The White Screen of Death

Wordpress-start-imageThis morning, I woke up way too early. The sun wasn’t even up yet. So I decided, feeling like I could take on the world, to update the WordPress installation on Enchanted Book Promotions and the WordPress theme (the latter hadn’t been updated in say, years. )

Of course, thie white screen of death happened. Not when I was working on updating the WordPress install (which is usually the case) but when I updated the theme. Some troubleshooting later (*cough cough* two hours of going crazy) the website is back up and running, everything is updated, the theme looks fantastic, I added new sidebars, a new page for links, and tweaked things here and there. It’s a lot better than it was before, so I’m happy.

But this made me think of WordPress’s white screen of death. I’ve seen it so many times I’m used to dealing with it, but I figure some of you probably aren’t. Here are some tricks to deal with the horror of updating WordPress and suddenly getting a blank screen. Everywhere.

Step One: What Were You Doing?

The first step is to check what you were doing when the White Screen of Death happened. Were you installing a plugin? A new theme? Did it happen when you were updating WordPress? Or, even worse, did you do nothing of the sort and the screen just appeared? And what if you’re not sure?

Step Two: Plugins

If you were updating/installing a plugin when the issue happened, or you’re not sure when the issue happened, or the issue randomly appeared, try renaming your plugins folder. Name it “_plugins”. You can do this easily via FTP.

By doing so, all plugins on your website will be deactivated. Wham! Now reload your website. There are two options now.

1) Your website comes back up. Hurray! That means we’ve located the issue, and it’s a plugin issue. Next up you just have to isolate the troublesome plugin. Login to your dashboard, go to your plugins page, and activate the plugins one by one. Reload your website after each one. When it white screens again, you’ll know which plugin is responsible.

2) Your website is still not up. Yikes. That means it’s not a plugin issue and we’ll have to move on to round two. But no worries, we still have plenty of stuff up our sleeves.

Step Three: Themes

Next, rename your themes folder to “_themes” or to “ihatewordpress” or “fml” or basically anything you want that’s not the regularly name. Do this through FTP. Now your active theme will be deactivated and replaced by the default WordPress theme which *should* be error free.

Reload your website. Again, we’ve got two options:

1) Your site comes back up. Crack open the champagne! The site is back, and you’ve obviously got a theme issue on your hands.

2) The website still isn’t back up. Don’t lose hope yet, brave WordPress warrior.

Step Four: What’s up with your memory?

Another common reason for why WordPress suddenly goes blank is exceeding the memory limit. This most often occurs when updating the WordPress install itself.

To fix this, you’ll have to increase the memory lmit. Go into your FTP, and find the wp-config.php file.

Add the following line:

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '64M');

This should be sufficient memory use for just about any blog.

Reload your website. Is it working now? YAAAY.

What, it’s still not working? Well, time to get the big guns in.

Step Five: DEBUG mode for the win

If you’re still clueless as to why WordPress is treating you badly, it’s time to enable DEBUG mode. Go into your FTP, open up wp-config.php and add the following at the bottom:

ini_set('display_errors', 1);
define( 'WP_DEBUG', true);

This will make WordPress display the errors on the output screen. Now you know the error, you can do a Google search to solve them.



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