If you’ve stumbled across this post, there is a good chance your WordPress website has succumbed to the dreaded “blank screen of death.”
Having a white screen appear where your website is supposed to be is actually a pretty common problem. The WordPress blank screen of death usually strikes after:
- running updates
- migrating a website
- changing your theme, or
- activating certain plugins
This can be an extremely frustrating problem and potentially even hurt your business, but in most cases, it is something you’ll be able to fix in under an hour.
(Tip: Before you start tackling the problem, make sure you’ve created all necessary backups!)
Why Does The WordPress Blank Screen of Death Happen?
The good news about the “blank screen of death” is that once you locate the source of the problem, it is usually pretty straightforward to resolve.
The bad news, however, is that there are several possible culprits, and figuring out which one is affecting your site can require some serious troubleshooting.
The three most common culprits, by far, are
- Memory usage
- WordPress theme
Note: If you’re developing a site on a local server, you’ll want to be sure that you haven’t changed your permalinks settings from the default options. Some local development environments do not support permalinks settings other than the defaults, and this can cause blank screen issues. This can be resolved simply by setting permalinks back to their default value.
Possibility #1 – Memory Usage
The most common cause of a blank WordPress site is ultimately related to memory usage; namely, you’ve maxed out the memory limit for your site.
What this means is that something, somewhere, is using up way too much memory and causing your site to crash. This could be a wonky theme you are using, a certain plugin, or an issue related to your hosting server.
If you are operating more than one website and are experiencing the same issue across multiple sites, then there is a very good chance the problem is related to your hosting server. In this case, you may simply need to increase your memory limit. This can be done easily, in most cases, by contacting your hosting provider.
Conversely, if you are operating multiple sites but only experiencing a blank screen on one of them, the issue is more likely related to a theme or plugin running on that particular site.
In the event that you have a massive, high-traffic site with a lot going on, your site may actually just be too big and require more memory to function properly.
This is probably the best-case scenario because it means that your site is just a little too awesome for your current hosting plan to handle, and the blank screen will go away as soon as you increase your memory limit. If your site isn’t ginormous, there may be something else afoot and you might want to try some of the other fixes discussed below before increasing your memory limit.
Possibility #2 – Your Theme is Whack
There are thousands of WordPress themes out there, and not all of them are created equally. Sometimes you might end up with a sloppily coded theme or a theme with compatibility issues that will rain misfortune onto your site, including the dreaded white screen of death.
The easiest way to test whether your theme is at the root of your problem is simply to switch to one of the default WordPress themes, like Twenty Sixteen or Twenty Fifteen, which come baked-in with each installation of WordPress. This can be done through your Dashboard by navigating to Appearance -> Themes and simply choosing “Activate” on one of the default themes.
If you switch to a default theme and your site suddenly works, then the problem lies in whatever theme you were using before. You may want to contact that theme’s developer or switch permanently to a different theme.
Before installing a new WordPress theme, you can easily validate that theme’s code using the free service at http://themecheck.org/ to ensure that it complies with WordPress conventions and best-practices. Validating your theme in advance is a good way to avoid themes that cause the errors like the blank screen issue.
Possibility #3 – A Plugin Is Ruining Everything
If you’ve increased your memory limit (or you’re pretty sure that isn’t the root of the problem) and tried activating a default WP theme with no success, then the next order of business is look at the plugins you are using.
Sometimes individual plugins have bugs, and disabling them will solve the problem. Sometimes compatibility issues between two or more plugins can create conflicts within your site. In this case, you’ll have to do a little more detective work to determine which plugins are playing nice and which are causing drama.
If the blank screen is only showing up on the front-end of the site, but you are able to access the backend, it is highly likely that the problem may be related to a caching plugin. In this case, the issue can often be resolved simply by emptying your cache.
Caching plugins can also cause the blank screen of death to appear only on certain, longer posts, while the rest of your site behaves normally. Again, in this case, clearing your cache should resolve the issue.
