The white screen of death (WSoD) is a common WordPress error. However, troubleshooting it can be tricky since there’s no message telling you what caused it.
Fortunately, there are ways to fix white screen of death problems in WordPress. Whether the error was caused by PHP code errors or your site exceeded WordPress’s memory limits, you can identify and resolve the issue quickly.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the white screen of death error and some of its common causes. Then, we’ll discuss ten of the best ways to fix it and get your website working properly. Let’s get started!
An Introduction to the White Screen of Death Error
The white screen of death error can affect your whole website or specific pages. Depending on your browser, your windows screen can look slightly different.
For instance, in Google Chrome, you’re likely to see an HTTP 500 error warning that says, “the page is unable to handle the request”.
However, with other browsers like Mozilla, you might see a plain white screen without any notices or messages informing you of the problem.
There are a few common causes of this error:
- Outdated or poorly coded plugins are incompatible with your site.
- The active theme isn’t suitable for your version of WordPress.
- There are mistakes in your code or corrupted core files such as .htaccess, wp-config.php, or functions.php.
- You’ve exceeded your site’s PHP script limits or maximum execution time.
Understanding the root cause of the issue can make it easier to learn how to fix white screen of death errors. So, let’s look at a few ways to investigate where the issue is coming from!
3 Ways to Determine the Cause of the White Screen of Death Error
Here are three ways to find out the cause of the 500 error white screen of death in WordPress.
1. Consider Recent Changes
If you’ve never seen the white screen error before, it can be helpful to think about any changes you’ve recently made on your site. For instance, have you installed third-party apps or switched to a new theme?
If the theme’s code isn’t compatible with WordPress or your existing plugins, this could explain the error. Also, if you’re using a third-party app, it’s important to make sure that it’s well-coded.
The customer reviews in the WordPress directory can give you an idea of a plugin’s reliability. Additionally, you can search automatically to see when the plugin was last updated and find out which version of WordPress it’s been tested with:
Then, if you switch to the Development tab, you can view changelogs that provide information about bug fixes and compatibility issues. There might even be a known error causing the white screen of death.
2. Check Your Email
You may not be alerted about the 500 error white screen of death. However, you can check the admin email associated with your WordPress website to see if WordPress has sent you an error notification. This message might inform you of the reason for the error code and give you some clue as to how to fix white screen issues.
3. Use the Inspect Element
You can also use the Inspect Element to get more information about an error message like the white screen of death. Accessing the tool will depend on the web browser you’re using. In Google Chrome, simply go ahead and right-click on the page:
Then, select Inspect Element to view the page’s source code. If you find anything suspicious, it’s likely the source of the error.
How to Fix the White Screen of Death Error in WordPress (10 Ways)
Now that you know more about the issue, let’s explain how to fix white screen of death errors by showing you a few troubleshooting methods!
1. Disable Your WordPress Plugins
Since WordPress is an open-source platform where developers can add their creations, the WordPress plugin directory sometimes contains poorly-coded software. This is one of the main causes of the 500 error white screen of death.
Therefore, the best way to find out if this is an issue for your site is to disable all of your plugins and recently installed applications. If you can still access your control panel, you can do this by navigating to your Installed Plugins page. Then, use the Bulk actions dropdown to select Deactivate and hit Apply:
Once all plugins have been disabled, you can restore them one by one, refreshing your page each time to check whether the error has cleared.
If the white screen of death error is a completely blank white screen and you can’t access your WordPress dashboard, you can disable plugins using File Manager in your hosting dashboard.
Start by locating the public_html folder. Then, open wp-content and find the plugins folder:
Rename the folder to “plugins-disabled”. This tricks WordPress into thinking that your plugins no longer exist. If the error clears, you know you’ve installed a faulty plugin.
To find out which plugin is causing the issue, log in to your WordPress dashboard and manually install or reactivate each plugin by changing the file names. Make sure to refresh each time until you find the problematic plugin.
It can be helpful to begin this process with the most recent plugins you’ve installed, especially if you’ve never seen this error message before.
We also recommend only installing quality WordPress plugins in the future. Customer reviews can be a good indicator of a plugin’s quality, as can the level of support provided by the developer.
2. Switch to a Default WordPress Theme
Since an incompatible theme can cause the 500 error white screen of death, it might be worth switching to a default WordPress theme such as Twenty Twenty.
If you can access your dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes:
Here, you can locate an appropriate theme and hit Activate to use it on your site.
However, if you can’t access your WordPress dashboard, you can also change your WordPress theme with File Manager. Again, you’ll need to locate your wp-content folder and find themes:
As you did with the plugins folder, rename the folder. Then, WordPress will revert to the latest default theme.
Once you’ve done this, refresh your site. If the error has cleared, your theme may have been conflicting with other code on your site, or perhaps you hit a bad update. You can either contact the developer about this or consider switching themes.
3. Clear Your Browser and WordPress Plugin Cache
The method for clearing the cache differs depending on the browser you use. In Chrome, click on the three dots on the top right-hand side. Then, select More Tools > Clear Browsing Data:
Select the data you want to clear from your browser cache, such as cookies, images, or browser history. Then, hit Clear Data:
If you use a caching plugin in WordPress, it’s also a good idea to clear its cache via the plugin’s settings or your general WordPress settings.
