The WordPress white screen problem occurs when the site you are trying to visit appears as a blank, white page with no content. In this article, WordPress white screen of death, we will see what causes it and how you can fix the error on your site.
To make it easier to resolve the error we will look at quick checks that help you identify the cause of the problem and look at the most common causes for which this error occurs. In the second part of the article, we’ll look at the other possible causes and how to troubleshoot the problem from case to case.
Let’s start by seeing what the WordPress white screen error looks like.
What is the WordPress white screen of death.
The most common (and most feared) WordPress site error is the white screen issue. This error causes the site not to be accessible to either visitors or administrators themselves.
We were saying that it is one of the most feared errors, the reason is due to the fact that the white screen error occurs without carrying information that can help us better understand from what it was generated.
The WordPress white screen of death, is an error that can often be caused by a compatibility problem with a plugin or theme.
In other cases, the reason for the error can be a recent WordPress update, but these are just some of the main causes. We’ll go through all the possible causes in the following paragraphs and see how to fix it.
First, let’s understand what the error looks like so you can easily recognize it. As you may have already guessed from the name, a blank screen is a situation where you try to access a page and find yourself faced with a blank screen, a blank page.
This error is called the white screen of death or often abbreviated to WSoD.
In some cases the error may only involve the front-end of the site, this means that it will only show up when trying to access pages, but the back-end (the WordPress dashboard) will work normally.
In other circumstances, the error also prevents you from accessing the admin area of the site.
Keep in mind that in some cases, instead of displaying a completely blank page, you may see a 500 error like this one you see below.
How to fix the WordPress white screen of death
Before we try out the various solutions to fix the white screen issue on WordPress and get your site back up and running, here are some preliminary steps to take.
First, we recommend that you back up your site.
If you have a SupportHost plan such as shared hosting, WordPress hosting or a dedicar plan such as dedicated server or VPS cloud hosting you’ll be glad to know that we provide a free backup service keeping backups of the last 30 days.
In any case, remember that it is always recommended to perform a manual backup before an important operation. To create a backup with cPanel you can follow our tutorial.
If you are using a caching plugin, before continuing with the checks that will allow us to solve the white screen on WordPress make sure to disable it.
Quick checks to fix the WordPress white screen of death
You can fix the WordPress white screen of death easily if you can trace the cause that generated it. To do so, we have prepared in this section a series of quick checks that you can perform to solve the problem as soon as possible and get your site back online.
Have you recently installed a new plugin or theme and are you getting a blank screen?
If the problem occurred right after you installed a new plugin or theme, the first thing you should do is try disabling the component that is potentially causing the white screen error.
Keep in mind that you should also try to deactivate the plugin in question if you have recently changed the settings of an already active plugin or modified the code of a plugin.
If it is a plugin deactivate it and then try to reload the site, if the error is fixed, you have correctly identified the problematic plugin.
At this point check if the plugin is up to date, if the problem still occurs you can try to contact the plugin developer. If you still can’t solve the problem, replace the plugin with another one that has a similar function.
In case you have recently activated a theme you should deactivate it and activate a default theme such as Twenty Twenty-One. Again, if the blank screen error resolves after deactivating the theme, you can contact the developer or opt for a different theme that doesn’t conflict with your site.
If you don’t know how to disable a plugin or theme, or you can’t access the WordPress dashboard, you’ll find the methods explained in the Disable Plugins and Enable Default Theme sections of this guide.
Have you just updated WordPress and do you see a white screen?
If the white screen error appears right after performing an automatic WordPress update, it may be that something went wrong.
Typically in cases where the WordPress update fails, a file remains in the root directory of the site which is not deleted. In this case, you just need to access the site files and delete the .maintenance file.
You can do this with the cPanel file manager by following these simple steps:
- login to cPanel
- open the folder of your WordPress installation
- locate the .maintenance file, right-click on it and then click Delete.
If you don’t see the file, make sure the option to show hidden files is enabled. Click on Settings
Then make sure that the Show hidden files (dotfiles) option is checked.
