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Proven Methods to Resolve WordPress White Screen of Death

Last Updated on May 21st, 2024

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Of all the potential things that could go wrong when using WordPress, few are scarier than the dreaded white screen of death. 

If that’s the issue you’re dealing with right now, we have some important advice for you: 

DON’T PANIC. 

As alarming as it can be when your site displays a blank white screen when you or your visitors try to access its content, it’s a problem that can be quite easily solved. 

In this guide, we’ll outline what might be causing you to see the white screen of death in WordPress and, more importantly, what you can do about it. 

What is the WordPress White Screen of Death? 

The White Screen of Death (WSOD) is a  problem that causes a white screen to be displayed when a user tries to access a resource on a website. 

Although we called this a “blank” screen in the introduction earlier, that isn’t always the case, as some browsers, such as Google Chrome, display an HTTP error message. 

Whatever it is you see, this issue can be even more concerning than other common WordPress problems because there’s no error message or any indication as to what the problem might be. 

With that in mind, before we can show you how to fix the WordPress White Screen of Death, we first have to diagnose the root cause of the issue.

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What Causes a White Screen of Death on a WordPress Website? 

1. PHP Errors 

Faulty PHP is by far the number one cause of WSOD in WordPress websites. 

Sometimes, this can be because the PHP version used by your website is outdated, leading to a variety of issues that can stop a website from loading properly. 

Occasionally, it may be down to a simple parse error in a line of PHP code. Parse errors occur when basic syntax, such as semicolons and parentheses, are missing or incorrectly placed. 

In this scenario, the code can’t be interpreted correctly, leading to a WSOD. 

A more likely scenario, however, is that the code is somehow corrupt or poorly coded, meaning it can’t be executed, and thus the error occurs. 

2. Memory Limit Exhaustion 

Another common reason for encountering the White Screen of Death (WSOD) in WordPress is when the PHP scripts running on your website have devoured all available memory.

In this case, one of two things may have happened: 

A. Scripts Timed Out 

When a PHP script runs for an extended length of time without completing its task due to a lack of memory, it can exceed what’s known as the “execution time limit.”

As a consequence, the server terminates the script so that it doesn’t monopolize server resources needed for other tasks. 

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Since the process is halted abruptly, there is no opportunity for an error message to be generated and displayed. 

B. Forced Termination 

Alternatively, if your site has already devoured all of its memory allocations, your hosting company may terminate the script before it has a chance to time out. 

Again, this frees up resources required for other tasks, ensuring that your server remains responsive and capable of handling incoming requests. 

As with a time-out, the abrupt termination leaves the content with no content to display. 

C. Plugin and Theme Compatibility Issues

Themes and plugins may play a vital role in providing flexibility and functionality, but they’re also commonly responsible for many WordPress issues, including the White Screen of Death. 

Since plugins and themes are developed independently by a multitude of different WordPress developers, it’s not uncommon for one plugin to contain code that conflicts with another plugin or your WordPress theme. 

When this occurs, your website can struggle to function and display correctly, which, in some instances, results in a white screen. 

How to Fix WordPress White Screen Of Death Issues: 9 Proven Methods

The White Screen of Death may be ominously named, but don’t worry, this certainly isn’t the death knell for that WordPress site you’ve spent so long working on. 

Here are a couple of quick and easy solutions for fixing the white screen of death problems so that you can get your website back up and running again. 

1. Check if This is An Isolated Incident 

If you host more than one website on your hosting server, your first task should be to check whether this issue affects one website or your entire portfolio. 

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If multiple sites on the same server are showing the WordPress white screen, that’s a good indication that the server itself is causing the issue. 

In that case, check your hosting company’s status logs to see if there are any known issues that may be affecting your sites. 

If there aren’t, contact your host’s technical support team for further help. 

Of course, when most of your sites are fine but one shows a white screen, that tells you it’s an isolated incident with the site, in which case the following strategies can help.

2. Look for Plugin and Theme Conflicts 

Assuming you can still log in to your admin dashboard, your next job is to identify any conflicts that may be doing all the damage. 

Admin Dashboard

Start by navigating to the Plugins page, and clicking on the checkbox at the top of the plugin list to select all. 

Then, select Deactivate from the drop-down menu, and click Apply

Now comes the fun part: manually reactivating those plugins one by one, and checking your website after each one is re-enabled. 

