Fix WordPress White Screen of Death

The WordPress White Screen of Death may appear for several reasons: PHP errors, lack of server resources, broken file structure etc. In this article, we’ll figure out how to Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death rapidly without having a long down-time.

The WordPress White Screen of Death errors and issues can be painful, especially on shared web hosting servers. It is one of the most common errors on WordPress. Why? Mainly because of their security measures. Hosting companies make it twice as hard to track down the error, and see what’s actually broken. Many errors can invoke the weird, and quite common “WordPress White Screen of Death”. Quite a poetic name for an error, isn’t it? This happens when you go to your website, or some address on your domain, and the page loads, yet nothing is really rendered. You get a white screen – hence the name. Often times, you might even get locked out of your website. Let’s see why this issue occurs, and how we can fix it.


Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death

Even though the user sees a blank white page, there is usually some sort of a PHP error displayed behind the scenes. But this warning, fatal error or notice is blocked/automatically hidden by the hosting provider, so they can avoid vulnerabilities or exposure of server configuration. That’s how things are set in the world of shared hosting. Companies have to be very, very careful — since hundreds of websites depend on a single PHP/server configuration.
If you are on a VPS, you can tweak PHP’s settings, and actually see through the white screen of death. So, what can cause this error? A handful of things come to mind, starting with exhausted memory and bad server configuration, to faulty plugin or bad-coded theme. Let’s see how we can identify the problem and fix it, so that our website can properly render.

Possible Solutions

Now if you don’t want to tinker with debugging, which is totally fine for people who are not comfortable with debugging and changing code, there are a few general tricks you could try to get rid of the WordPress White Screen of Death. Let’s check them out.

Increase the Server’s Memory Limit

Increasing the server memory isn’t a too complicated process but it can help you solve the WordPress White Screen of Death. In a nutshell, you have to locate PHP configuration file, modify a directive’s value and restart Apache. You can read some further info on the basic PHP settings here.

Disabling All the Plugins

Like mentioned at the beginning of the article, the most probable cause of this error is a faulty plugin or a theme related error. The fastest way you can cross this out, is to disable all the plugins on your website, and see if the error is gone. Go to the Plugins page, and you can check/uncheck a single checkbox and select all the plugins. Once you do that, click on the multiple actions drop-down option, and select deactivate. Now try to open the page with the WordPress white screen error, and see if it loads properly. If it does, you can try to activate your plugins one by one, until you see which one is causing the error.

In case the White Screen of Death is showing when you try to open the WordPress dashboard, or it is showing across every page on the website, you can login on the server via FTP, and download all the plugins at first, and then delete them one at a time, or rename the folder names to see at which point in time the white screen issue disappears.

Important: Make sure to backup everything in your /wp-content/plugins folder, before you start removing and uploading plugins back.

Change Your Theme

You can try changing your currently active theme. Go to Appearance->Themes, and select a different one — just to see where the problem is. If changing the theme fixes the white screen issue, you can contact the developers, or maybe downgrade to a previous version, until they fix the bug.

Some core debugging

If you want to skip guessing, and checking out dozen of things to see if they are broken, the first thing to do is to try to modify the PHP configuration. You should look for debugging and error handling settings in the php.ini file, and check whether they are turned off. This might be tricky or entirely forbidden in shared hosting environments, but if you have the access, it is worth checking out.

One other thing to do, is to open wp-config.php, and find the WP_DEBUG global variable — which should be initially set to false. Set it to true, and save the file. This variable controls error handling, and when you set it to true, WordPress should start displaying errors, issues and warnings on your site. Now try to refresh your website and see whether some sort of error is displayed. In most cases, this is where the white screen of death stops being just white. There is some sort of a error message that gives further details on what needs to be fixed, to get your website up and running.

The error message should give you a pretty good idea of what’s wrong, whether it’s a plugin, something you did in code, or your theme. There is also a hint in which file and on which line the error took place, when the code was interpreted. Let’s try to visualize this, and see what you might get:

Fatal error: Call to undefined function in file /plugins/plugin-name/functions.php on line 233.

This means that you should probably either fix what your plugin is doing wrong, or disable it, to see whether the “white screen of death” error is gone.

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