How to Fix WordPress White Screen of Death (WSOD)

How to Fix WordPress White Screen of Death (WSOD) featured image

Okay, so you got a problem? Your WordPress website just. Went. White!

In this WordPress tutorial, I will describe some of the processes you can go through to resolve your WordPress White Screen of Death (WSOD) quickly and efficiently, so that you can get your website back up and running; you can worry about the “why it broke” later.

What is WordPress White Screen of Death?

Well actually, there’s no death involved, except, that is, the death of your hopes of having a working WP website! Its a common name for when your site goes white.

In other words, things are not working, captain.

This issue is usually caused by a PHP error; or you exhausted the maximum memory limit that WordPress has been allowed. Or something else.

1) First things first: what did you just do?

Before we get into advanced troubleshooting, if you meet with a whitescreen of death, and you just did something. Think. What did you just do? Did you add a snippet into functions.php? Try removing it. Did you just update a plugin? Try deleting that plugin from wp-content/plugins.

You’d be surprised how often this “what did you just do?” test will resolve your issue, immediately.

2) Okay, it wasn’t that – rename Plugins directory

It’s often a plugin which is causing your whiteout. Login to your WP site via FTP, and navigate to /wp-content/ in here is a subdirectory called “/plugins/” which you will now rename to be – anything else. Try “old-plugins” or similar!

This will deactivate all your plugins, because they will have “disappeared” for WordPress.

Visit your site, or your wp-admin page. Does it load? No… skip to step 3. Yes. Then look at 2a.

2a) Aha – Renaming Plugins fixed it! What now?

Now you have your WordPress site, but none of your plugins are working. What you’re going to do next is login to WordPress, and navigate to the plugins administration page.

You’ll likely see a big list of all your plugins which were renamed (as far as your WordPress install is concerned, they are no longer present where it would expect) in a message box… you knew about this, its what you caused in step 2, above.

  1. In your FTP program, rename “old-plugins” back to “plugins”.
  2. In your browser, reload the plugins > installed plugins page.
  3. Click on “recently active” – this should have a list of each plugin you had activated before. This helps you to know if you had a lot, and they weren’t all active before. If there’s nothing here, you’re going to have to work through all your plugins.
  4. Taking it one by one, activate a plugin, then refresh the page, and load your site home.
  5. Repeat for each plugin until your find your whitescreen causing plugin.
  6. When you find which plugin caused your whitescreen, you’ll now need to go into FTP and open “wp-content/plugins” and rename that plugin to be “old-plugin-name”
  7. Carry on activating plugins till you have them all active (maybe 2 plugins have a problem! Could happen!)
  8. Work out what to do about your “problem plugin”

3) It wasn’t a plugin – Try Renaming Active Theme

Do a similar thing to the themes directory. This will actually break your site, but its a quick way to see if the whitescreen is caused by your currently active theme – rename the theme you have currently active. This will then default to the default theme, which may allow you to login and find the problem.

4) None of the Above Worked – Reinstall WordPress Files or Roll Back

If none of the above methods work, it may be time to think about rolling back to a working backup OR reinstalling WordPress from wordpress.org. Reinstalling WordPress does not mean “copying over” the whole files and database. No. Just the files. Collect them all again. Get the same version as you were running at the time things went white.

Where to download older WordPress versions

You can download an older copy of WordPress than the latest.zip from here. Match the version number with the one in your installations wp-includes/version.php file (line 7 usually – as below)

Nothing Works – What Next?!

If you reach the end of this list and still nothing is working, consider contacting Silicon Dales for a professional eye, or post a task to Codeable to put your site in front of an outsourced WordPress expert.

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