All experienced WordPress users have at least once encountered the famous WordPress white screen of death, as this is one of the most common database connection errors related to this platform. Aside from being common and frustrating, WordPress blank pages are not irreparable or too dangerous, and can be solved in a very simple way. What does a WordPress white screen mean? In a nutshell, it means that there is a WordPress error that locks users out of the admin panel. Most of the time, there is no output to explain WordPress not working anymore, and the user is left clueless to guess what the problem may be. In the worst scenario, there will be a blank white screen on all pages, means that your entire website has been affected, but it can also happen only on the admin page while everything else runs fine.
To make things easier for you, we’ve collected some of the easiest solutions for you to consider when dealing with WordPress white screens of death.
Why do white screens of death appear?
As we already mentioned, the tricky part about WP Screens of death is that the user receives no information explaining why such have appeared. The WP community, nevertheless, explored the problem to narrow potential causes down to few problematic issues:
- Incompatible plugins
- Going beyond the memory limit imposed by your hosting provider (in particular with shared hosting)
- Installing low-quality plugins and poorly coded themes (that don’t correspond to your WordPress version).
When unable to access your admin panel in WordPress, the first thing you should consider is whether you’ve installed an incompatible plugin, or modified/activated an old one. The problem here is that the plugin may not correspond to the active theme you’re using, or is experiencing a conflict with another plugin you didn’t even think of. Obviously, the solution here would be to delete or disable that plugin, but with a dysfunctional dashboard that would be almost impossible. How to proceed?
You need to disable the new plugin via FTP, which is in fact a really simple operation. What it takes is to ensure you do have FTP access, which is also easy to complete by going to your WP directory and correcting the permissions. The process goes like this: Use the right account to log in to the FTP server. Go to the WP Installation Directory Open the wp_content/plugins folder, and find the folder that stores information about the plugin in question. Select the folder and open it. Rename the folder with a different title you’ll remember (for instance, Coriolanus can be renamed to Coriolanus 1 or Coriolanus Deactivated). The only thing to keep in mind here is not to use the name of another plugin in the database. Once your plugin is renamed, it will be permanently disabled. Once done, fire up the browser and check whether the website is loading. Another handy possibility is to deactivate all WP plugins at once. WP offers such possibility, as deactivating add-ons one by one could be a very time-consuming process. How does it go?
Rename the entire folder containing your plugins (For instance, ‘Plugins’ to ‘Deactivated Plugins), and add a new, empty one that carries the old name. This way, all of your plugins will be disabled with one click, and you can move them and activate them in the folder upon need. If not really sure which plugin is causing the trouble, test those you’ve modified on the backup site.
Memory limit issues
Memory limits are causing white screens of death to appear even more often than incompatible plugins. It happens frequently to owners of multiple sites on a single domain, but if you’re absolutely sure it is none of your screens that is causing the issue, you should contact the hosting provider and figure out what’s wrong. Another common scenario is for white screens to appear on only one of your sites, even if then you should check whether there is a problem with the theme/plugin you’re running. The good thing is that you will at least know which the page you need to fix is.
Fixing memory issues in WordPress
This is also a simple process, so open your FTP manager, and get down to work. Remember that in the case of certain hosting types/providers, the user is not allowed to increase PHP memory directly, and has to contact tech support to consult them. In all other cases, use your credentials to connect to the FTP server, look for the public_html folder, and open it. Inside, you will find the wp-config.php file. Click on it, and then select the View/Edit option. By this point, you should already have set the default text for the action in question, but you can also do that now by adding this code to the main PHP tags: define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘64M’);
64MB should suffice for shared hosting, but in case you completed the operation and the problem is still there, you need to turn to your hosting provider to deal with the issue. The limit will also depend on the server’s traffic and content, so if you’re running a regularly updated site with many visitors, 64MB won’t do. Save the file, close it, and check whether the error is still there.
Poorly coded and incompatible themes
Once you’ve confirmed that it is not the PHP limit or an incompatible plugin that is causing your white pages of death, it is time to check the theme, and see whether the problem is there.
The process of ruling out a theme is a fairly simple to the one of deactivating plugins, which means that you have to use the FTP manager to open the public_html content and to modify the themes folder.
Once you’ve found it, click on it and edit its name. Doing so will ensure that the theme is disabled, and that WordPress is reverted to the latest default theme instead. After this, the white screen will most probably have disappeared, and the compatibility error will be eliminated.
Assuming you’ve tried all of the operations and none of them worked, it is probably time to reinstall WordPress and use a fresher copy. It doesn’t happen often, but white screens of death can be related to corrupted core files, and that can compromise the functionality of your entire website.
WordPress also offers a debug function to help users understand errors and problems. In order to do this, copy this code in the wp-config.php file:
error_reporting(E_ALL); ini_set(‘display_errors’, 1);
define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true);
Doing this helps the white screen transform into a detailed list of warnings, notices, and errors, and helps you understand the cause of the problem before trying out tenths of different solutions. Most issues can be solved with backend access, but there are such that will simply expect you to empty the cache and to refresh.
Clearing the cache is a useful practice when white screens appear only on long post pages. The problem can also be eliminated by increasing your backtrack or recursion limit. To do so, copy-paste this code in the wp-config.php files (or the PHP.INI file depending on our server):
/** Trick for long posts */
Regardless of how much WP experience you have, white screens of death will still manage to scare you. This is why it is good to know what causes them, and which short and handy troubleshooting practices can help you deal with them.