Fixing the white screen of death in WordPress

Fixing things with FTP

Editor’s note: The following article is curated from the GoDaddy community. We’ve made some light edits for formatting and clarity. 

If you can’t get into your WordPress admin dashboard and you only receive a blank white screen, you’re experiencing what is commonly referred to as the white screen of death in WordPress. It’s frustrating and scary. But don’t panic! All is not lost. You just need to walk through some basic checks to see what caused it, which will help you identify how to fix it.

First things first – ask yourself what actions were recently performed on the website. Have you added any custom snippets to any of your PHP files? Did you upload any new plugins? Did you switch WordPress themes? Any of these changes could bring the white screen of death, so it is always a good idea to keep a log of changes to your site and its files in such case that you need to back them off due to a conflict.

Tips resolving the white screen of death

1. Check for plugin problems

Login via FTP and rename your plugins folder in wp-content from “plugins” to “pluginsOLD”. This will deactivate all plugins.

See if you can log in into the WordPress admin dashboard. If you can log in now, you now know a WordPress plugin is the cause of the issue and this is producing the white screen of death.

Stay in your dashboard and go back in via FTP and rename “pluginsOLD” back to “plugins”. Now you can go into your dashboard and reactivate plugins one-by-one to determine the culprit.

2. Check for theme problems

If cannot log in after deactivating all the existing plugins, the issue might be associated with your theme.

Do the same via FTP and change your theme’s specific folder name to “themenameOLD”. That will deactivate your active theme.

See if you can log in into the WordPress admin dashboard. If you can log in now, you now know the WordPress theme is the cause of the issue and this is producing the white screen of death.

3. Check your WordPress version

Another tip is to check and make sure that you are on the latest version of WordPress and that your existing theme and plugins are compatible with this version of WordPress. You can do this by visiting the support area for the theme and plugins.

This simple check will dramatically help to reduce the opportunity for conflicts to arise and help prevent the white screen of death from appearing at all.

One last reminder

Another helpful tip is to only modify PHP and CSS files locally. It may seem really simple to jump into the WordPress theme editor and modify files online, but this can quickly produce the white screen of death in WordPress and lock you out of the dashboard.

The best practice for editing a file is to download a copy of the original file and save this locally before any changes are made. This will allow you to edit a PHP or CSS file while also retaining a clean copy in case an error does occur. Should you make a mistake, you’ll be able to quickly upload this original file via FTP, overwrite your recent edits, remove the white screen, and regain access to the website.

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Also published on Medium.

Image by: kainr via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

Judith Kallos
Judith is an established Business Coach and WordPress Consultant who has run The IStudio® for more than two decades. She assists Netrepreneurs who want to create effective websites while tutoring them on the best practices that are necessary to their long-term prosperity. You can also find her extending a helping hand as a Community Founder and Trusted Advisor over on GoDaddy's Community Forums.