You're working on your site adding and configuring plugins, or you've updated your theme and then BAM! You can't login to WordPress!
You go to your login/admin page and a plain white screen is staring you down. Now what? If you can't login how can you fix this?
Enter the WordPress "White Screen of Death"
A bit dramatic isn't it? Comes from the old days of Windows Blue Screen of Death. So it makes sense that this is what stuck when this happens with WordPress. What is clear is the "White Screen of Death" does stop you dead in your tracks!
There are times where there is no white screen, but you just can't get into your dashboard or WordPress is just not "working" as it should. So let's walk you through how to troubleshoot and resolve this right now.
This process also applies for any indication of a possible conflict. Buttons not working, editor not working, posts not saving -- anything that isn't working properly. By going through this process you can eliminate a conflict as the cause. In the majority of cases you'll find you actually discover the cause of the conflict so that you can address it and get things up and running again!
If you can't get into your WordPress Admin Dashboard and only have a blank white screen when you try -- you most likely have a conflict of some sort. Could be a plugin or plugins, your theme or even something as common as the latest WordPress update.
Plugins that are not maintained and tested to be compatible with the latest version of WordPress can cause a conflict after a WordPress update. As can very old themes. Developers can easily keep up with WordPress future Planned Versions so that their plugins and themes do not break when a new version is released. It's best to avoid plugins or themes that do not make this effort.
AUTOMATIC UPDATE TIP:
If you have automatic WordPress updates turned on, (I'm not a fan of auto updates...) you'll want to run through your site after you are notified that an update has occurred. Click around, fill out your forms and make sure everything is operating properly.
I prefer manual updates. This way I can backup, update, check my site and address any conflicts right then and there. This avoids my site being online and broken without my knowledge for any length of time.
Have you added any custom snippets to any of your PHP files recently?
Uploaded any new plugins?
One of these is mostly likely the bad actor…
What I do is keep a log of every change I make to any files, plugins or themes. I have this text file on my desktop and can easily review it by date to backtrack any changes that may not have gone as well as I would have liked. It is always a good idea to keep a log of changes to your site and its files in case you need to back them off due to a conflict.
Let's Start Troubleshooting
If you can login to your WordPress Dashboard, hop over to Plugins and deactivate all your plugins. Then check if the "issue" persists. If the problem is NOT resolved, jump to this step.
If you cannot login, we're going to have to change some file names to deactivate them so we can at least login and determine what the problem is. Does your hosting have cPanel? Within your cPanel you'll find your File Manager where you can access and change file names. Another option is to use FTP software. For FTP software (File Transfer Protocol), you can download FileZilla for free. I use FileZilla and recommend it to my clients.
- Login to your server's cPanel File Manager or via FTP.
- Go to the "root" which is generally the public_html directory.
- Drill down to your wp-content directory. There you will find the directory for /plugins.
- Rename that directory (right click > rename) from: plugins to: pluginsOFF. This will deactivate all plugins.
- Try to login again to your WordPress Admin.
- If you can now login you know a plugin is the bad actor. Stay in your dashboard and go back to your cPanel/File Manager or via FTP and reinstate the pluginsOFF back to to plugins. Now you can go into your dashboard and reactivate plugins one-by-one to determine the culprit. When the white screen or issue reappears you know which plugin you need to delete.
- If you still cannot login and the issue persists after deactivating plugins, do the same with your theme's specific folder by renaming it so that your theme is deactivated and you can login. If you are in your dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes and manually switch to the default WordPress Theme (Twenty Seventeen or Sixteen). If the issue is then resolved, you have a theme causing the White Screen of Death and it's time for a different theme!
Updates and Conflicts
I avoid the potential for conflicts by keeping all my WordPress sites updated. Conflicts tend to occur when we update WordPress and a plugin hasn't been maintained or updated in years. Or worse are simply poorly coded. This is where checking the support reviews and number of installs is important before just adding plugins willy-nilly to your site!
When searching for plugins in the WordPress Repository if you see a message similar to:
This plugin hasn’t been updated in over X years. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.
...find another plugin!
I mark my calendar to review all my plugins every quarter and replace those that are no longer being maintained. Yes, plugins may still work even if they are not up to the latest version of WordPress. But the longer a plugin is not updated the higher the risk of a conflict. That means a PIA and downtime for you. No need to go through that when it can easily be avoided, right?
I also only use themes that I know keep up with WordPress' evolution and updates. That is why I gravitate to premium themes and plugins and services as they are more apt to be kept updated and offer the support needed if any issues arise.
Make your life easier and dramatically reduce the opportunity for conflicts to arise by updating promptly -- and properly -- as needed. Not updating also is a huge security risk! Then, make a point to review that your theme and plugins are tested and compatible with each version of WordPress on a regular basis.
At your service,
P.S. If you don't want to deal with all this updating and security stuff, check out my White Glove Security, Maintenance, Optimization and SEO Tracking Service. 😉