Quick Fixes for the WordPress White Screen of Death

We’ll just come right out and say it – the WordPress white screen of death sucks. You are peacefully and happily navigating through your WordPress site, tweaking things here and there, making it all pretty – and all of a sudden, it happens.

Or you try to open your admin dashboard, just to see what’s up – and there it is. The white screen of death.

The white screen of death makes the website inaccessible to both administrators and visitors. It can appear on your admin page, or on one of the pages of your website. In any case, it can be a bit frustrating.

But don’t be afraid! There are a couple of easy fixes for the dreaded white screen of death, and we’ll walk you through each of them. Your website will be up and running in no time.

After reading this article, the white screen of death should be afraid of you, and not the other way around!

With these simple solutions, you’ll be able to fix the white screen of death in no time

What Causes the White Screen of Death?

The WordPress white screen of death, hereafter referred to as WSOD, is generally caused by PHP code errors or when the script of your website has exhausted the memory limit.

So what you get is a plain white screen with little explanation as to why it’s happening.

The WordPress white screen of death is generally caused by code errors or exhausted script memory

In a nutshell, the issue is caused either by a faulty plugin or theme, or by your WordPress website host. There are two things you should check before proceeding to fixing the issue.

First, see if the admin dashboard is working. You can access your admin page by typing yourdomainname.com/wp-admin into the URL tab of your browser. If you can open the admin page, the issue is likely caused by a faulty plugin or theme – but we’ll get to that in a second.

The second thing you should check, if you have multiple websites with the same host, is if your other websites are also suffering from the WSOD. If this is the case, the issue is likely caused by the host service.

So let’s go through the different possible causes of the WSOD and how to fix it.

How Do I Fix the White Screen of Death?

1. Disable Plugins

The simplest way to try to fix the WSOD is to disable all your plugins. Faulty plugin updates or plugins conflicting with your theme are a common cause of the WSOD.

Before disabling all plugins, think whether you’ve recently installed a new plugin. The problem may be caused by this latest addition to your WordPress site. Try first disabling only that one, and see if the issue is resolved. Otherwise, keep reading.

Disabling Plugins from the Admin Dashboard

If your admin dashboard is working, but some of the pages aren’t, disabling the plugins is really easy. Select Plugins from the menu on the left side of your admin dashboard, and click on Deactivate from the bulk actions menu.

You have now deactivated all your plugins. If the WSOD has disappeared from the page, it means that one of the plugins was causing the issue.

To find out which of the plugins is the guilty party for the WSOD, start activating your plugins one by one. Make sure to reload the page that doesn’t work after enabling each of them.

Once your page shows the WSOD, you know which plugin you need to permanently get rid of – or at least until it’s updated and the glitch is fixed. You can contact the plugin developer about the issue, or post a support ticket to WordPress.

Disabling Plugins When the Admin Dashboard Isn’t Working

It’s slightly more tricky to disable plugins when your admin dashboard isn’t working, but it’s still nothing to fret over.

Hopefully, your host has provided you with access to your FTP server.

  1. FTP into your server and navigate to your WordPress installation directory.
  1. Find the wp_content/plugins folder.
  1. Rename the plugins folder to plugins_old. This will disable all your plugins.
  1. Try to access your WordPress admin dashboard again. If you can access it, it means that one of the plugins was causing the issue.
  1. Now you need to test your plugins one by one again. Go back to FTP and rename your plugins folder plugins again. This will reactivate all plugins.
  1. Rename each individual plugin folder one by one, so as to deactivate them. Reload the WordPress admin dashboard after each deactivation.

When you can open the admin dashboard without the WSOD, you’ve found the culprit! Keep that plugin deactivated, and, as we’ve mentioned, contact the folks that should fix it!

2. Disable Themes

Similarly to plugins, a custom theme may be causing the WSOD issue. A new theme can come into conflict with an existing plugin, or an update might make it incompatible.

Also, as anyone can make a WordPress plugin or theme, some end up having poor PHP code, which can lead to the WSOD error.

Try fixing the white screen of death by deactivating themes

To fix this, you need to deactivate the custom theme, at least temporarily, and revert back to a WordPress default theme (one of the Twenty Somethings, like the Twenty Nineteen or the latest Twenty Twenty). The process is similar to deactivating plugins.

Disabling Themes from the Admin Dashboard

If you can access your WordPress admin dashboard, simply go to Appearance > Themes. Activate the default WordPress theme and reload the faulty page to see if it works.

Alternatively, you can just disable the new theme, and WordPress will revert back to the default theme.

Disabling Themes When the Admin Dashboard isn’t Working

Disabling a theme using FTP is similar to disabling a plugin.