For example, with WP Super Cache, you can do this by heading to Settings > WP Super Cache:
Just click on Delete Cache at the bottom of the screen. Then reload your page to see if you’re still seeing the blank white screen of death.
4. Enable Debugging Mode
Enabling the WP_DEBUG function can reveal any PHP errors you’ve encountered on your site. Some plugins can do this for you, such as Query Monitor. However, you can also turn on debugging manually by following the steps below.
Access your wp-config.php file. You can find this in the public_html folder. Open the file and look for the line that reads: That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing.
Then, add this line of code above it:
define ( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true );
Remember to save your changes. You’ll find your error log in the wp-content folder. If there are errors, a debug.log file will appear. Then, you can download it to your computer to view the entire log. You should see warnings and errors that might help you identify what’s causing the white screen of death.
5. Increase Your Memory Limit
Insufficient memory is another common cause of the white screen of death error in WordPress. Since the limit is capped at 32 MB, multiple images or scripts on your site can exceed this amount quite easily.
Fortunately, you can increase your memory limit using File Manager. Simply locate the wp-content.php file and open it. Again, look for the line that reads: That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing.
Then, above this line, add the following code:
Remember to save and close the folder. Then, refresh your page to see if it worked.
Theoretically, you can increase your memory limit up to 256 MB. However, this can lead to slower site speeds if you add a ton of data-heavy elements.
Plus, some hosting providers cap the limit at 64 MB. Therefore, you may need to contact your host directly for assistance.
6. Check For File Permission Issues
Adjusting file permissions can fix white screen of death errors in WordPress. However, this method is only recommended for experienced users since editing file permissions can leave your site vulnerable to hacking attempts.
Your hosting provider might be able to change your file permissions if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself. However, if you want to do it manually, here are the rules for WordPress permissions:
- Files: 664 or 644
- Folders: 755 or 775
- wp-content.php: 600, 644, or 660
You can make these changes by highlighting your core site files and selecting File Permissions. Make sure to save them when you’re done.
7. Check for Failed Auto-Update Issues
Failed auto-updates occur when your server times out during software updates. While failed auto-updates usually resolve on their own, you might see the white screen of death error if they don’t.
To fix this, head to your public_html folder and look for the .maintenance file. This temporary file automatically clears when the update is finished. However, your site may be stuck in maintenance mode if the update fails.
The best way to proceed is to try deleting the file. Then, reload your site. If the update wasn’t completed, it might start again.
8. Increase the PHP Text Processing Capabilities
The WordPress white screen of death error can occur when a page or post is too long. You can fix this issue by adjusting the PHP text processing capability and increasing the backtrack and recursion limits.
Again, you’ll need to paste some code into your wp-content.php folder. Here is the code you’ll need:
/**Increase PHP Text Processing Capability*/
Make sure to save your changes. Then, refresh your page to see if it has worked.
9. Check WordPress Core Files
A wrong line of code or a missing core file can make your website unresponsive. Therefore, it’s essential to check your site’s core files. Again, you can do this through File Manager.
Simply locate the public_html folder. Then, make sure that you still have .htaccess files and wp-config.php files:
If you can’t locate these files, you can download a new WordPress installation file and add these two files using File Manager.
You can also easily identify corrupted files while you’re here. For instance, if you’ve made any recent changes to important site files, you can reverse these if they aren’t absolutely necessary. Then, refresh the page to find out if they caused the blank screen.
10. Restore Your WordPress Site from a Backup
It’s best to try other methods in this tutorial first since there is a chance that your site will have problems with deleted data when you restore it from a backup. However, if you have no other option, it could be time to revert to an earlier version of your website.
You may have a security plugin that handles backups for you, like Jetpack or Sucuri. Alternatively, you can often restore backups through your hosting provider.
If you head to cPanel, you can usually find a backup option. For example, with Hostinger, you can click on Manage within your dashboard:
Then, you can choose your system restore point, restore database backups, or restore website files. Select the most appropriate option and choose a date:
Creating daily backups is a good idea because it puts you in a better position if you encounter WordPress errors. Plus, you’ll always have a clean copy of your website if you’re hacked or infected with malware, so you don’t end up with lost data.
The white screen of death windows in WordPress are notoriously difficult to solve since, often, there’s no warning message. Fortunately, there are ways to troubleshoot the issue and get your website up and running quickly.
For instance, you might be using a poor-quality or outdated plugin. In this case, you can deactivate your plugins and re-activate them one by one. Alternatively, you may need to increase your PHP text processing capabilities or memory limits. Luckily, you can do this by editing your wp-content.php file using the above mentioned methods.
Of course one of the best ways to minimize WordPress issues is to hire people to monitor and maintain your website, such as an agency that offers managed WordPress hosting services.
Do you need help maintaining your WordPress website and keeping it error-free? Contact us today, and we can get your website running quickly and smoothly!