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Suzanne Scacca
Contributor, WordPress enthusiast
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As far as WordPress support goes, users have a number of options to choose from:

  • The WordPress Codex (DIY)
  • The WordPress support forum (manned by WordPress.org administrators and other WordPress users)
  • Plugin and theme support (provided by the developers)
  • Web hosting support (availability and type of support differs based on hosting plan)

Without a direct line of communication or real-time support provided by WordPress, this can make resolving WordPress errors frustrating. The good news, however, is that most errors that arise are pretty common.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to go about troubleshooting WordPress when things go awry.

A Guide to Troubleshooting the Most Common WordPress Errors

Even though there are a bunch of things that can go wrong in WordPress, it isn’t too difficult to narrow down the causes if you know what kind of error has occurred.

Error #1: The White Screen of Death

The white screen of death is exactly as it sounds. You’ll attempt to access the WordPress admin or, worse, your WordPress website and the screen will be blank.

There are a number of things that can cause the white screen of death, from conflicting plugins to exceeded memory limits (though, more often than not, it’s usually a plugin or theme at fault). If there’s no error message indicating where the trouble lies, work through this troubleshooting process.

Note: Even though this is the workflow to fix the white screen of death, it’s useful for fixing other WordPress errors. Any time we reference the White Screen of Death fix below, this is the process we’re referring to.

Step 1: Deactivate All Plugins

If you still have access to the WordPress admin and it’s only your site that’s down, do the following:

Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins:

Installed Plugins

Select all plugins:

Check All Plugins

From the Bulk Actions menu, select “Deactivate”:

Bulk Deactivate

Your plugins should now all be deactivated:

Deactivated Plugins

If you don’t have access to the WordPress admin, you’ll need to do this from your control panel.

Go to your web hosting dashboard:

BlueHost Dashboard

Locate your control panel.

What you’re looking for is either a File Manager or FTP. Both will give you access to the backend of your website.

Bluehost File FTP

Find the wp-content folder in your website’s root:

wp-content Folder

Open it and locate your plugins folder:

Plugins Folder

Rename the folder to anything but “plugins”. This will deactivate all plugins on your website.

Step 2: Check Your Website

With your plugins deactivated, it’s time to see if your access is restored.

If you didn’t have access to the admin before, go there now:

WordPress Login

If it was just your website that was showing the white screen of death, hover over your website name in the top-left corner of the WordPress admin and click “Visit Site”:

Visit Site from Menu

Depending on what you see, you’ll have two options for next steps:

  • If you have access: Find the problematic plugin.
  • If you don’t have access: Try a new theme.

We’ll walk through those steps next.

Step 3: Find the Problematic Plugin (Option 1)

If you have access again, you know that the issue was likely a plugin. This means that one of your plugins conflicts with:

  • Your theme
  • Another plugin

You now need to sniff out which plugin is at fault. To do this, you must activate your plugins one at a time.

Start with the top of your list. Activate the first plugin:

Activate Plugin

If this plugin is the cause, then you should lose access to the WordPress admin or your website again. (You can restore it once more by deactivating the plugin.)

If you don’t see the white screen of death, deactivate this plugin and try the next one. You’ll have to repeat these steps until you locate the problematic plugin.

This, of course, assumes that the plugin conflicts with your theme. If you don’t see the error screen again after deactivating each plugin one-by-one, then the issue may be between two plugins. You’ll need to reactivate two at a time to locate them. That said, this isn’t common. It’s usually a conflicting script in a plugin and theme that throw the error.

Once you’ve identified the problematic duo, go ahead and reactivate all of the other plugins on your website.

You’ll want to reach out to the plugin developer to report the issue. Make sure you have screenshots of the error and can describe in detail why it happened and how you were able to confirm it.

Step 3: Try a New Theme (Option 2)

If you still see the white screen of death after deactivating all of your plugins, then your theme may be the culprit.

To confirm this, you need to deactivate your theme.

If you still have access to the WordPress admin and it’s only your site that’s down, do the following:

Go to Appearance > Themes:

Appearance Themes Menu

In order to deactivate your theme, you have to activate a different one.

Whether it’s already installed or not, activate the latest WordPress default theme:

Activate Default Theme

If you don’t have access to the WordPress admin, do the same thing you did with your plugins from the control panel.

Again, find the wp-content folder in your website’s root. This time, you’ll want to look for the themes folder inside it:

Themes Folder

Rename the folder to anything but “themes”. This will deactivate your theme and automatically activate the default WordPress theme.

