WordPress White Screen of Death

I wanted to change subject matter for this post a bit, focusing more on the blogging side of things for this post. The reason for this is that I recently personally struggled with the dreaded WordPress “white screen of death” without even knowing what it was! I had been dealing with this problem off and on for a few months but it recently hit a breaking point when the error kept occurring every time I logged into my website. I’m not sure if readers also experienced it when trying to access my website, but I apologize if you did receive the error. Hopefully this post can provide you some guidance if you deal with this error in the future or found this post now while trying to fix it.

When I first started receiving the WordPress “white screen of death” error I didn’t even know it had a name. Most Windows users have heard of the dreaded blue screen of death, but I didn’t realize that there was a similarly named issue with WordPress. Luckily after only a few searches I was able to determine that it was the same exact error I was dealing with.

In troubleshooting WordPress errors it seems that the most common issues stem from installing new plugins or a plugin update causing a problem. It’s in your best interest to use as few plugins that do what you need well. Installing a million plugins because they do something cool will slow your blog down and lead more errors down the road.

The easiest way to track down the source of your white screen of death error is to turn on debugging mode which should hopefully help point you in the right direction. To enable debugging mode:

  1. You will want to connect to your site via FTP or through a file manager that your host provides.
  2. You’ll need to go into the root directory of your WordPress site
  3. Find the wp-config.php file
  4. Either download this file to create a backup of it, or create a copy of it within the directory in case anything goes wrong
  5. Open the wp-config.php and search for “WP_DEBUG”
  6. You then change  define('WP_DEBUG', false);  to  define('WP_DEBUG', true);

You can now visit your site, and it should display what is hopefully some meaningful information with debugging on. I received the following information after visiting my homepage:

This pointed me to an error with a “Super Cache” plugin that I installed. I was able to disable this plugin by renaming the folder so that it wouldn’t run and my website worked perfectly after that! I then uninstalled the plugin through the WordPress admin panel and fully deleted that folder, as I really don’t need that plugin at this point in time. My “white screen of death” error was fixed without having go through each plugin to track down the source of the problem. You can also find even more information on turning on debugging by visiting the WordPress Codex.

If turning on debugging doesn’t help your problem, you may need to disable your entire plugins folder, increase your memory limit, or temporarily switch to a more basic theme. I’m hoping this simple solution may prevent you from having to do any sort of advanced troubleshooting, but it obviously will not work in all cases. If it can save a few people time and headaches if a certain plugin is causing issues though! And please remember to always back up your files before manually (or even automatically) editing anything. That way you can at least revert back to what you did have.

Image Source: Jonathan Bean

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