At the least opportune time…
After updating WordPress and a plugin or two you reload your website aaaaaand…it’s dead. The “White Screen of Death” or WSOD, is one of the most common WordPress issues users can face while maintaining their site. Although there are many possible causes of the White Screen of Death, the good news is most of them are easy to fix.
Let’s talk about the why, and then get into how we can fix it and get you back to working.
White Screen of Death
So first of all, why does this happen in the first place? The most common reason is the exhaustion of available memory. If you’re running WordPress on a shared hosting plan then you most likely have a set amount of memory, or RAM. The sweet spot seems to be around 512MB for most entry level plans. If you have a large amount of plug-ins, or the plugins you do have are resource intensive (Wordfence comes to mind), then your web hosting plan might just be running out of juice.
Of all the WSOD’s I’ve resolved over the years, it usually comes down to just one plugin in particular causing all the trouble. You may have a poorly coded plugin, or some that are duplicating work and competing for resources. It’s important to only install and activate plugins that are vital to the sites looks or performance. If you have plugins installed but not actively being used, it’s best to delete them from WordPress.
Not as common as plugin issues, but themes can also cause the White Screen of Death. You may also be using a theme that came with certain plugins that are necessary to achieve the look and feel you are after. If those plugins don’t get updated or have a conflict with something else you’ve installed, you could get a WSOD.
Fixing the WSOD
Let’s take a look at some possible solutions to the White Screen of Death under each category. I highly recommend performing a backup of your files before continuing. Since most WSOD’s lock you out of the admin area, you can connect via FTP and download a copy of the wp-content and wp-includes folders.
- If you feel like the issue simply isn’t enough memory allotted to WordPress, you can try increasing the amount available by modifying the PHP variables. I have a write up on that here.
- The best way to diagnose a White Screen of Death caused by plugins is to deactivate them all at once. Connect to your server via FTP, then navigate inside the wp-content folder. There you will see the plugins folder. Simply rename it to something like plugins.BAK to deactivate all plugins.
- Try getting logged into the WordPress Dashboard. If you’re successful then you know the issue was caused by a plugin. Rename your plugins.BAK folder back to just plugins and start reactivating one by one. Once your site goes dead again you have found the culprit. I know, I know…I never said this wouldn’t be tedious.
- If you still haven’t solved the Whitescreen of Death, we move onto the themes area. Easiest path here is to back up your them folder by downloading a copy with your hosting File Manager or via FTP. It can be found inside the wp-content > themes folder. Once backed up, delete the folder containing your theme specifically. WordPress will revert back to the default theme (twenty seventeen as of this writing). If this resolves your issue, look to the developer of your theme (or Google) for support.
- If you don’t have the above access you can change the theme directly inside the database. Follow these instructions to connect to PHPMyAdmin. Once inside the database, navigate to the wp_options table. Here you can change the template, stylesheet, and current_theme values to twentyseventeen. This will manually force WordPress to use a default theme.
If you have tried all of the above steps and your site is still broken there is still hope. You can try restoring from a backup if you have one. Your hosting provider may also have paid services available to diagnose and fix WordPress issues, so it doesn’t hurt to reach out if you’ve run out of options.
If any of the steps above helped you out, let me know in the comments!