You can now check your website to see if the white screen of death is gone. If it is, then you know that the issue is a conflict between your theme and the core.

Contact the theme developer with screenshots of the error and a description of the steps you took to confirm the issue.

Step 4: Run the Debug

In most cases, the steps above will help you locate the issue with your website. However, if you’ve reached this point and still see the white screen of death, there’s one last thing to try.

Return to your file manager or FTP. Go to the root directory and search for the wp-config.php file:

wp-config File

Open the file for editing.

Towards the bottom, you’ll see the following string:

define( 'WP_DEBUG', false );
define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', false );
define( 'WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', false );

What this says is that:

  • The debug feature is turned off.
  • If an error occurs, no log will be generated of it on the backend.
  • If an error occurs, no error code will display on the frontend.

However, if you’re stuck, then it’s useful to turn this feature on so you can get more details about the error. To do this, change the top two values to true:

define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );
define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', true );
define( 'WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', false );

Keep display set as false. You don’t want hackers to have any insight into what’s happening on the backend of your live site, so always keep those codes hidden from them.

Save your file once you’re done enabling debug (but leave the control panel open). Then, return to your website.

When you see the white screen of death again, go back to your control panel and look for the wp-content folder (the same one where your theme and plugins are). There will now be a text file called debug_log.

debug File

Open it and review the error message. Look for today’s date and time. There should be a line that indicates which file in your directory and which line in that file contains the error.

If the error is inside one of your theme or plugin files, take a screenshot of the error code and send it to the developer so they can patch the issue (as it was likely introduced in a recent update).

If it’s an issue in another file, it’s up to you to repair it. If you’re not comfortable doing so, contact a developer who can help.

Once the issue is repaired and the white screen of death is gone, go back to wp-config.php and disable the debug.

Error #2: Internal Server Error (error code 500)

It’s not always 100% clear what exactly caused the 500 internal server error. However, like the white screen of death, there’s something wrong in your code.

Step 1: Replace .htaccess File

The first thing to test is the .htaccess file. On occasion, it becomes corrupted and causes your website to be replaced by an “Internal Server Error” page.

Regardless of whether the file’s been corrupted, you should still do this step. No harm will come to your website if you replace the existing .htaccess file.

Log into your control panel and open your file manager or FTP manager. Before you enter the root directory of your website, select the option to “Show hidden files” (if you have it):

File Manager Settings

If your website is on shared hosting, the file might still be hidden. If that’s the case, add the following to the end of the file manager’s URL: “&showhidden=1”.

htaccess File

Rename the .htaccess file to deactivate it.

Go to your website and see if that removed the internal server error. If it did, then all you need to do is create a brand new file.

Go to the Settings > Permalinks menu:

Settings Permalinks Menu

Click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page. This will create a new file.

If the error did not go away, try this workaround.

Open your new .htaccess file and add the following:

# BEGIN WordPress
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END WordPress

If this doesn’t remove the corruption, move on to the next step.

Step 2: The White Screen of Death fix

Run through the white screen of death troubleshooting steps.

If the error still exists after this, try the next step.

Step 3: Increase the Memory Limit

This isn’t likely the cause as you’ll usually see a memory exhausted-related message if that’s the case. However, it doesn’t hurt to give this a try since it’s a quick fix.

Run through the increase memory limit troubleshooting steps.

If you’re still stuck, this last step should do the trick:

Step 4: Replace the wp-admin and wp-includes Folders

An update may have unintentionally corrupted the code in your wp-admin or wp-includes folders.

To replace them, you’ll need to retrieve a fresh copy of WordPress.

Go to WordPress.org, click the “Get WordPress” button, and download the files to your desktop.

Get Fresh WordPress Files

Unzip the folder and locate the wp-admin and wp-includes folders.

Return to your file manager. Download a copy of the wp-admin and wp-includes folders that already exist (it’s always a good idea to have a copy just in case).

cPanel Folders

Click “Upload”. Then, reupload each folder one at a time. You only need to do this for wp-admin and wp-includes.

Upload Files

You can now return to your website. The error should be gone. If it’s not, it’s time to reach out to your web hosting company for assistance.

Error #3: Error Establishing Database Connection

When you see this error message, it means that something is keeping your WordPress site from connecting to its MySQL or MariaDB database.

Step 1: Check the wp-config.php File

The wp-config.php file contains the most pertinent details about how your website is configured — include your database information. Check this first before trying any other fixes.

Go to your file manager or FTP and make your way to the wp-config.php file. Open it for editing.