If the WOSD reappears after a particular plugin is activated, you’ve found the guilty party and can either reach out to the plugin developer for help, or simply seek an alternative solution. 

If the problem persists even after disabling all plugins, it’s time to examine your theme. 

Change your theme to a default WordPress theme like Twenty Twenty-Three. If the WSOD disappears with the default theme, it’s a strong indicator that your previous theme is the culprit.

With both themes and plugins, it makes sense at this stage to make sure that any available updates for them are installed at this time since something as simple as an outdated plugin could be to blame for the problem. 

3. Clear Your Caching Plugins 

While caching plugins are fantastic for turbocharging your WordPress website’s performance, they might occasionally be the unexpected culprits behind the notorious White Screen of Death (WSOD). 

Caching plugins work by storing a static copy of your website’s pages, reducing the resources needed to generate your content for each new visitor, and thus, making your site perform faster. 

However, if the cache is set to expire too soon, it can cause the website to load incorrectly and trigger the WSOD.

This is often the reason why you may get a white screen on the front, visitor-facing site of your site despite being able to access the back-end admin side perfectly fine.

To fix this issue, simply access your cache plugin’s settings, and empty the cache. 

LiteSpeed Cache

In the example above, we’re using LiteSpeed Cache, though all other top caching tools will have similar cache-emptying controls. 

4. Increase Your Memory Limit

If neither plugins nor themes are to blame, or if you can’t get into your WordPress dashboard in the first place, it’s time to look at increasing the memory limit of your website. 

This is usually set to 128 MB by default, but you can change it via the wp-config.php file. 

There are two ways to do this. 

A. Via FTP 

This will be the quickest option for those of you already used to accessing your WordPress site via FTP. 

FTP platform - Filezilla

Simply connect via an FTP platform such as Filezilla and navigate to your root directory, normally the public_html folder. 

You should see your wp-config.php listed in that folder. 

Download a copy to your server, and open the file. 

Next, look for a line that says, ‘That’s all, stop editing!’, and paste the following line of code directly above it:

define(‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ‘256M’);

wp memory limit

256M is only a suggestion. You might decide to double it to 512M, if you feel you need an even higher limit for your website to function correctly. 

Once that’s done, save your file, and return it to your FTP client so that you can upload it back to your server. 

Refresh your website, and you should find everything is back to normal. 

B. Via Your Host’s File Manager

Don’t have an FTP client set up? Don’t worry; you can achieve the same result via the File Manager tool offered by your web hosting provider. 

Below, we’ll show you how to do this using Hostinger as an example. 

Although your hosting company’s File Manager tool may look different or be located in a different part of your admin tools, the general process is the same. 

First, log in to your account and look for File Manager.

File Manager

Here, it’s conveniently located right on the main admin dashboard. 

public_html folder

Open the public_html folder to access your files. 

wp-config.php file

You can then look for, and open the wp-config.php file. 

wp-config.php file

From here, the process is the same as outlined above.

Simply look for the ‘That’s all, stop editing!’ line, and add the same line of code with the value of your choice:

When you’re done, save the file; your WordPress white screen should have disappeared. 

5. Use Recovery Mode if Available 

If a specific theme or plugin is causing your WSOD issues, you may not need to go through all the trouble of manually disabling and re-enabling them. 

Recent versions of WordPress now come with a fatal error protection feature capable of identifying a problem and its cause. 

If so, you’ll receive an email titled ‘Your Site is Experiencing a Technical Issue.’

Your Site is Experiencing a Technical Issue

As you can see in the example above, this tells you which theme or plugin is producing the error so that you can go in and remove it.

You’ll also be provided with a unique URL that allows you to access your site in recovery mode, just in case the problem is preventing you from getting into WordPress normally. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to manually access recovery mode as the URL generated includes a unique token specific to that problem. 

However, if you are running into white screen errors, it’s always worth checking the inbox of your admin email for this message. 

6. Increase the PHP Text Processing Limit

You may find that the White of Death only occurs on posts and pages with excessively long content. 

This is likely due to limitations with PHP’s ability to process text. 

You can fix this by increasing two values known as the recursion limit ( DEFINE) and the backtrack limit (DEFINE). 

To do this, head to your wp-config.php file, and paste the two following lines of code: 

ini_set(‘pcre.recursion_limit’,20000000);

ini_set(‘pcre.backtrack_limit’,10000000);

wp-config.php file

This will increase both limits and should solve this annoying problem. 

