The Dreaded White Screen Of Death

Into every WordPress user’s life a little rain must fall.  That rain is usually the White Screen of Death.  Two years of blogging and I have finally had my rain.  One usually receives the dreaded White Screen when one updates one’s plugins.  It tends to block you from accessing any of your admin pages via the web and gives you the ever informative blank white screen.  Fun.

Getting past the dreaded white screen is a fairly easy fix if you know how to FTP into your website.  Each host is different on how you do that so I’ll leave that process as an exercise for the students to figure out.  Once you’re in, though, simply navigate to the /wp-content directory and change the /plugins directory to another name like /plugins.old or something similar.  Doesn’t really matter what.  This should allow you to get to your admin page via your browser.  If you’re still getting the White Screen, try changing the name of the /themes directory like you did the /plugins directory.  If you’re still getting the White Screen, good luck to you and may Google have mercy on your soul, your problem surpasses my knowledge.

Now that you’re at your admin page, go to your Installed Plugins page.  It should give you a message for all of your plugins saying that they have all been disabled because it couldn’t find the directory.  Now rename the /plugins.old folder back to /plugins and refresh your Installed Plugins page.  All of them should show up and all of them are disabled.  Now, if any of them need to be updated, update them.  Chances are that the plugin creator quickly realized the chaos they created and has since fixed it.  Then enable the plugins one by one until you either find the plugin that causes the White Screen or you have enabled all of your plugins once again.  If one of them still causes the White Screen, start over from the beginning and don’t try to enable that plugin again until an update comes out.  The same procedure can be followed if it is your Theme that is causing the problem.

You should now be back in blogging business.

2 thoughts on “The Dreaded White Screen Of Death

  1. Chris

    Phaedra had it happen to her site and it was because for a blog that had a couple dozen posts, the wordpress database was 100x the size it should normally be. It white screened so bad, we had to trash it and start new.

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  2. Emily Barney

    If you know what your current theme is, renaming just that folder rather than the entire themes directory will force your site back to a default theme, which is usually more helpful. Enabling debugging mode in your wp-config file is usually pretty helpful too if you’re playing with changes yourself or plugins that may not be using standard code.

    We run all our updates on a test environment first to see what might create conflicts and it’s technically possible to do that with a local instance if you don’t have a separate testing environment. If it works differently on a local instance, it may be a server setting (file permissions, etc.)

    But yeah, always have backups. Backups that actually work with a restore process. Backup before every major upgrade and make sure the backups get saved off your server in case something gets hacked/lost there.

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