You should find a section dedicated to your database settings. It’ll look like this:

/** Name of the database for WordPress */
define( 'DB_NAME', 'database_name' );

/** Database username */
define( 'DB_USER', 'database_username' );

/** Database password */
define( 'DB_PASSWORD', 'databasepw' );

/** Hostname */
define( 'DB_HOST', 'database_hostname' );

/** Database Charset */
define( 'DB_CHARSET', 'utf8' );

/** Database Collate type */
define( 'DB_COLLATE', '' );

If any of this data is missing or looks incorrect, make your edits (after saving a copy of the wp-config.php to your desktop).

Save your changes and return to the website to see if it’s still unable to connect to the database.

Step 2: Contact your web host support

If there’s no clear disruption to the WordPress-database connection on your end, then it’s time to talk to your web host.

There are a number of reasons why the database connection may be compromised:

  • Server downtime
  • Plan limits exceeded (though they should’ve informed you if that’s the case)
  • Security breach

Once you know the root cause, work quickly to repair it, even if it just means getting an ETA on when the servers will be back online. You can’t afford to let your site stay down for too long.

Error #4: Bad Gateway (error code 502) or Gateway Timeout (error code 504)

These error codes mean there’s something wrong at the server level. While you might not have direct control of the server, these errors can sometimes be temporary so it’s a good idea to work through these troubleshooting steps before contacting your host.

Step 1: Refresh the Site

Click the “Refresh” button in your browser bar:

Refresh Website

You may have tried to load your website when the server was temporarily down or glitching.

Step 2: Clear the Browser Cache

If refreshing doesn’t work, the issue could be caching related. To get your website “unstuck”, go to your browser settings.

Look for an option to clear your browsing data. In Chrome, the setting looks like this:

Clear Browsing Data

Check the setting for cached images and files:

Chrome Clear Cache

Then, click “Clear data”. Once it’s done, reload your website and see if that removed the error code.

Step 3: The White Screen of Death fix

A recent plugin or theme update may be to blame if the above two fixes don’t work.

Run through the white screen of death troubleshooting steps.

Step 4: Check with Your Host or CDN Provider

If none of the options above have worked, you’ll want to reach out to your host or CDN provider.

When you get in touch, make sure to have a screenshot of the error and details about the troubleshooting steps you’ve taken thus far. They may need to disable your DNS, CDN, or firewall in order to get rid of the error.

Error #5: Too Many Requests (error code 429)

This error usually means that there’s a plugin or theme script that’s sending too many requests to your server.

Step 1: The White Screen of Death fix

Run through the white screen of death troubleshooting steps.

If you can’t remove the error with this process, get in touch with your hosting company. They should be able to tell you which third-party integration is working in overdrive.

If there’s a way to reconfigure the settings to fix the problem, do so. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a replacement tool.

Error #6: Connection Timed Out/Limit Exhausted

With this error, you’re not going to lose access to your website or the admin area. What this means instead is that an action you’re trying to take inside of WordPress — for example, installing a new theme — is exhausting the limits of your server.

Step 1: Increase Memory Limit

Go to your file manager and open the wp-config.php file.

At the bottom of the file, look for a string that looks like this:

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

It’s the “64M” bit that needs to be updated. To give your server more memory to process your request, increase the limit to 256M:

define( 'WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M' );

Try to run your request through WordPress again. If it doesn’t work, try this:

Step 2: Increase Maximum Execution Time

It might just be that the amount of time to process a request has exceeded the default maximum execution time.

There’s a good reason for this limit (like to stop hackers from bombarding your server with the same requests over and over). However, you can temporarily adjust it to allow your request to go through.

From your file manager or FTP, locate the .htaccess file. If you’re having a hard time finding the .htaccess file, review the steps from the internal server error fix.

Inside the file, scroll to the very bottom. You’ll see a line that looks like this:

# END WORDPRESS

Just above it, place the following:

php_value max_execution_time 300

By default the maximum execution time is usually 30 to 60 seconds. This will bump it up to 300 seconds.

Give your request another try. If it works, remember to go back to your .htaccess file and either remove the line altogether or rewrite it so it says:

php_value max_execution_time 60

If this fix didn’t work, update 300 to 600 and repeat. If it still doesn’t work, there might be something wrong with a recently updated plugin or theme.

Step 3: The White Screen of Death fix

Run through the white screen of death troubleshooting steps.

If you’re still stuck, reach out to your hosting provider.

Error #7: Page Not Found (error code 404)

It’s not unusual to run into this error around the web if a page no longer exists at its original URL and a redirect isn’t set up. However, there are times when you may see this error even when a page exists at the address typed in.

