WordPress: White Screen of Death

Has your website ever looked like it was gone?

Nothing but a white screen left in its place. We have a name for this: White Screen of Death. As with its Microsoft ancestors the Blue and Black Screen of Death, the White Screen of Death occurs when something is not working and it is the first “piece of information” that you need to leap into action.

What can cause a White Screen of Death on your WordPress website?
In all cases the White Screen of Death happens because you have a fatal PHP error and error display turned off – so the process of loading your site has halted before getting to any output.

This can be caused by any of the following scenarios:

  • issues related to one or more of your plugins
  • issues related to your theme
  • issues related to your database
  • corrupted WordPress core files

White Screen of Death: issues with plugins
If you just activated a new plugin you might find out the hard way it’s incompatible with your WordPress setup. There are plenty of things related to plugins that can cause this to happen.

Step 1 is to disable your plugins and see if your website starts working back normally.

The only way to find a problem with a plugin is to disable them and reactivate them one-by-one. This step can save you a lot of time: you log into your server via FTP and rename the whole plugins directory to plugins_old, or whatever you like. This will deactivate all your plugins in one step only, while keeping their settings intact.

Visit your site and see it is fully or partially running (it may not look 100% or even 50% right depending on your plugin usage) then the problem causing the fatal error is in one of your folders. Unfortunately, that means that you now should go through your plugins one by one to find the cause.

To do this use FTP and navigate to your plugins folder then rename one at a time to pluginname_old checking your site to see which one breaks it. This way if the plugin with the problem the second or third one you try then you saved some time. Quicker still if you know what plugins have been activated/updated lately then you could start there.

Even if it seems inefficient, going through each of your plugins and activate them back one by one, it’s the only way to determine which one is causing problems to your website. Once the bad plugin gets disabled, your website should be back up and running.

If renaming the plugins folder didn’t get your WordPress site back up and running, then it is time to look elsewhere.

White Screen of Death: issues with themes

As with plugins, it could be the case for your theme to bring up the White Screen of Death. If deactivating your plugins didn’t help, it’s now time to disable your current theme and activate WordPress default theme like the twentysixteen. If you happen to have it deleted, ¬†download it from here and upload it via FTP in your wp-content/themes folder.

Deactivating your theme works just like deactivating your plugins so rename the folder with something like old_themename. Once you do that, WordPress will automatically revert to a default theme and activate it.

If you see the issue is gone, it means it must do with something caused by your theme. This can be a real problem with certain premium themes, if you designer bought a theme and it has not been updated to conform with the latest coding standards.

You can revert to a previous version of your theme files, and everything should go back to the way it was before the issues occurred.

White Screen of Death: Memory limits exceeded
Another common example that would bring you a White Screen of Death is when you outgrow your memory limits as when your website gets a spike of visitors in a short period and your hosting isn’t able to handle it or when a long running script exhausts the PHP memory.

Even if there are many WordPress-optimized hosting services that would better to address some of these needs, lots of WordPress users still rely on shared solutions. So it has to be you to increase how much memory WordPress can use; to do that you should add the following string to your wp-config.php file:

define( ‘WP_MEMORY_LIMIT’, ’64M’ );

If you need more memory just replace the ’64M’ value with your desired amount. Not all the hosting providers allow their users to edit these settings, if that’s your case, contact your hosting provider and ask them to increase it for you.

White Screen of Death: corrupted WordPress files
If none of the above help you out, it could be that some of your core WordPress files are corrupted and don’t work as they should. If that’s your case, you will need to download the latest version of WordPress and upload the new wp-admin and wp-includes folders via FTP.