  1. Find the wp_content/themes folder.
  1. Rename it to themes_old.
  1. WordPress will revert back to the default theme. Try loading the page and see if it works.

(Note: if you’ve deleted the default themes from your WordPress account, you can download it from the WordPress repository and add it to your themes folder.)

  1. If the page loads, it means that the WSOD issue was caused by the theme. As we suggested with faulty plugins, contact the developer or post a support ticket in the WordPress repository so they can get it fixed.

3. Increase the Memory Limit

The WSOD may be caused because the script has exhausted the memory provided by the host.

This can be due to increased site traffic (yay, more visitors!) or media, like plugins or non-optimized images, which eat up a lot of memory on your website. (Check out our guide on how to optimize images for web and performance so that they don’t eat up too much space!)

If the issue is exhausted memory, you may get a blank page (the good old WSOD) or an error message specifying the problem to be exhausted memory. To fix it, you’ll need to increase the PHP memory limit on your website.

There are three ways to increase your memory limit – try them one by one to see which one works for you.

Method No. 1

  1. Find the wp-congif.php file.
  1. Add: define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ’64M’) to the file.
  1. Reload the page, and see if the problem persists.

Method No. 2

  1. Access the .htaccess file in your WordPress root directory.
  1. Add: php_value memory_limit 64M to the file.
  1. Reload the page, to see if the memory has been increased and the WSOD has disappeared.

If your host server uses NGINX, you won’t be able to access the .htaccess file. In that case, try the following method.

Method No. 3

  1. Open the php.ini file.
  1. Add: memory_limit=64M anywhere inside the file.
  1. Reload the faulty page to see if the problem has been fixed!

If none of these methods worked and you’re certain that the issue is exhausted memory, you may need to ask for help from a developer or your hosting provider. Either may help you figure out what the issue is, and what is eating up so much space on your website.

However, the memory limit problem may be caused by the hosting plan you’re on. If you’re on a cheaper hosting plan which doesn’t allow for increased memory, you may need to upgrade to a plan with more memory.

Another cause of limited memory may be the web host itself. Some hosts use the same server for too many customers, which reduces the amount of usable memory per client. If you think that this is the issue, try a different hosting provider. Like ours.

4. Fix Botched Code

If you were recently editing code on your WordPress site, and the WSOD appeared suspiciously soon after that, there’s a good chance that you accidentally mistyped the code or entered the wrong syntax.

Don’t be hard on yourself – these things can get messed up even if a single character is out of place!

To fix the botched code, go to SFTP and correct – or delete – the latest changes you made.

If you’re unsure as to what change caused the syntax error, revert your site back to an earlier version using your WordPress backup (which you hopefully have!).

5. Check for Failed Updates

While WordPress updates itself automatically, it may fail to do so on occasion. For instance, if the site timed out before the update was finished or you accidentally canceled it, a failed update can lead to the WSOD.

To fix this:

  1. Go to your WordPress root directory.
  1. Check the directory for a .maintenance file. If there is one, delete it.
  1. Reload the site. After deleting this file, the update should occur automatically, and you should be able to access the site without the WSOD error.

6. Clear Your WordPress Cache

Whenever there’s a website error, clearing out your cache is always a possible solution.

A sign of cache issues is often when you’re able to open the admin dashboard, but the pages of your website fail to load (for you and for visitors).

Here’s how to clear your WordPress cache:

  1. Clear your browser cache first. Go to Chrome Options > More tools > Clear browsing data, or simply hit CRTL+SHIFT+DEL.

How to clear your browser cache

  1. Select the boxes next to Cookies and Cached images and files. Select Clear data.

Check Cookies and Cached images and click on Clear data to empty your cache

  1. Reload the page. If this worked, you can now access your page!

If this didn’t work, you need to clear other WordPress related caches.

Are you using a WordPress caching plugin?

If you’re using a caching plugin, like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, you need to clear the plugin cache. You can do this from the plugin’s settings on your WordPress admin page.

Does your host provide a cache plugin?

If your host provides a cache plugin, find it in your WordPress admin area and clear the cache. Under the General settings of the plugin, click on Purge all caches.

Are you using a web application firewall?

Web application firewalls, like Sucuri, have an additional layer of caching. If your website is still not loading properly after clearing the various caches, try clearing the firewall cache.

To do this, go to the firewall plugin, then find and select Clear Cache from the settings. For Sucuri, for instance, you go to Sucuri > Firewall (WAF) > Clear Cache.

Final Words

Hopefully, one of these easy solutions fixed the no-longer-that-scary WordPress white screen of death. You and your visitors can now enjoy surfing your website once again!

If the problem persists, make sure to contact your web host or ask for help from WordPress.

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