Step 1: Verify the Spelling of the URL

Just to be on the safe side, double-check the spelling of the URL you entered into the address bar. Make sure there are no errors.

Step 2: Fix Permalinks

If at any time you switched your permalink structure, a previous setting may have gotten stuck in the backend. To dislodge it, go to Settings > Permalinks.

Settings Permalinks Menu

Switch your permalinks structure back to the default setting “Plain”:

Default Permalink Settings

Save your changes.

Revert back to the permalinks structure you wanted to use. Save once more.

Check the page to see if the 404 error is still there. If it is, then go to the next step.

Step 3: Replace .htaccess file

Run through the corrupted .htaccess file fix.

That should get rid of the error.

Error #8: Syntax Error

You’re going to see this error immediately after editing a file on the backend of your website.

When you see “syntax error”, it means there’s a violation of proper coding practices.

For example, this is a syntactical error because the final semicolon (;) is missing:

define( 'WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '64M' )

This is also a syntactical error because the straight quotes are written as curly quotes:

define( ‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘64M’ );

You may also encounter an “unexpected error”. This one means that something is misspelled or incorrectly formatted.

Step 1: Fix the Code

These types of errors are more explicit than most of the errors on this list. When you see one, it should tell you not only which file contains the error, but also which line the error occurred on. This makes inspecting the code for missing or erroneous characters much easier.

Once you find the issue, repair it, and save your changes. Revisit your site to confirm that the error is gone.

Error #9: Unavailable for Scheduled Maintenance

There’s one reason you’d see this message: WordPress has put your website into maintenance mode while an update is being made. It could be:

  • An update you just pushed through.
  • An auto-update done by WordPress just now.
  • An earlier update that got your website stuck in maintenance mode.

Step 1: Give It a Minute

Before you do anything, just give it a minute. Even if you didn’t manually push an update, WordPress might be working on one in the background.

If the minute passes and the scheduled maintenance message hasn’t gone away, do the next step.

Step 2: Disable Maintenance Mode

Log into your control panel and file manager. Go to the root of your website and look for a file called .maintenance.

To disable maintenance mode, simply click on the file and delete it. This will bring your website back.

Error #10: Auto-update Failed

By default, WordPress has configured minor updates to automatically run (mainly those pertaining to general maintenance and security). You may also have your own automated updates scheduled to run.

Regardless of where they originated, there may be times when the update fails to go through. It could just be bad timing (like if the server were down at that exact moment) or a glitch in the system.

Step 1: Manually Update

The fix for this one is simple.

You’ll see a number of indicators in WordPress that let you know where your updates are waiting:

WordPress Updates

Follow them and issue the update manually.

Error #11: Too Many Redirects

Usually, a redirect is intentional. You update your domain name or move your website from HTTP to HTTPS. In those cases, you use a 301 redirect to ensure traffic gets to the correct destination even if your visitors type in the old URL.

However, if you’re seeing an error that says there are too many redirects, it usually means your visitors are stuck in a redirect loop with nowhere to land.

This happens when your site and WordPress addresses are different.

Step 1: Update WordPress Settings

The first place to check for this discrepancy is your WordPress settings. Go to Settings > General:

Settings General Menu

The addresses for WordPress and the site should match:

General Settings Addresses

If they don’t, fix the incorrectly formatted URL and save your changes.

If that doesn’t fix the error, check your site data at the server level.

Step 2: Update the wp-config.php File

The wp-config.php file contains a lot of data about how your website is configured, including its domain name.

Log into your file manager or FTP and open your wp-config.php file. Look for a string of code that looks like this:

define( 'WP_HOME', 'http://faux-agency.local' );

define( 'WP_SITEURL', 'http://faux-agency.local' );

Replace the test site URL above with your own WordPress and site addresses. Again, these two values should be identical.

They should also match how they’re configured at the server level. So, if the domain is registered as https://www.faux-agency.local, then the HTTPS and WWW values need to be present here.

Save your changes and return to your website. The error should be gone.

Error #12: Mixed Content

Another error that stems from the formatting of your web address is the mixed content error. What this essentially means is that:

  • Your website has an SSL certificate installed and it now runs through HTTPS.
  • There are some elements (like image files), pages, or links on your site that continue to use HTTP.

Websites must be all HTTPS or all HTTP. To remove this error, you must move your unsecured content to the secured web address.