You can also access your site’s files using an FTP client such as FileZilla. Just follow these steps:
- connect to the server by entering host, username, password and port
- navigate through your site’s folders to the WordPress root directory
- locate the .maintenance file and right-click on it, then click delete to delete the file.
In case you can’t solve the problem this way, it may be that the automatic update has not been completed. In such cases, you can try to restart the update or proceed with a manual update.
Resolving the blank screen error
The methods we have just seen come to our aid in case it is easy to trace the cause that may have generated the appearance of the white screen on your WordPress site. In some cases, however, the problem may occur without any recent event that may have triggered it.
So let’s go through the possible causes of the White Screen of Death one by one and see what you can do to fix it.
Wipe the cache
If you are experiencing the WordPress white page error on your site, one of the first things to do is to clear your browser cache. In case the error is due to the cache you should usually be able to access the backend of the site, i.e. the WordPress dashboard, while on the front-end of the site only a blank page appears.
In this case, you should first try to clear the browser cache. If you don’t know how to do that, you can follow our guide where we explain how to clear the cache on major browsers.
For example, with W3 Total Cache we can clear the cache by clicking on Performance in the top bar of the WordPress dashboard and then Purge all caches.
Activate debug mode
Another thing we can do is to activate WordPress debug mode. This will give us a log of errors that will help us understand any problems that are occurring on the site.
In order to activate WordPress debug mode, we need to access the files of our site. We can do this using the file manager of the control panel (for example cPanel) or with an FTP client like FileZilla.
The file we are interested in is wp-config.php, before editing the file I suggest that you always create a backup copy.
Let’s open the file wp-config.php and check if there is this line inside:
define( 'WP_DEBUG', false );
To activate the debug mode we just need to change “false” with “true”, in this manner and save the changes to the file.
define( 'WP_DEBUG', true);
If the line is not present we just add it before:
/* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */
After activating the debug function, reload the home page of the site. You should now see a blank page accompanied by error messages to help you figure out what the problem is.
In the example above, the problem was due to a syntax error in the functions.php file. In this case, you can edit the file to fix the error or restore the file from a backup.
After you have managed to identify the problem disable debug mode again.
In most cases, the WordPress white screen problem can be due to a plugin. Among the most common cases, there can be an outdated plugin or an update that is not compatible with other elements of the site.
You can easily check if the problem is due to a WordPress plugin, all you need to do is deactivate all of them and reload your site’s page to check if the white screen issue has been resolved.
If you can access the WordPress dashboard you can disable plugins directly from there, otherwise, let’s see how you can proceed to disable them.
Disable plugins from the WordPress dashboard
Log in to your site’s dashboard and click on Plugins from the left side menu. Check the box as shown in this screenshot, to select all plugins.
From the Group Actions menu, select Disable and click Apply.
Can’t access the dashboard? Here’s how to disable plugins
If you can’t access the backend of your WordPress site, the easiest way to disable all plugins is to rename the folder that contains them.
To do this you’ll need to access the files on your site, you can use the control panel provided by your hosting or connect via FTP with a client like FileZilla. If you are our client you can use the cPanel file manager.
In any case, the procedure you’ll have to follow is similar, in this example let’s see how to do it with the cPanel file manager.
After opening the file manager you will have to locate the plugins folder, usually, the path will be:
Now rename the folder with a different name such as “deactivated plugins” and save.
In this way, you will have deactivated all plugins.
Find the problematic plugin
Now that you have deactivated all plugins on your site you can check if the WordPress white page error was due to a plugin incompatibility issue. If you can view your site correctly, then you need to figure out which plugin is causing problems.
To do that you will have to reactivate the plugins one by one and check from time to time if the error occurs again or if it has been resolved. You can reactivate the plugins from the dashboard, as you see shown in this screenshot below, or you can do it by accessing your site’s files.
In the second case, you’ll have to access the files on the server, through the file manager or with an FTP client like FileZilla. If you had renamed the plugins folder, just create a new folder named “plugins”.
You will then have to move the plugins folders one by one into this one in order to reactivate them. And from time to time reload the site to see if the problem reappears, when the error occurs again you will have found the plugin that is causing problems.