Caching plugins are not the only plugins that can cause a blank screen, however. Compatibility issues can arise between multiple plugins, as well as between certain themes and certain plugins. To flush out the culprit, you are going to have to do some detective work. Unfortunately, it isn’t the fun kind of detective work where you get to creep around an abandoned warehouse and stalk bad guys.
There is really only one tried-and-true strategy to employ when troubleshooting plugins: process of elimination. Basically, you’re going to want to:
- deactivate all of your plugins
- reactivate them one-by-one
- refresh your site each time to see if one of them is causing the issue
You can deactivate your plugins by navigating to Appearance -> Plugins within your WordPress Dashboard and choosing “Deactivate” on each plugin. Or, if you are running a lot of plugins, you can deactivate them all at once using the Bulk Select checkbox at the top of the Plugins page and choosing “Deactivate” from the Bulk Actions dropdown.
Plugins can go rogue and do weird things sometimes, like use up all of your memory, so you may want to attempt this strategy before opting to increase your memory limit with your web host. Since memory usually comes at a price, it’s a good idea to check your plugins to make sure that one of them isn’t actually causing the problem.
If The Blank Screen is Blocking Access To Your Login Page or Admin Dashboard
All of this advice about theme swapping and plugin deactivation isn’t very helpful if you’re getting the blank screen on your WordPress Admin area or login page and are unable to access your Dashboard. If this is the case, your best bet is to access your root directory via FTP and follow these steps:
Note: If your web host provides c-Panel, you can also access your root directory from there through File Manager.
- Locate your plugins directory at wp-content/plugins/ from within the root directory of your site
- Rename this folder to something like “pluginsOld” which WordPress’ naming conventions will not recognize.
- Create a new, empty folder called “plugins” which will now be your active plugins folder that WordPress will recognize.
- Check your site. If it is working while all of your plugins are disabled, that means the issue is definitely related to one or more of your plugins.
- Back in your root directory, copy and paste the plugins, one by one, from the “pluginsOld” folder into the “plugins” folder, refreshing the site each time until you find the culprit.
- Once you have located the culprit, you can delete the “pluginsOld” directory along with the offending plugin.
If this doesn’t resolve the issue, your next step should be to delete the theme you are using from within your root directory by accessing wp-content/themes/ and deleting the folder containing your active theme. Deleting the active theme should automatically cause your site to employ the current default WordPress theme.
You can also secure your admin page by using plugins.
In almost every case, one of the above fixes will resolve blank WordPress screen issues. If you’ve tried all of these options and nothing has worked, you may need to call in the big guns and reinstall WordPress. It is possible, albeit unlikely, that a file got corrupted in your original install. You’ll want to be sure to backup your database files before taking this approach.
Once you’ve backed up copies of everything, you can delete the entire contents of your root directory (don’t delete the directory, itself!) through FTP or cPanel’s File Manager. You are now starting with a clean slate, and you’ll want to install a fresh download of WordPress from WordPress.org.
Some advanced users might want more specific answers than, “A plugin is to blame.” If you want to know what, exactly, is causing errors on your site, you can turn on the WP_DEBUG option by changing its value in your site’s wp_config file.
define( 'WP_DEBUG', true );
By default, the WP_DEBUG option is set to false, and changing the value to true will print specific information about the errors your site is experiencing onto the blank screen of death, allowing you to troubleshoot from there.
White screen of death still not fixed?
There are few other possibilities that might cause the white screen of death in WordPress, which we haven’t covered.
- Hacked or a malware infected site
- Corrupted hard drive on server
- Server misconfiguration, or server down
- DNS error or misconfiguration
These issues will require you to take help from a professional team. You may also comment down below, and we would help you as much as we can.
Also, I can’t tell you how much taking regular backups of your WordPress helps. If you weren’t able to fix the blank screen issue, you may rollback to the point where your site was working.
Let me know if you have faced similar issues and how you ended up solving it or are still trying to solve it in the comments section.