The worst thing that can happen to anyone on WordPress is the White Screen of Death.
What’s the White Screen of Death?
The dreaded White Screen of Death is when you type your URL into your browser and only a blank white screen loads up.
This is the ultimate oops, the big uh-oh, the fabled WHAT THE F*&@! of WordPress problems. Why is it so bad? Well, the White Screen of Death means:
- No one can see your content
- All your hard work is offline
- It’s just a giant, white screen of failure, taunting you
And sometimes this even means you won’t be able to log in to fix this issue. Wow. Talk about a disaster!
What Causes it?
Each cause of a White Screen of Death is unique, and it’s up to you (or your web designer) to figure it out. These are the most common causes:
- An outdated or corrupted plugin
- An outdated or broken theme
- A corrupted SQL database causing you to reach your memory limit
And on the rare occasion, it’s actually just that you have a horrible, no-good hosting provider, and it’s time to jump ship. But before you point blame at them, it’s best to rule out the alternatives.
The first thing to do is to see if you can log in. You can type in your admin (yoururl.com/wp-admin for most) and see if it pulls up your dashboard or login page. If that doesn’t work, then you’ll need to access the files the old school way, via FTP and your host.
Note: If you don’t know how to use an FTP to access your files, you can call your hosting provider to see if they can do those steps for you, or you can hire a web designer like me to do these troubleshooting steps for you.
Is it a Bad Plugin or a Bad Theme?
The first thing to figure out is what is causing it. The top 2 reasons you get the white screen of death is a plugin or theme issue. First, let’s tackle the theme.
Is it the theme?
If you can log in: Change to a default WordPress theme (such as WordPress Twenty Sixteen).
If you can’t log in: Access your website files via FTP and navigate to the /wp-content/themes/ folder. Rename the folder for the active theme. By renaming the folder of the theme you’re deactivating it, setting WordPress back to its default theme.
Now check your URL in a new window to see if the White Screen of Death has gone away. If it hasn’t, then it’s safe to switch back to your current theme. If it has disappeared, then the issue is in your theme.
Is it the Plugins?
If you can log in: Disable all plugins on your site. Now check your URL in a new window to see if the White Screen of Death has gone away. If it hasn’t, then it’s safe to switch back all of your plugins. If it has disappeared, then the issue is in one of your plugins. Turn on and off each plugin, one-at-a-time, until you discover which plugin causes the issue.
If you can’t log in: Access your website files via FTP and navigate to the wp-content/plugins and rename the plugin folder plugins_old. This deactivates all of your plugins at once. Now check your URL in a new window to see if the White Screen of Death has gone away. If it hasn’t, then it’s safe to switch back all of your plugins. If it has disappeared, then the issue is in one of your plugins. Turn on and off each plugin, one-at-a-time, until you discover which plugin causes the issue. You can do this by affixing each plugin folder with _old. (Ie Askmit => Aksmit_old.)
What if it’s Something Else?
OK, if it’s not your theme or a plugin issue, then that leaves the two more complicated issues: it’s your database or it’s your host provider.
If you regularly back up your WordPress site, then now is the time to revert your WordPress database back to a previous version. If you revert your database back more than 5 days and still get the White Screen of Death, then it’s likely not your database.
If reverting your database back to an older stored version fixes the White Screen of Death, then I want you to immediately change your username and password. That’s right, your corrupted database could be from a hack or a Malware infection, and you want to make sure that won’t happen again.
Is it My Host?
If you’ve done everything and nothing fixes it, it’s time to call your hosting provider. As soon as you’re talking to a human being, follow this short script to get the help you need.
Hi, my WordPress site at [your domain/url] has the White Screen of Death. I’ve disabled the theme and plugins and have even restored the database to a backed up version from X days ago. I wanted to know if 1) you are having any server issues and 2) if not, can I talk to someone in customer service who can check my database and files, and also check to see if there is a DNS error or misconfiguration causing this?
The rest is up to your hosting provider. They should be expedient and courteous. If you have a bad experience with them and your problem isn’t resolved, consider switching hosts.