A common issue that WordPress users sometimes encounter is the dreaded “White screen of death.” Basically, when trying to access your WordPress site or Administrator dashboard, the screen is simply a blank white screen with no indication of an error. It is a frustrating issue as it can sometimes only affect a portion of your WordPress site and prevent access to the website interface. Furthermore, it may seem that nothing was changed with the installation when the error occurs. The following article discusses a few ways to troubleshoot the problem and possibly find a resolution to get the WordPress site working.
There are a few possible causes that could lead to the white screen of death that can be addressed through the hosting server’s interface, the WordPress files, or associated supporting files. Here’s a quick list:
- PHP version being used. A WordPress site can often be transferred into an environment that is using a lower version of PHP than what is required by the WordPress installation.
- Memory settings in the PHP.INI file. The white screen of death can occur when the setting is low and memory is exhausted.
- Plugin conflicts. Plugins conflicting with another plugin is a common cause of WordPress issues. They can be the source of memory issues or simply causing a conflict that causes the applications to fail.
- Theme conflicts. WordPress themes are often involved in the core functions of the WordPress site and may conflict with plugins or the environment in which the site is being run. Like plugins, they can be the source of insufficient memory or errors caused by failing program functions or supporting environmental factors (e.g. missing file requirements).
If you’re getting a white screen of death the first thing you can do is get more information. This includes the following:
- Check or change PHP Version
- Enabling the WordPress Debug function
- Increase the Memory limit
- Disable all plugins
- Use a default theme
- Clearing caching
- Getting the Apache Web Server error log (NOTE: VPS/Dedicated server users will need root access.)
If the WordPress site has recently been transferred onto the server then there is a chance that the PHP version is not correctly set. Make sure that WordPress version is set correctly using the cPanel PHP version switcher. Note that this will only be an issue where the PHP version on the server is either older or can be switched to an older version.
Enable the WordPress Debug option
You can easily enable error reporting within the WordPress site by adding the following code to the wp-config.php file
error_reporting(E_ALL); ini_set('display_errors', 1); define('WP_DEBUG', true);
When the code has been added, reload the site and then you should see error messages or warnings that will help you determine the cause of the white screen of death.
Increase the Memory Limit
A common error that you may see when you have enabled debugging is a “fatal error: allowed memory XXXXXX exhausted…”. WordPress does try to increase PHP memory but only to 64 MB. This can be changed in the PHP.INI file used by your WordPress installation. Check our article on Fixing the Allowed Memory size.
Disabling WordPress Plugins and Using a Default theme
When you’re using WordPress it’s very easy to add many plugins or different themes. However, they may often be the cause of the problem. You should always check to see if disabling a plugin or using a default theme can help to identify the problem that you’re having. Check out this article for more information on how to disable your plugins and use a default theme.
Clearing WordPress Caching
A fairly common cause of issues happens when a caching plugin loaded in WordPress contain old files that may be looking for a file or dependency that is not on the current server. You will need to look at your caching plugin and determine how to best clear the cache. You should always turn off caching and clear it before transferring a WordPress site to a different location.
Accessing the Apache Web Server error log
The Apache error log may give you more information on the issue if you have the appropriate access. You can access the the error log through SSH on a VPS or Dedicated server using the following path:
The log can be quite long, so we recommend using either the tail or grep commands to filter out the relevant information. Here are a few examples of these commands:
To monitor the log in real time (live), use this command:
tail -f /usr/local/apache/logs/error_log
To see the last 5000 entries in the log while looking for a specific address, use this command:
tail -5000 /usr/local/apache/logs/error_log | grep example.com
You should now have a few ways to troubleshoot the “white screen of death” if you encounter it when working with your WordPress site. If you continue to have issues with this problem, please contact our live technical support team for immediate assistance.