Visiting your WordPress site and finding a blank screen where your content should be can be a panic-inducing experience. The WordPress White Screen of Death (WSoD) is a well-known but tricky issue to resolve, as it prevents you from accessing your admin dashboard to troubleshoot the problem. It may occur across your entire site or just some parts of it.
Fortunately, the fact that this is a common error for WordPress users to face also means that many solutions have been developed to work around and resolve it. With a bit of effort, you can have your site back in no time.
In this tutorial, I’ll provide a short introduction to the White Screen of Death, then walk you through six solutions you can try to resolve it. Let’s dive on in!
A Brief Introduction to the WordPress White Screen of Death (WSoD)
In the past, the aptly-named White Screen of Death presented as a totally blank white screen with no error messages. However, WordPress 5.2 introduced a new fatal error protection feature.
As a result, the White Screen of Death may now present as an error message reading “There has been a critical error on your site. Please check your site admin email inbox for instructions” or “This site is experiencing technical difficulties. Please check your site admin email inbox for instructions”:
Recognizing that these messages are sometimes new variants of the WSoD is important for troubleshooting the problem efficiently.
How to Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death (6 Top Solutions)
There are multiple possible causes of the White Screen of Death, and therefore several solutions.
Before you dive into the troubleshooting guidelines below, access your File Transfer Protocol (FTP) credentials in your web hosting account. You’ll also need an FTP client such as FileZilla for some of these solutions since you won’t be able to log into your admin dashboard.
Once you have handled these steps, you can proceed with the solutions below.
If you have an idea of what might be causing the White Screen of Death on your site, you can skip to the relevant fix. Otherwise, I recommend trying them in the order in which they’re presented.
1. Restore Your Most Recent Backup
Due to the platform’s open-source nature, anyone can develop a WordPress plugin. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to conflicts between tools created by different developers, or between a plugin and WordPress core.
If you recently installed a plugin or theme update and are now seeing the White Screen of Death, try restoring a backup of your site. This will roll back the update and enable users to access your site as they normally would.
Of course, running an outdated component on your site isn’t a long-term solution. Once you’ve restored your backup, you’ll need to consider whether the plugin or theme that caused the error is absolutely necessary to your website’s functionality.
If not, it’s best to delete it. You can decide if you want to look for a replacement plugin that offers similar features.
Alternatively, if the faulty component is your theme or an irreplaceable plugin, you might consider contacting the developer for assistance.
2. Troubleshoot for a Plugin Conflict
In the event that you manually updated a plugin and your site went down immediately after, undoing the damage is fairly simple. However, automatic and bulk updates are not uncommon in WordPress, so you might be in the dark as to which plugin is at fault.
In this scenario, you’ll need to do a bit of detective work to figure out which plugin is causing the conflict. To do so, you’ll need to deactivate one or more plugins via FTP since you can’t do so in your dashboard. First, use your FTP credentials to connect your FTP client (e.g. FileZilla Client) to your server.
Then navigate to the wp-content > plugins folder:
Rename each of the plugin folders here to disable them on your site. This will automatically set the plugins to inactive status. For instance, you can rename them by adding the -deactivated or -renamed postfix to the name of the plugin folder.
If you know which plugin is the likely culprit, start there. Otherwise, work your way through them one at a time, and check your site after each deactivation.
If your site comes back up, the most recently renamed plugin is the root of the problem.
From there you have a choice to make. You can delete the plugin from your site, replace it with a similar tool, or contact the developer to ask if they’ll fix whatever is causing the conflict.
3. Temporarily Switch to a Default WordPress Theme
Themes developed by third-parties face the same challenges as plugins. If you’ve recently updated your theme and are now seeing the WordPress White Screen of Death, it’s worth checking to see whether the new version is the cause of the error.
You can switch your WordPress site to the default theme via FTP by renaming your active theme’s folder, much like I described above:
With no active theme specified, WordPress will automatically apply the most recent default theme you have installed on your site.
If your site comes back online, then your theme is causing the WSoD. Your options are the same as for problematic plugins — you can delete the theme, replace it, or ask the developer to patch it.
4. Check for PHP Errors with WordPress Debug Mode
PHP is the programming language that powers WordPress. Errors in the PHP code can cause the White Screen of Death to descend on your site.
Fortunately, WordPress has a built-in tool for detecting such errors, called Debug Mode. You can turn it on by opening wp-config.php in your FTP client (located in your website’s root folder), and adding the following code to it:
define( 'WP_DEBUG', true); define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', true );
This will reveal any errors your site is currently experiencing. Once you know what errors are affecting your site’s PHP, you can take the appropriate steps to resolve them (or get in touch with your developer for help).
Remember to go back into your wp-config.php file and remove the code you added once you are done. Leaving this feature running can expose vulnerabilities to malicious parties.
5. Increase Your Site’s PHP Memory Limit
If your site doesn’t have enough PHP memory to run critical scripts, it may present the White Screen of Death. The good news is that increasing it is as simple as adding a single line of code to wp-config.php.
Open this file using your FTP client, and then paste the following at the bottom before the line that reads “That’s all stop editing! Happy publishing”:
define( 'WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M' );
256 MB is plenty of memory for most sites, but you can modify this number as needed. Just be mindful of any limits imposed by your hosting provider.
6. Contact Your Hosting Provider’s Support Team
If none of the above solutions has worked for you, there may be a server-side issue causing the WordPress White Screen of Death. If that’s the case, the solution is out of your hands.
At this point, you’ll need to contact your hosting provider‘s support team and ask if they can look into the issue. They may ask you to carry out some further steps or simply resolve the server-side error for you.
The WordPress White Screen of Death is a dreaded error, in part because it usually locks you out of your dashboard. Fortunately, you can still fix it using a couple of key troubleshooting techniques.
In this tutorial, we covered six possible solutions for the WSoD:
- Restore your most recent backup.
- Troubleshoot for a plugin conflict.
- Temporarily switch to a WordPress default theme.
- Check for PHP errors with WordPress Debug Mode.
- Increase your site’s PHP memory limit.
- Contact your hosting provider’s support team.
Do you have any questions about the White Screen of Death? Let us know in the comments section below!
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