How to Fix WordPress White Screen of Death

The WordPress white screen of death is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. One minute your site works, the next you’re greeted by nothing but a white screen.

This can be a scary experience, but it’s more common than you might think. Nearly every single WordPress site owner has experienced this sometime during the life of their site. 

Although this isn’t the most fun situation in the world, it can be remedied, and usually, it’s a pretty quick fix. There are a few common reasons for this to occur.

Below we dive into the most common causes of the WordPress white screen of death and what you can do to fix the problem. 

best WordPress hosting

What is the WordPress White Screen of Death?

The WordPress white screen of death is an error that occurs with your WordPress site. You can tell this has happened to your website because when you visit it, you’ll see nothing but a white screen! Sometimes, you’ll see an error message, but often it’s just a white screen.

wordpress white screen of death

Some of the most common reasons this error occurs are due to:

  • Running into a memory limit
  • Editing a core file like functions.php
  • A plugin conflict which breaks your site
  • Using a WordPress theme with faulty code

If those scenarios sound confusing, don’t worry. We’ll get into how you can diagnose and fix these issues below. 

How to Fix the WordPress White Screen of Death

Below we’ll cover the main reasons the white screen of death occurs and what you can do to troubleshoot and fix the issue.

Before we move forward, you’re going to need to access and edit your WordPress files. You can do this via an FTP client like Filezilla, or via the File Manager within your hosting control panel. 

If you’re a beginner, then the easiest option is going to be using the File Manager. It operates similar to accessing your site via FTP, but instead you’ll just login to your server via cPanel and open the ‘File Manager’ app.

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

access wordpress files through cpanel file manaager

When you’re experiencing the white screen of death you probably won’t be able to access the backend of your site via the WordPress dashboard. So, you’ll need to feel comfortable editing and removing website files. It might look a little complex, but it’s a pretty straightforward process. 

That being said, here’s how you can fix the WordPress white screen of death depending on the error that caused it: 

1. Resolve a Browser Issue

We’ll start with the easiest fix. Sometimes it might not even be an issue with your site at all, but instead an issue you’re experiencing with your browser. This is common when you’re making changes to your WordPress site, and you don’t see the changes reflected live until you empty your cache.

To do this open up your browser of choice and locate the browsing and history section. This will allow you to view and clear your history, cookies, and cached images and files.

how to clear browser cache

Clear all of the existing data and wait for the process to run its course. Then, close and reopen the browser and see if the issue disappeared. 

2. Increase WordPress Memory Limit

If your WordPress site is large and growing, then you might have run into a WordPress memory issue. The more traffic your website receives the more memory you’ll need for your site to function correctly (and to avoid the white screen of death).

To increase your memory limit, you’ll need to open up your wp-config.php file. 

open wp-config.php file to fix wordpress memory limit

Then add or edit the line of code that looks like:

define (‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT,’ ‘64M’);

For most sites, 64 MB of memory will be more than enough. However, if the problem still exists after making this change, then it could be an issue with your host as well. So, it can be helpful to reach out to your web host’s support team and see if they can upgrade your memory internally, or upgrade you to a higher hosting plan. 

3. Disable All WordPress Plugins

A lot of times, the issue can be with one of your plugins. Not every WordPress plugin is going to be high-quality. In some cases, there will be an issue with the plugin’s code that conflicts with your current theme. 

Sometimes, when the WordPress core gets updated, plugin developers may not have updated their plugin to remain compatible, resulting in a conflict with the code that brings your site offline. 

In this case, you’ll need to manually deactivate all of your installed plugins, then activate them one by one until you’ve found the culprit.

If you disable all of your plugins and your site is back online, then you’ve found the issue! Congratulations! Then, you can systematically narrow down the plugin that caused the problem. 

Here’s how you deactivate your WordPress plugins automatically:

  1. Navigate to your wp-content folder.
  2. Find the plugins folder inside and rename it something different like plugins-off. This makes WordPress think that the folder doesn’t exist, so it’ll disable any active plugins.
deactivate wordpress plugins folder

Now, load your website. If the white screen of death goes away, then that means it was due to a faulty plugin. Here’s what to do to figure out which one caused it:

  1. Rename the plugins folder back to the original plugins name.
  2. Open up the folder and go through each plugin, one by one, by renaming each folder. Each time you rename a plugin folder, try loading your site.
  3. If your site loads, then you’ve found the plugin. Now delete that plugin’s folder, and the problem is solved!

Going forward, make sure that you avoid that plugin like the plague. See if you can find another similar plugin that provides the same features instead, or ask yourself if you can make do without the plugin’s functionality?

4. Deactivate Your Current WordPress Theme

If it wasn’t a memory or plugin issue, then there’s a good chance it’s an issue with your WordPress theme. If you recently installed a new theme, or updated your theme, and this issue started, then there’s a good chance it’s your theme.

To deactivate your current theme, we’re going to follow the same approach as the plugins section above. Here’s how you disable your current theme:

  1. Navigate to your WordPress theme’s folder by going to wp-content/themes.
  2. Locate your currently installed theme and deactivate it by renaming the theme’s folder, so instead of themename, it’ll be themename-bad. This will automatically disable the plugin, and WordPress will revert to the default theme.

If this worked, then it was an issue with your theme! Now, it’s time to find a quality WordPress theme that won’t lead to this issue in the future. 

5. Fix an Error in a Core WordPress File

If you were recently editing any WordPress core files before you experienced this error, then the likely culprit is going to be an error in the file that was being edited.

Fixing this is going to depend on the file that was being edited. But, you can generally resolve this issue by uploading a fresh version of the file you were editing.

If you were editing a theme file, then you can locate a new version of that file by downloading a new version from the theme repository, or wherever you purchased your theme.

If you were editing a WordPress core file, then download a fresh version of WordPress from WordPress.org.

Once you’ve downloaded the new WordPress core, or a fresh version of your theme, unzip it and locate the file.

install new wordpress core files

Then access your site via File Manager or FTP, delete the file you changed, and upload the brand the new version. Next, load your website to see if this removed the white screen of death.

Recovering from the WordPress White Screen of Death?

Experiencing the WordPress white screen of death can be a pretty scary experience, but thankfully the situation isn’t as bad as it seems. Usually, deactivating your plugins or activating a different WordPress theme will fix the issue.

The above five tips will account for 99% percent of the time you experience the white screen of death. 

To avoid this from happening in the future, keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Only install WordPress themes and plugins from reputable sources
  • Regularly backup your site, so you can install from a previously working version of your website if need be. (One excellent solution for this is CodeGuard, a service that automatically backs up your website on a daily basis.)
  • Never edit WordPress core or theme files on a live site. Always use a test environment.
  • Make sure any hosting or other web services you use offer high-quality support, in case you need the assistance of technical staff.

Hopefully, by now you’ve resolved the WordPress white screen of death issue you were experiencing, and you’re well-equipped to handle this issue if it ever occurs again in the future.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.