Rather than take steps to repair this one, choose the option that best suits you:

Option 1: Use the Inspect Tool

Open your website and right-click anywhere on the screen. Select “Inspect” from the options:

Inspect Website

Look for the Console panel. If any such mixed content error exists on this page, you’ll find it here:

Inspect Console

It will tell you exactly which part of the page contains the HTTP content. You can then fix it by repairing the incorrect link or re-uploading the file.

Option 2: Use the SSL Insecure Content Fixer Plugin

Install the SSL Insecure Content Fixer plugin to help you out.

SSL Insecure Content Fixer

Start with the “Simple” setting and see if that repairs the issue. If it doesn’t, make your way through the subsequent settings until you find one that fixes the mixed content issue.

Option 3: Contact Your Web Hosting Support for Help

Contact your web hosting company if you are at a loss for where the mixed content error lives.

Error #13: Failed to Write to Disk

When you’re having problems with the images on your site, this is likely the error you’re going to see.

It will appear when a file fails to upload. It will also appear when your media files look as though they’ve disappeared from your Media folder as well as on your website. There will be blank placeholders for them, but the content won’t show.

This doesn’t have to do with trying to upload unacceptable file types. This error has to do with file permissions not being correctly configured on the backend. An update from your web host or a plugin could have messed them up.

Step 1: Update Permissions in wp-content Folder

Go to your FTP and locate the wp-content folder. Open it and look for the uploads folder. Right-click on it. Select “Change Permissions” (it might also be called “File Permissions” or just “Permissions”).

Uploads Change Permissions

If you don’t see a screen that looks like this, you’ll need to ask your web host to either update your file permissions access or to help you out.

If you do see a screen like this, update the “Permissions Value” to 744. Check the “Recursive” box below and apply it to directories only. Save your changes.

Right-click on the uploads folder once more. This time, set the “Permissions Value” to 644. Check “Recursive”, but apply it to files only. Save your changes.

Return to your website and you should see that your media files are intact (or that you’re able to upload media files without fail).

Error #14: Changes not displaying

This isn’t an error that will come with a message or white screen. This is an error you’ll see with your own two eyes after making an update, only to realize it’s not appearing on the live site.

This is a caching issue.

Step 1: Purge the Page Cache

If you’re using a WordPress caching plugin, the first thing to do is clear the cache.

Most WordPress plugins will place a “Purge Cache” or “Clear Cache” button in the admin menu bar at the top of WordPress like this:

Purge Cache

This will clear the page cache for all users and visitors. Return to your website and see if that helped. If it didn’t, try this next step:

Step 2: Clear the Browser Cache

In some cases, it’s your web browser that’s the issue. To clear the browser cache, locate your browser’s Settings:

Browser Settings

From there, locate the setting that allows you to clear your browsing data or cache:

Clear Browsing Data

Then, clear your browser cache:

Chrome Clear Cache

When your browser is done, you’ll be returned to the Settings page. You can now visit your website to confirm the issue is fixed.

Error #15: Login Failed

There are two reasons you might be unable to log into the WordPress admin. Each has a separate fix.

Option 1: Restore Password

If the issue is that you’ve forgotten your password, click the “Lost your password?” link below the login form:

Lost Your Password

Enter your email address or username in the recovery form:

Recover Your Password

You’ll receive an email to create a new password and recover access to your account.

Option 2: Update Login Credentials in phpMyAdmin

If the issue is that you haven’t lost or forgotten your login credentials, but you still can’t log in, you’ll need to use phpMyAdmin to manually reset them.

Go to your control panel and look for phpMyAdmin.

cPanel Database Tools

This is your phpMyAdmin console:

phpMyAdmin Console

Expand your database on the left panel. Look for the wp_users table. Click on it or choose the “Browse” option to open your list of WordPress users.

phpMyAdmin User Data

To edit the login credentials for yourself (or anyone else who can’t log in), click the “Edit” button to the left of their login details.

phpMyAdmin Edit Credentials

Edit the password — making sure it’s a strong mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Then, save your changes.

You can return to the WordPress login screen and try again. If the issue persists, reach out to your web hosting company for assistance.

Wrap-Up

Obviously, you hope that you’ll never encounter any of these errors when working with WordPress. But glitches and errors can come from a variety of places — your web server, the plugins or theme you have installed, the WordPress core, and sometimes even from you.

Even if your website doesn’t go offline, these error messages, blank screens, and missing content are off-putting for your visitors. So, make sure you know how to troubleshoot these WordPress issues the second they’re detected.

One last thing: don’t forget to have an automated system of backups running in the background. In the off chance that one of these errors can’t be resolved cleanly (like in the case of a security breach), a backup can really save your hide.


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