Screen of Death?
Before I begin ranting about how to solve the WordPress White Screen of Death, we must first define what it is. The White Screen of Death is similar to the old “Blue Screen of Death” by a very well known software company. Except, it’s not nearly as bad. In fact, nothing or nobody dies.
Generally the white screen can appear on two areas. The admin backend, the user front end or both. Sometimes we can access our admin backend and sometimes we cannot. Basically, your WordPress site isn’t functioning and may be displaying a blank page on the entire front end of the site, the entire backend or both.
To determine the cause of this, just turn on WP_DEBUG via FTP. This is a built in Debugging feature in WordPress that will help you identify where the cause of the problem is. Visit our Support library to get a video tour of how to turn on WP_DEBUG. Even without using the WP_DEBUG feature, we can still figure out how to solve this problem.
Major Cause 1: Plugins
Activating a Plugin
Oh Plugins. I have a love-hate relationship with many plugins. Sometimes we stumble on a plugin that just sounds too good to pass up.
We don’t really investigate it and just install it haphazardly. The plugin installs just fine, but when we hit activate, all the sudden the site crashes.
We go to any page on the site and it’s just blank…great. To resolve this, follow these steps. Usually you’ll still have access to your admin panel.
- Access your WordPress Admin Panel
- Go to Plugins
- Find the most recently activated plugin
- Deactivate the plugin
- Check to see if your site pages are restored
Changing the settings for an active plugin
Now let’s say you are modifying the settings for an active plugin. You hit the save button and all the sudden the entire site goes blank. Again, you should have access to your admin panel, simply follow the above steps again and try to disable the plugin.
The issue here is that because the settings were saved in the Database, reactivating the plugin will just cause the error to reappear. This would require us to use PHPMyAdmin to modify the actual database entries back to the default settings.
Something you generally should avoid, unless you are fluent in MySQL.
If you have access to the plugin’s settings and it’s still available, just reset the plugin back to the default settings. Figure out the last change you made to that plugin and just revert the changes. At this point it would be a good time to contact the author of the plugin to see if there is an update or patch to this issue. Who knows, you may have just discovered a known bug.
Modifying the Active Plugin’s Code
If you were modifying the active plugin’s backend code and you get to the white screen of death, there are multiple ways to approach this one.
First you can simply upload a new copy of the plugin.
- Navigate to Plugins
- Deactivate the problem plugin
- Delete the existing problem plugin
- Download a new copy from the WordPress Plugin Directory or from another directory
- Upload the new copy of the plugin
- Activate the new plugin
This will overwrite any of the files that you may have edited and restore all of them to default. This will overwrite any modifications that you made to the plugin’s code, but not to the settings. The settings and plugin information are stored in the database.
In case you are completely locked out of your site, both on the front end and the backend. You log in and you see the white screen, you can still disable the plugin via ftp. Access your file manager or FTP client and follow these instructions.
- Access your FTP client or file manager
- Navigate to your www folder or public_html folder
- Navigate to wp_content/plugins folder
- Find the violating plugin
- Rename the plugin folder to something else, or just add an “x” after the name
- This will automatically cause WordPress to disable it
- You will now have access to your backend.
Plugins are the most common cause of the WordPress White Screen of Death. Fortunately, these problems are easy to fix. Most of the time it just means deactivating the problem plugin or just reinstalling the latest version to fix it.
Check out the video below about disabling the responsible plugin or theme via FTP.
Plugins aside, you weren’t modifying anything there, but you were modifying a different file in your theme. Perhaps it’s the
functions.php file. If that’s the case, you are more likely to encounter a 500 server error page. These error pages are not the white screen of death, per se, but they are an error page that can cause your entire site to go down.
Maybe you forgot to close your php tag, or you have an extra character in the code, or perhaps you forgot to close the tag with a semicolon. Any one of these issues, when modifying the PHP code can cause the site to crash.
Usually you’ll see something like
Parse error: syntax error, unexpected something in/home/name/public_html/wordpress/wp-content/themes/child_theme/functions.php on line 125
The easiest way to solve this problem is to fix line 125 and remove that something. There is an error on that line, either remove that line completely or fix the error. Most of the time, it’s as simple as forgetting to close your PHP or closing it too early. If you’ve backed up your site, you probably have an original functions.php file somewhere. This is assuming you are using a child theme. Restore the old file if you want to maintain your file, or simply create a new functions.php file.
You shouldn’t be modifying your parent theme file, but if you are, replace it with the original file that came with your theme installation.
We highly recommend you use a child theme for all your theme modifications so this type of scenario is easily isolated and avoided.
Major Cause 3: Unknown
Let’s say you log into WordPress and suddenly this happens out of nowhere. Without warning something changed. Perhaps a theme or plugin updated automatically. This is where the WP_DEBUG comes in handy to identify what the actual issue is.
You can also check server logs to see what type of error is happening. Contact your host to see where your server logs are kept.
In general they will show you exactly where the errors occur on your site, as PHP is poor with error handling.
In any case, most of the time it’s a plugin or theme issue. To solve this you will need to deactivate all plugins or all themes.
- Navigate to your main WordPress Directory
- Find the wp-content folder
- Find wp-content/plugins
- Rename plugins to something like plugins_x
- This will deactivate all plugins in that folder.
- Check to see if that solved the problem.
- If there is no more white screen, then one of the plugins are the culprit
- Rename the folder back to plugins
- Find the problem plugin by activating/deactivating one at a time
- If the problem persists, this is likely a theme or a modification of a theme
- Go to your wp-content/themes folder
- Rename all your themes to something else and leave only a default theme like twentysixteen available
- Check to see if this solves your problem
- Find the problem theme by activating one at a time
- Once found, resolve the issue (it’s likely in the functions.php file)
Make sure to rename all your themes and theme directories back to their original name.
Other Major Issues
Though these three major issues should resolve most problems, sometimes there are things that are outside of this causing the White Screen of Death. Of course, this won’t be all encompassing and this article does not cover all the causes. Some other issues that you may encounter might be:
- Caching Plugins: Are you using server-side caching to boost WordPress load times? A lot of plugins modify the .htaccess file and can cause significant errors. Try to disable caching plugins, or restore your .htaccess file to its original state. Also, local browser caching might be the issue. Clear your browser’s cache to fix this issue and your site might just magically appear.
- Corrupted files: Sometimes WordPress files and/or databases can get corrupted because of malware, hacks or just getting outdated. This can happen at random. Usually, if you navigate the wp-admin backend there will be an automatic database fix, or a file fix. This is best to contact WP Soar’s Premium WordPress Support to fix the issue.
- Server Offline: Check to see if your server crashed. Sometimes your host may do periodic maintenance or just had a failure. Contact the server host and see what’s going on there.
At the end of the day, it’s always wise to have a backup of your site. Regardless, of how much you think your site is safe and sound and invulnerable to crashing, it’s ultimately vulnerable to it. Have a backup and ensure that it’s up to date so that if you have to, you can always restore your site.
Half of this is figuring out and diagnosing the issue. Troubleshooting is key. Now you know, you can get back up and running asap.
If you still cant figure it out, you can get one of our support packages and we’ll help you asap!
Have you ever encountered the WordPress White Screen of Death? How did you solve your problem? What other problems do you experience? Please comment below.