Hosting Tutorial & Guide

How to Fix the White Screen of Death Error on a WordPress Site

updated on Aug 18, 2016
How to Fix the White Screen of Death Error on a WordPress Site White Screen of Death (WSOD) is a commonly seen error on WordPress sites. When the error occurs, you, and all your website visitors, will see a blank screen when visiting your site or a certain page, which is annoying.

The causes of the White Screen of Death error vary, since both database errors and PHP errors can lead to such a result. Besides, as the blank screen includes no error information, you get no clue about what is wrong. Due to these facts, you may need to do a lot of works in order to figure out the cause and fix it.

Fortunately, the most common causes of WSOD have already been discovered by the talented users in the WordPress community. So in this tutorial, we will analyze how to troubleshoot those common issues.

Before Starting Fixing the Error

Troubleshooting the White Screen of Death error usually requires you to connect to your server and make some changes to your site. To prevent your website from crashing due to unexpected mistakes and to guarantee the user experience, you should do the following things first before trying to find out where the error lies.
  • Make a full backup. Backing up your WordPress site is always a necessary thing in order to keep your site safe.
  • Put your WordPress site in the maintenance mode. Since you will need to make significant changes, remember to take your site offline, so that you can have enough time to fix the functionality or design problems brought by those changes.
After completing these tasks, check the following possible causes and fix the White Screen of Death error.

Cause 1: You Have Exceeded the Memory Limit

The memory we talk about here refers to the PHP memory which is used to execute scripts on your server. The hosting provider allocates a certain amount of PHP memory to you, and if you exceed the limit, problems happen. Such an error is quite commonly seen if your WordPress site is hosted on a cheap web hosting plan which comes with limited resources.

Solution A: Increase the limit by editing the wp-config.php file

To fix the White Screen of Death error, you should first try increasing the PHP memory limit of your site. This can be easily done by editing the wp-config.php file of your WordPress site with an FTP client or the file manager in cPanel. The file is located in the public_html folder.

Find wp-config.php File

You need to open the file, and then add the following line to it. This will increase the memory limit to 64 MB which should be sufficient. Don't touch any other code in the file.

Increase PHP Memory Limit

Solution B: Contact the hosting provider

Some web hosts don't allow you to modify the memory by yourself. In this case, you need to contact the support team of your hosting provider and ask a support representative to do this for you. Once this is done, check your website to see whether the WSOD error persists.

Cause 2: There is a Compatibility Issue Between Your Plugins

Plugins add great functions to WordPress sites. However, they could cause troubles when they are conflicting with others or not coded properly. Besides, there might also be a conflict between plugins and the active theme on your site.

In below, we will show you how to find out whether plugins are causing problems, and which plugin is the source of the error.

Deactivate all plugins

Doing so helps you know if the White Screen of Death error is caused by a plugin issue. If you can gain access to the WordPress admin area, you only need to log into your site and manually deactivate all plugins. Then, check your WordPress site. If the error is gone, you should be using a problematic plugin.

However, in some cases you may not be able to access WordPress dashboard because the WSOD error has conquered your entire site. If this is true, you can follow these steps to deactivate your plugins.
  • Access your website files via cPanel file manager or FTP.
  • Find the wp-content folder of your WordPress site and open it.
  • Locate the "plugins" folder and rename it to anything else.
With these steps, all plugins are deactivated automatically because they cannot be loaded from the required location. Then you can check your website.

Rename Plugin Folder

Find the problematic plugin

After making sure that a plugin is the source of the problem, it's time to find it out. This task is easy if you are able to get into the WordPress dashboard, since you can activate the plugins one by one quickly and easily. When each plugin is activated, be sure to visit your WordPress site until the WSOD error happens again.

Of course, if you have installed a new plugin or updated any plugin recently, you can check these plugins first before testing the others.

In the bad case that your entire site is out of control and you have renamed the plugin folder, you now have to give the right name to the folder again. Then, enter the folder, look at all your plugins, and rename them one by one to find the bad one. If you see the error disappear when a plugin is deactivated, then the plugin is exactly the source.

Rename a Plugin to Disable It

For the problematic plugin you find out, you can remove it from your WordPress site if its function is not vital or there is a good alternative to it. But in the case that it is very important, you will need to contact the developer for support.

If the steps above don't solve your problem, then you need to check the theme you are using.

Cause 3: A Theme Is Causing Problems

Since neither of the plugin compatibility and memory limit is the problem, the active theme should probably be the thing that is wrong. Have you installed a new theme recently? Have you updated the active theme? Have you made modifications to it? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the possibility increases. The problem could be either a coding issue or a conflict between the theme and a plugin on your website.

To ensure whether the theme causes the White Screen of Death error, you can simply deactivate the active theme, or activate the default Twenty Sixteen theme. Those who are locked out of the admin area can access the theme folder via FTP. All the themes that have been installed are located in /wp-content/themes. Renaming the theme you are using can get it deactivated and revert your website's theme back to Twenty Sixteen.

Rename the Active Theme

If disabling the active theme gets rid of WSOD, you'd better consider asking for support from the theme developer or switching a theme. The latter is usually a headache, but it might be the best way out in the case that there is a compatibility error between your WordPress version and the theme.

Unknown Problem? Error Logs Can Help

Although the scenarios above are the solutions for most sufferers of the WSOD issue, they may not be able to get your out. If this is true, you have to invest more time and energy to determine where the problem lies.

At this time, the WordPress debug mode is helpful because it enables you to check the detailed error logs which should include the clues about the source of WSOD. To turn on the debug mode, you will have to add the following code to the wp-config.php file of your WordPress site.

Enable WordPress Debug Mode

These lines of code activate WordPress debug mode, and tell WordPress to save the debug information in a file while not displaying the error logs on the frontend of you website.

In the debug mode, you can look at the error logs carefully until finding the problem. Thankfully, the logs are easy-to-understand even if you lack coding experience.

Once you find the culprit which probably lies in a theme or a plugin, work out a solution to eliminate it as soon as possible.