7. Activate Debug Mode

If all else fails, you can enable the WordPress debug mode to look at the errors affecting your site. 

To do this, access your wp-config.php file using FTP or your host’s file manager. 

Refer to the instructions in Step 3 if you need help with this. 

Open the file, and add the following two lines: 

define( ‘WP_DEBUG’, true);

define( ‘WP_DEBUG_LOG’, true );

After saving your file, refresh your website, and you should now find that the white screen now displays a list of error notifications and warnings. 

wp-content folder

If it doesn’t show any, navigate to your wp-content folder, and look for a debug.log file that should still list them. 

You can then use this error list in conjunction with our troubleshooting guide for common WordPress problems to tackle any white-screen-causing gremlins in your system. 

8. Update Your PHP Version 

The truth is that older versions of PHP are less capable of handling the demands of an ever-evolving, ever-expanding WordPress ecosystem. 

The older your PHP, the worse your WordPress performance issues will become. If things get terrible, then your site may be unable to execute tasks, resulting in the timeout and fatal termination errors we looked at earlier. 

So, if you’ve already increased your memory limit and nothing else seems to be the problem, consider whether you need to update to the latest version of PHP. 

At the time of writing, this is PHP 8.2.11, which was released on September 28, 2023.

dashboard showing version of PHP

If you’re able to login to the dashboard, you can find out which version of PHP you’re running by going to Tools – Site Health – Server

If you don’t have the latest version installed, you can upgrade it by logging into your hosting account, and finding the PHP Management tools. 

PHP Configuration

If your hosting company uses cPanel, you’d find this by going to CPanel – Software – MultiPHP, while in the example from Hostinger above, we went to Advanced – PHP Configuration

You can then select the latest version, click update, and say goodbye to your white screen woes. 

9. Restore a Backup of Your Site 

Hopefully, at least one of the methods listed above will have worked for you by now. 

If they haven’t, you may need to take drastic measures and restore a backup of your WordPress website.

This process will vary depending on the backup method you used, where your files are saved, and whether or not you can access your WordPress dashboard. 
If you can access the admin controls, and have a good backup plugin installed, you can upload a backup copy of your website, and restore it to its last known good configuration.

UpDraftPlus

In this example, we’ve used UpDraftPlus, though your plugin might look different. 

If you can’t login to your dashboard but have a backup copy of your site saved on a cloud hosting account independent from your site, then you can upload that backup copy directly to your server using FTP. 

For this method to work, you’ll first need to access the file from your cloud storage, and download it to your device.

file from your cloud storage

If your backup saves as a compressed file such as a .ZIP, click on that file, and extract all the files to your device. 

Next, connect to your hosting server via FTP. If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s a complete WordPress FTP access tutorial

Once connected via your FTP client, navigate to the directory where your WordPress website is installed. This is typically the public_html or www directory.

public_html or www directory

You can then upload the back-up copy to your hosting server, simply by dragging the files from the local server side to the hosting server side of your FTP client. 

Once you’ve completed the restoration process, access your website to ensure that it’s functioning as expected.

Proven Methods to Resolve WordPress White Screen of Death: A Final Recap 

By now, you’ve learned nine proven ways to fix the white screen of death problems on WordPress. 

The methods that work best for you will all depend on a number of factors. 

  • Whether you can access your admin dashboard – If you’re only seeing white screens on the visitor side of your website and can still log into your dashboard, clearing your cache, and removing conflicting plugins should be the first things you try.

    If you can’t, you’ll need to access your hosting server and its files, either via FTP or File Manager. 
  • The root cause of the issue – If it’s a memory problem, increasing the memory limit in the wp-config.php file should solve it. If it’s a plugin, removing that plugin should likewise banish WSOD for good.

    If you’re unsure what the problem is, enabling WordPress to debug mode will help you identify it. 
  • Whether anything else has worked – Solving theme/plugin conflicts and increasing the memory limit normally resolves 99% of WSOD problems. If they don’t, and nothing else has worked either, you may need to install a backup as a last resort. 

Of course, if you’re not regularly creating backups, there’s little this last method can do to help you at this stage. 

To ensure you’ve always got a good working copy of your site on hand the next time you run into trouble, check out these three ways to back up WordPress safely

A team of WordPress experts that love to test out new WordPress related software, WordPress plugins and WordPress themes.