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The WordPress White Screen of Death: Don’t Freak Out

This article will help you prevent it from happening and how to solve it if it does happen to you.

If you haven’t been there yet, you will one day.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a gut wrenching moment.  You update a plugin and suddenly, your website stops working.  Not just in a “oh, this isn’t quite right” sort of way either.  I’m talking about the infamous “White Screen of Death” where your WordPress site is really broken and you can’t even access the admin area.  Your heart rate quickens and you’re beginning to panic.

It can be fixed.  There’s no need to freak out and lose your mind.  You’ll be tempted to pull out your hair; just remain calm.

In my experience, the white screen of death happens most frequently after updating plugins.  Your website was running along beautifully and you receive a notification in the admin area that there’s an update available for one of your plugins.  Without thinking, you click the update button and suddenly everything quits working.  It’s pretty obvious what the culprit is at that point.  The white screen of death can also be caused by switching themes, internal server errors, database connection errors, incorrect wp-config.php problems and problems with your web hosting service.  It can even indicate that your website has been hacked by no-gooders.

 

The unfortunate thing is no one goes looking for the solution until it happens. Here are preventative measures and practices you can commit to in order to prevent it happening in the first place.

 

 

 

Prevention

Back Up Your Site Regularly

 

It seems easy to say, however backing up your site can be challenging to remember to do.  In the event that it does happen, if you’re in the great practice of backing up regularly, the restoration of your site will be fast and easy if you’ve got a recent back up to draw from.  It can be done manually by visiting the Tools section of your WordPress Dashboard and then clicking Export.  You’ll be able to choose what you’d like to export, but you’ll need to keep in mind, this won’t back up your image files or any other uploaded files you have as part of your site.  This is just a very basic XML file that will restore the posts and pages from your site.

A better option (one seen below) is to choose a back up plug in which does a more complete job of backing up your site and usually includes a scheduling component so you can set it and forget it.  Good plugins take care of back ups so you don’t have to and run quietly in the background until you need them.

When updating plugins, check the change log prior to pressing the update button.

The change log includes a review of what changes were made to the plugin update.  Frequently you’ll notice bug fixes and a list of information on what code needed to be updated and why.  Plugins are updated frequently; the majority of time it’s to enhance the security of the plugin and it’s wise to do the updates.  From time to time though, you’ll notice a warning at the top of the change log that states “WARNING: This update has not yet been tested with your version of WordPress”.  If that’s the case, hold off pressing the update button for a few days or longer.  Keep checking back to see if the warning has disappeared.  Frequently, early adopters of these updates which carry this warning suffer the white screen of death because there was a minor code change in the plugin that conflicts with their theme other plugins installed on their site.  Holding off allows time for the bugs to be discovered and therefore saving you the hassle of crashing your site.

Visit the Change Log for the plugin before executing the update Visit the Change Log for the plugin before executing the update.

Update only one plug in at a time instead of using the multi updater function.

 

The multi-updater function can be a real blessing and time saver.  If you’ve gone through each of the change logs and there are no warnings, by all means, check all those boxes and update all at once.   If there are warnings, you’re better off to update each plugin, one at a time.  If anything goes awry, it will be easy to figure out the culprit causing the issues.

 

 The WordPress Multi-Updater can be a blessing and a curse.

Use a plug in like UpdraftPlus–it can be a real bacon-saver!

 

UpdraftPlus is a tremendous WordPress plugin which has both a free and premium versions.  The free version is enough to save your bacon if you’re a small business.  It permits you to create back up versions of your site (preventative medicine!) and has a one click restore function in the event that you need it. Your databases, plugins, themes and uploads are all backed up separately, making restoration a breeze.  It also clones your site for easy migration if you ever decide to move your site somewhere else.

 

 

 

Solutions

  • Visit the WP codex for help and tutorials.
  • Another great resource is WPBeginner.com.
  • If you still have access to your admin panel, tutsplus.com offers a great step by step tutorial to fixing the White Screen of Death problem.

 

Fixing the White Screen of Death Using FTP or PHP Admin–wpbeginner.com provides excellent instructions for deactivating plugins.

Access your cPanel.

File Manager Icon on CPanel

File Manager Icon on CPanel

Navigating to the plugins folder on your web host file manager

 

One of the common instructions you’ll see among all these solution resources is to visit your cPanel and navigate to your plugins folder.  This is found by logging into your webhost site such as Bluehost and going to your file manager area.  Once you’re in, you’ll need to go to your home directory (indicated by the little house icon), click on the plus sign beside the public_html folder, click on the plus sign on the wp-content folder and then you’ll be able to see the plugins folder.

Modify your files.

 

It can be scary digging in your php files to say the least.  I can assure you though, there’s not much you can break that can’t be fixed. Then you can go back to your resting heart rate and be proud that you’ve saved the day!

If you’re not that  brave, book an appointment with us at Orange Ambition  or send us an email using the contact form below and we’d be glad to help! Then you can go back to your resting heart rate without the stress of digging through your code files.

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