If you managed to identify the plugin proceed in this way:
- verify that the plugin is updated, if not update it and try to see if the error is resolved
- if updating did not solve the problem, contact the plugin developers
- if the previous methods did not work, you just have to replace the plugin with one that has a similar function.
On the other hand, if the error still appears, after doing all the tests, you should try another solution.
Activate the default theme
Apart from plugins, another common cause of the white screen error of WordPress death is WordPress themes. Again, you can easily check if the problem depends on the theme by activating one of the default ones.
Sometimes the WordPress white screen prevents us from accessing the site dashboard, so we will see how to switch to the default theme both from the dashboard and in case you can’t access it.
Changing theme from the WordPress dashboard
If you can log in to the back-end of the site to change the theme you just need to click on Appearance → Themes from the side menu, as you see in this screenshot.
From this section, you can see the theme currently active on the site and change the theme. In this case, you’ll need to activate one of the default themes such as Twenty Twenty-One or Twenty Twenty. Locate the theme and click the Activate button as seen here.
Then all you have to do is check if your site is working again. If it does then as we have seen with plugins you can try this way:
- check if the theme you were using needs to be updated
- contact the developer to ask for assistance
- replace the theme with another one.
How to change the theme if your dashboard is inaccessible
To switch to a default WordPress theme you just need to disable the current one, in this case, in fact, WordPress will directly use the last default theme.
To do this, we need to rename the folder that contains the themes, just like we saw for deactivating plugins.
Access your site’s files with the file manager or via FTP and locate the “themes” folder. The path is usually: /public_html/wp-content/themes
Rename the folder, for example to “themes-deactivated” and save.
If reloading the site should show a warning message like this indicating that no template was found, you must load one in the folder of themes.
To do this, create a new folder called “themes” and move a default theme into it as you see in this example.
If with the default theme your site works as it should, you are experiencing a problem with the theme you were using. In this case, try contacting the developer for assistance or choose a different theme.
Check file and folder permissions
On WordPress the permissions should be set like this:
- 644 or 640 for files
- 755 or 750 for folders.
An exception to this is the wp-config.php file, which according to the WordPress documentation should be set to 440 or 400 for added security.
You can check file and folder permissions with FileZilla or via the cPanel file manager, let’s see how to do it now.
Verify file and folder permissions with FileZilla
First log in to the server using the required data, after the connection has been established you will see the files and folders in your account and for each one, you can see what permissions are set.
To change the permissions of a file or folder we just need to right-click on the element that interests us and then click on File Permissions.
In the tab that opens, we can change the permissions and then click on Ok to save the changes.
Verify file and folder permissions with the file manager
From the cPanel file manager, you can see and modify the permissions of files and folders. In the Permissions column, you will see the current permissions.
If you want to change the permissions of a file or folder just select the item and click on Permissions as shown in this screenshot.
Then you just need to change the permissions and click on Change Permissions. In the example below we see how to change the permissions of the wp-config.php file.
Increase memory limit
In some cases, the problem of the white screen of WordPress death may be due to the fact that one of the site processes is exceeding the PHP memory limit. In such cases, you are likely to see a blank page with an error warning you that you are out of memory.
The error will usually read something like this:
fatal error: the allowed memory size of xxxxxxxx bytes exhausted
In this case, or if you are still experiencing the White Screen of Death error you can try to increase the PHP memory limit. To do this you can add this code to the wp-config.php file:
Alternatively, you can increase the memory limit by adding this code to the .htaccess file:
php_value memory_limit 64M
Resolve problems with excessively long pages or posts
Sometimes the WordPress white screen of death error appears because of a very long post or page. In this case, you can try to solve it by setting a higher limit for backtrack and recursion.
You can add this code in the wp-config.php file:
In this article, WordPress white screen of death, we have seen that the WordPress white screen error can be caused in most cases by a problem with the theme or one of the plugins in use or a recent update. However, the error can also depend on other causes such as file and folder permissions or PHP memory limit.
We have gone through the different causes that can generate the blank screen problem and seen how to fix it.
Have you ever seen this error on your site? Let me know if you managed to fix it and what solution was effective in your situation.