The White Screen of Death is a pesky WordPress error that displays a blank white screen on your site’s front-end without giving you any information about what’s causing the error. It can affect parts of your site (a few posts or pages) or your entire website – including the admin panel.
Fortunately, there’s a systematic way to tackle the most common causes of the White Screen of Death (or, WSoD) even when you have no idea of what went wrong. What’s even better is that you don’t have to be particularly tech savvy to fix the issue on your own.
With this in mind, in this post, we’ll walk you through a four-step solution to troubleshoot the White Screen of Death in WordPress. By the time you’re done with this tutorial, you’ll hopefully have your website back up and working smoothly.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of the White Screen of Death before we begin.
What Is the White Screen of Death and Why Did I Get It?
According to the WordPress Codex, both PHP errors and database errors can manifest as a white screen with no information. This is the White Screen of Death and it can affect your website in a number of different ways.
Your entire website could be working perfectly one minute and go completely blank the next. In other cases, it only affects a part of your website. So, while your front-end seems to be showing up fine, you can find that you’re locked out of your admin panel. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of the White Screen of Death:
- Automatic upgrade problem/database error. Your site’s database can cause a WSoD when it isn’t configured properly or if it was interrupted during updates due to a connection problem.
- Issues with themes or plugins. Running into compatibility issues with themes and plugins is pretty common. Additionally, faulty themes and plugins often end up causing this error when they’re updated.
- Memory limit exceeded. The plugins you install on your website require PHP memory to work. If you’re on a shared hosting plan, then it’s possible that your hosting providers have set a low memory limit on your server. And when you exceed that limit, you get the White Screen of Death.
Chances are that when you encounter the White Screen of Death on your website, you’ll have little-to-no clue as to what went wrong. The good news is that you can still remedy the problem by following a series of steps.
How Do I Fix the White Screen of Death in WordPress?
In this section, we’ll walk you through the four-step troubleshooting process for the White Screen of Death. Keep in mind that you might have to skip a step or two depending upon which part of your site has gone blank.
If you’re locked out of your WordPress admin panel, then you’ll need access to your cPanel account or an FTP client to make the necessary modifications.
Step 1: Increase the PHP Memory Limit
The most common cause for a White Screen of Death (especially with websites on a shared hosting plan) is an exhausted memory limit. For this reason, it’s recommended that you begin troubleshooting the error by increasing your WordPress website’s PHP memory limit.
The plugins and scripts you use on your WordPress website need PHP memory to run. And when that PHP memory limit is exhausted you can run into all kinds of errors – including the White Screen of Death. If you’re on a shared hosting plan, it’s very likely that your hosting provider may have set a low memory limit.
The easiest way to increase your website’s PHP memory limit is through your cPanel account. Here’s how:
Log in to your cPanel account and find your website’s wp-config.php file. It should be located in the root directory.
Next, open it up in a code editor (or text editor) and add the following code snippet after the opening PHP tag i.e. <?php.
Save the wp-config.php file and close it. Finally, reload your WordPress website.
Using an FTP Client
If, for some reason, you don’t have access to your cPanel account, you can also increase your WordPress website’s PHP limit using an FTP client. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll demonstrate using the FileZilla FTP client.
Start off by logging into your FTP client and locating the wp-config.php file in your WordPress website’s root directory.
Once you’ve found it, open it up in a text editor and add the following code snippet after the opening PHP tag i.e. <?php.
Next, save the file and open up your website once again.
If the White Screen of Death was caused by an exhausted memory limit, then it should be gone by now. However, if it isn’t, you’ll have to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Deactivate Your Plugins
The White Screen of Death can also show up on your WordPress website if you’ve recently installed a faulty plugin or if a poorly coded plugin received an update and is now incompatible with another theme or plugin. Of course, if you have a pretty good idea of which plugin is causing the error, then you can go ahead and deactivate it and see if the White Screen of Death is fixed.
However, if you can’t pinpoint the plugin that could be causing the error, then you’ll have to deactivate all of your plugins and re-activate them one at a time. A major benefit of this method is that if the White Screen of Death error is fixed upon deactivating all of the plugins, then you know for sure that the error was caused by a faulty plugin. On the other hand, if deactivating all of the plugins didn’t fix the problem then you can move on to the next step.
Here’s how you can deactivate all of your plugins at once:
Login to your FTP client and navigate to the wp-content > plugins folder from your site’s root directory.
Next, rename the plugins folder to something else (for instance, plugins-deactivated) in order to deactivate all of your site’s plugins.
Now, try accessing your WordPress website again. If the White Screen of Death is fixed then it’s safe to say that it was caused by a faulty plugin. In this case, you’ll need to go back to your FTP client and change the renamed plugins folder’s name back to plugins.
Next, open up the plugins folder and begin deactivating all of the plugins by renaming each one. For the sake of simplicity, it’s best to append something like –deactivated to the end of each plugin’s name.
When you’re done deactivating all of them, rename them one at a time, this time removing the –deactivated suffix, so that it’s back to its original filename. After each re-activation, check to see if your website still works. When you find that the White Screen of Death has returned, then you’ll know which plugin was behind it.
Step 3: Activate the Default WordPress Theme
Sometimes the White Screen of Death can be caused by some poorly coded function in a WordPress theme. Even if your theme has been working fine since you first installed it, it’s entirely possible that you encounter the error later on when it receives an update. To troubleshoot this, you’ll need to activate the default WordPress theme and see if the White Screen of Death error is fixed.
To do this, log into your FTP client and navigate to your website’s wp-content folder from the root directory. Take a backup of your themes folder and save it somewhere on your machine’s drive.
You can do this by simply downloading the entire folder to your drive.
Next, open up your website’s themes folder and delete your currently active theme. By doing this, your website will automatically revert back to the default WordPress theme. If this fixes the White Screen of Death error, then it means that the theme you had activated was causing the error. At this point, we recommend that you submit a ticket to the theme’s developers and inform them about this issue or consider using a different WordPress theme.
Step 4: Enable Debugging Mode
If none of the fixes so far have seemed to make the WSoD go away, then you can enable debugging mode to get some insight into what went wrong. Here’s how:
To get started, log into your FTP client and open up the wp-config.php file once again.
Once you’ve opened the file in a code editor (or text editor), scroll down until you see the line: /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */ and add the following code snippet right above it:
This code enables debugging on your WordPress website, which will in turn display information about any PHP errors, notices, and warnings in the debug log.
What to Do if Nothing Else Works
If none of the above-mentioned steps fixed the White Screen of Death on your website, then we suggest that you contact your hosting provider. You’ll need to give them the following information:
- When did you first encounter the White Screen of Death error?
- Which pages (or posts) is the error showing up on?
- What have you done so far to remedy the error?
The error may have resulted because your hosting provider could be having some trouble with their servers. Additionally, if your database files have been corrupted, your hosting provider will be able to tell you what to do next.
Fixing the White Screen of Death in WordPress isn’t nerve-wracking when you tackle it step by step. Hopefully, you’re in a good position now to follow the steps we outlined in this tutorial and get your site back up.
Let’s go over the main steps you need to take to troubleshoot the WSoD:
- Increase the PHP memory limit.
- Deactivate your plugins one at a time.
- Activate the default WordPress theme.
- Enable debugging mode to view a list of PHP errors and warnings in your debug log.
And if nothing seems to work in the end, then don’t hesitate to contact your hosting provider for more help.
Have you ever encountered the White Screen of Death in WordPress? How did you end up fixing it? Let us know by commenting below!